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Organic and Conventional Dairy Farmers Prefer Different Improvements in Breeding Goal Traits

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In dairy cattle breeding, breeding goals (BG) are developed and subsequently a selection index that farmers want to use. Therefore it is important to take their preferences for BG traits into account. Two production systems that are expected to influence farmer preferences for BG traits are organic and conventional systems. The aim of this study was to characterize preferences of organic and conventional Danish dairy farmers for improvements in BG traits for Holstein cattle. A survey was established to characterize preferences for improvements in ten traits, by means of pairwise rankings using the online software 1000Minds. These pairwise rankings were based on equal economic worth of trait improvements. The survey was filled in by 106 organic and 290 conventional farmers. The most preferred trait improvement for both production systems was in cow fertility, and the least preferred improvement was in calving difficulty. Organic farmers ranked milk production and feed efficiency higher than conventional farmers. The reason for this may be that the average milk yield is lower and the milk price is higher in organic herds compared to conventional herds. Organic farmers also ranked calf mortality higher. Conventional farmers ranked mastitis, leg and claw diseases, other diseases and cow mortality higher compared to organic farmers. By means of a cluster analysis distinct clusters of farmers were identified and named according to the trait improvements that were the most preferred per cluster. The cluster analysis for organic farmers identified two production-based clusters (‘Production & Fertility’ and ‘Production & Mastitis’) and one robustness-based cluster, whereas a cluster analysis for conventional farmers found one production-based cluster, one health-based cluster and one survival-based cluster. This study shows that organic and conventional farmers differ in their preferences for improvements in BG traits, and the results can be used to set up specific breeding goals for organic and conventional farming systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event67th Annual Meeting of the European Association for Animal Production (EAAP) - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Aug 20161 Sep 2016
Conference number: 67


Conference67th Annual Meeting of the European Association for Animal Production (EAAP)
CountryUnited Kingdom
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