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Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: One Health Students

OCW One Health, 2008
G. Kaufman, DVM
Tufts University

I. Session 11: Questions for farm field trip

  1. How similar is the dairy farming situation New England to farming systems throughout North America and Europe?

  2. Do farm management practices vary much throughout small New England dairy farms? If so, how?

  3. How much of a challenge is adhering to the organic standards requirements?

  4. Do you think the organic farm is sustainable as compared to conventional farming?

  5. What is your sense of why farmers choose to produce organic or conventional milk?

  6. Do farmers tend to transition to organic or enter the market as new, organic producers?

  7. How does transition typically happen?  (For example, do farmers switch all their cows at once or in stages?)

  8. How much do extension resources differ for conventional versus organic farmers?

  9. What is the minimum herd needed for one farmer to be able to make a profit? Is your organic farm making profit?

  10. How prevalent are manure pits and lagoons in New England dairy systems? Do these differ between New England organic and conventional dairy farms?

  11. Are there any differences in your breeding programs for the organic vs conventional herd? (trait selection, etc)

  12. How do you measure pathogen levels on the farm?  Are environmental samples taken?  How often are bulk tank samples tested? 

  13. How often do you change the cows' bedding?  Do you feel that it should be changed more frequently, but you are limited due to time constraints?

  14. Do most farmers wash their boots and change their clothing after handling sick animals or cleaning their pens?  Do veterinarians and nutritionists visiting do the same?

  15. What do most dairy farmers in New England do to prevent manure contamination and pathogen transmission via the cows' drinking water?  Do most farmers chlorinate this water?

  16. In your opinion, is there a difference between pathogen levels on organic and conventional farms?  If so, what factors might contribute to this difference?

  17. When we think of organic farming, we envisage traditional land use forms such as crop rotation, shifting cultivation. Do you have enough land to practice these? If not how do you deal with problems like helminths especially when you are not allowed to use any drugs?

  18. What is the role of your veterinarian: is it solely disease control or are they involved in the herd management?

  19. Regarding the use of antibiotics and the organic standards: how much does that constrain farmers, does it impact farmers financially, does it impact animal welfare, etc.

  20. What approaches to disease treatment have you employed with the organic herd to address drug restrictions?  

    1. Have these alternative therapies been successful?

    2. If a cow in the organic herd does not respond to alternative therapy, how is she handled? (sold, culled, transfer to conventional, etc)

  21. What difference have you observed in the rates of clinical disease in the organic vs conventional herd?

  22. Do you separate sick and healthy cows or are you forced to keep them together for space reasons?  (What is the practice of most N.E. farms?)

  23. Do most N.E. dairy farmers participate in the John's Disease control program?

  24. What actions do you take if you discover John's disease?  (e. g. culling, stop using pooled milk?)

  25. How do you ensure that your farm workers are protected from occupational hazards?

  26. Are there are different occupational risks on organic versus conventional farms? Specifically:

    1. Are there differences in confined space risks on organic versus conventional farms?

    2. Are mechanical risks (e.g.- injury caused by farm machinery) any different between organic and conventional farms?

    3. Are noise exposures resulting in hearing loss any different between organic and conventional farms?

  27. Do most New England dairy farmers wear hearing protective devices?  Is hearing loss prevalent among N.E. dairy farmers?

  28. Do allergy and asthma rates and other respiratory diseases and disorders differ on organic versus conventional farms?

  29. Are the human health risks to the community different between organic and conventional farms?

  30. How common is the consumption of raw milk in New England?

  31. What environmental policies and regulations is the dairy farm subject to?

  32. What are the major environmental impacts from the dairy farm?

  33. Does land use vary substantially between organic and conventional herds in terms of pasture and waste management?

  34. How are the organic standards interpreted into different soil, crop, and pasture management practices? 

  35. Have you seen differences in soil quality on the organic farm?

  36. Are there or have there been any negative environmental consequences as a result of the farm?

  37. Are there or have there been any environmental benefits from the farm?

  38. What sort of management techniques are used to limit the environmental impact of the farm?

  39. How do you assess whether the farm and immediate environment is "healthy"? What indicators should be used to measure environmental health in a farm context?

  40. Are the environmental impacts different between organic versus conventional dairy farms? If so, in what sense?

  41. How do environmental management techniques differ between conventional versus conventional dairy farms?

  42. How does the concept of environmental health fit into sustainability?