project c.o.w.

October 13, 2011
Impact of Organic Management on Dairy Animal Health and Well-Being

In 2008, Dr. Pamela Ruegg and her multi-state research team received funding from the USDA NRI Organic Program to identify management factors that influence dairy herd health and milk quality. The team consists of researchers from Cornell University, Oregon State University and the University of Wisconsin….hence Project C.O.W.

The project has collected data on animal disease, diagnostic methods and treatment, and herd health management on 200 organic and 100 conventional dairy farms located in Wisconsin, New York and Oregon.

the questionnaire
retrospective disease forms
prospective disease forms
housing surveys
reference guides for scoring

Analyses from preliminary data presented new information about the perception of disease, treatment strategies and the role of veterinarian care on organic dairy farms. To read these preliminary papers click here.

Benchmarking System

Dairy management factors, such as disease recognition and treatment, can influence herd well-being and net farm income. By identifying indicators of animal health and milk quality, performance benchmark reports for participating organic dairy farms were created. The peer benchmarking approach can help organic farmers identify areas of strengths and weaknesses on their individual farms and set performance goals, such as improved diagnosis of future health-related problems. The need for cost-effective, preventative, health management programs exists for organic producers at large, especially for those transitioning from conventional systems. To check out one of our comparison tools for bulk tank somatic cell counts click here.


The results of Project C.O.W. have been used to develop and disseminate information and extension recommendations consistent with optimizing herd well-being and maximizing the profitability of organic milk production.

peer-reviewed journal articles
Assessment of herd management on organic and conventional dairy farms in the United States

Stiglbauer, K.E., K.M. Cicconi-Hogan, R. Richert, Y.N. Schukken, P.L. Ruegg and M. Gamroth. 2013.
J. Dairy Sci. 96: 1290-1300.

Management factors associated with veterinary usage by organic and conventional dairy farms

Richert, R.M., K. M. Cicconi, M. J. Gamroth, Y.H. Schukken, K. E. Stiglbauer, and P. L. Ruegg. 2013.
J Am Vet Med Assoc 242: 1732-1743.

Risk factors for clinical mastitis, ketosis, and pneumonia in dairy cattle on organic and small conventional farms in the United States

Richert, R.M., , K. M. Cicconi , M. J. Gamroth , Y. H. Schukken , K. E. Stiglbauer , and P. L. Ruegg. 2013.
J. Dairy Sci. 96: 4269-4285.

Associations of risk factors with somatic cell count in bulk tank milk on organic and conventional dairy farms in the United States

Cicconi-Hogan, K.M., M. Gamroth , R. M. Richert , P. L. Ruegg , K. E. Stiglbauer  and Y. H. Schukken. 2013.
J. Dairy Sci. 96: 3689-3702.

Perceptions and risk factors for lameness on organic and small conventional dairy farms

R. Richert, K.M. Cicconi, M.J. Gamroth, Y.H. Schukken, K.E. Stiglbauer, P.L. Ruegg. 2013.
J. Dairy Sci. 96: 5018-5026.

Risk factors associated with bulk tank standard plate count, bulk tank coliform count, and the presence of Staphylococcus aureus on organic and conventional dairy farms in the United States

Published online: 21 October 2013 K.M. Cicconi-Hogan, M. Gamroth, R. Richert, P.L. Ruegg, K.E. Stiglbauer, Y.H. Schukken DOI: 10.3168/jds.2012-6505.

Comparison of selected animal observations and management practices used to assess welfare of calves and adult dairy cows on organic and conventional dairy farms