Education to extension agents, veterinarians, and other professionals in complementary treatments and preventive management for organic livestock farms

Final Report for ENE06-098

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $116,962.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Lisa McCrory
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
Expand All

Project Information

Summary:

The Professional Development Grant, titled ‘Education to Extension Agents, Veterinarians, and other Professionals in Complementary Treatments and Preventative Management for Organic Livestock Farms’ proved itself to be very successful in improving the knowledge base of attendees, increasing the volume and quality of resources available to professionals working with organic livestock producers and empowering professionals to actively engage in new management practices or complementary treatments. The delivery of information was well received and the network between registrants, vendors and speakers has grown. Participants have shown a strong interest in having more educational events such as these in the future and provided a lot of valuable feedback in the best ways to make that happen.

In 2007, a three-day conference was held in two locations in the Northeast (NH and NY) with overall attendance numbers exceeding the expectations of the grant. Additional funds were raised through sponsorship and registration and with those resources a second 3-day conference was organized in 2008, building on what was covered in the previous year. In 2009, a final one-day workshop was offered in Vermont with a focus on udder health and milk quality.

Over the three and a half years of the grant, a total of 185 professionals took part in one or both of the conferences: 137 professionals attended the first conference in 2007, and 27 of those reconvened for the second conference in 2008 along with an additional 67 new professionals who attended for their first time in year two. A final evaluation was mailed to all 185 professionals and 35 responses (19%) were mailed back. Of those responses, 66% (23) applied new practices as a result of one or both of the conferences offered and 34% (12) have actively engaged at least 2 new management practices or complementary therapies with their clients. 14% (5) have actively sought funding to date, and 3 have been awarded research funds for 2010.

Due to the successful fundraising to support this project, remaining funds were used to support NOFA Vermont’s efforts to work closely with Vermont livestock professionals (NRCS, veterinarians, extension, nutritionists) to further their understanding of the National Organic Standards and to broaden their knowledge of organically approved practices and preventative management. The technical assistance consisted of meeting with veterinarians from 5 large animal clinics, sponsoring workshops for farmers and professionals on milk quality and animal health and a one-day workshop in October 2009, co-sponsored by the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association, was designed specifically for veterinarians and veterinary students and offered continuing education credit to Vermont veterinarians.

Performance Target:

1. Of the 80 veterinarians, extension specialists, vet students and other professionals attending one of the two regional organic livestock health workshops, 60 will become more knowledgeable of organic farming methods and proven therapies and treatments, 25 will reconvene in a year to discuss case studies, on farm trials and build on the new resources and information that was learned at the organic livestock health workshop, and 20 will actively engage in using at least 2 new management practices or complementary treatments with their clients.

We exceeded our first target. Over the three and a half years of the grant, a total of 185 professionals took part in one or both of the conferences: 137 professionals attended the first conference in 2007, and 27 of those reconvened for the second conference in 2008 along with an additional 67 new professionals who attended for their first time in year two. In 2009, a one-day workshop was offered with a focus on udder health and milk quality. This workshop drew in a total of 50 professionals, 19 of those had attended one or both conferences held the previous two years.

A final evaluation was sent out to everyone who had attended the conferences in 2007 and 2008 and from that, 35 responses(19%) were mailed back. Of those responses, 66% (23) applied new practices as a result of one or both of the conferences offered and 48% (17) have actively engaged at least 2 new management practices or complementary therapies with their clients. At least 14% (5) have actively sought funding and to date, three have been awarded research funds. The final evaluation showed that 20% used new information within 1 week, 40% used new information learned within one month and 17% of the respondents applied new information learned within 6 months after attending one of the conferences.Since those who responded are only 19% of those who attended, we feel confident that we achieved our last milestone of having 20 professionals actively engage in using at least two new management practices or complementary treatments with their clients.

Because of the networking opportunities provided by the conferences, the PI’s have also received much verbal feedback from attendees regarding their expanded understanding of and increased use of complementary treatments and holistic approaches on their client dairies.

2. Of the 80 veterinarians, extension specialists, vet students and other professionals that attend one of the two organic livestock health workshops, 25 participants will reconvene in a year to discuss case studies, on-farm trials and research priorities. Of those, 8 will develop research proposals and 2 will receive funding.

We achieved this target. Of the 137 professionals that attended the first conference in 2007, 27 returned for the second conference in 2008 and an additional 65 attended for the first time. Conference attendees appreciated the fact that the second year focused on pasture and nutrition on high forage diets and others benefited from the economic, animal welfare and advanced herd health information shared. Many felt that an event such as this should take place annually.

Five poster presentations were set up at the 2008 conference sharing research information on alternative forage cropping systems, promoting the University of Minnesota’s organic dairy program, using manure solids as bedding, and promoting NOFA NY’s Self Assessment Workbook.

In 2009, Dr Hubert Karreman, in collaboration with Aurora Organic performed research trials using Phytomast mastitis tube treatments. Other Studies are being done with university participation using Dr. Karreman’sPhytomast and Heat Seek products.

Dr Linda Tikofsky, with the support of a USDA OREI grant, has taken on a new graduate student (Kellie Cicconi) who will be evaluating health and incidences of disease on organic and conventional farms in New York. This will be a two-year project in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin and Oregon State University. In addition to measuring animal health and disease incidence on organic and conventional farms, this project will help define the best management practices that the most successful organic dairies implement and will share those BMP’s with the organic dairy industry overall.

NOFA New York published a resource book in 2009 titled The Organic Dairy Handbook. Attending the two conferences helped NOF A New York staff greatly in compiling content and identifying authors for the book. Many of our conference speakers and several of our participants were contributing authorsin the resource book including: Sarah Flack, Dr. Linda Tikofsky, Karen Hoffman, Robert Perry, Katherine Mendenhall, and Bethany Wallis.

In 2009 Kathy Soder (ARS), Dr. Andre Brito (UNH), and Karen Hoffman (USDA NRCS) submitted a grant proposal to the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) titled: "Molasses as an Alternative Energy Feed Source for Organic Dairies". This grant was recently funded and will commence in 2010.UNH also has a planning grant that was recently funded by NERA titled ‘Addressing the Nutritional and Reproductive Research and Extension Needs of the Organic Dairy Industry in the Northeast’ with Kathy Soder (ARS) as a Cooperator. Additionally, Linda Tikofsky and Dr. John Barlow (UVM) have applied for research dollars to support the investigation of an organically-proven internal teat sealant for use at dry off on organic dairies.

Introduction:

One of the greatest challenges for organic dairy farmers is the lack of support or knowledge of their unique farming requirements among their farm consultants. The goal of this grant was to broaden the knowledge and understanding of holistic approaches to animal health specific to the needs and requirements of organic livestock producers. The target audience was extension agents, veterinarians, college students studying veterinary medicine and animal sciences and other resource professionals assisting organic and transitioning livestock producers. This grant project sought to increase the knowledge base of the consultants through a series of workshops and conferences.

The first conference, organized in 2007, included a keynote address by Lawrence Andres, an organic dairy producer and founder of Ecological Farmers Association. Mr. Andres set the stage for the 3-day conference, sharing information about his farm, his management practices, his vision of a healthy, sustainable farm and its place in our food system and our cultural landscape. Participants were encouraged to initiate research with their farmers, and a presentation with information about the proper conduct and analysis of ‘on-farm clinical trials,’, and ideas for funding sources was provided. The 2007 conference was offered in two Northeast locations, about 3 weeks apart, with the hopes that participants would have a choice of one that was geographically convenient at a time of year when they had more time for continued learning.

Eighteen months later, another Understanding Organics conference was offered building on the content offered in the first year and providing additional subjects as was requested from the 2007 evaluations. The format of the 2008 conference was laid out in a more formal Veterinary Track and Extension Track, in response to veterinarians who requested sessions where just vets were present; the food provided to the attendees was organic and/or locally sourced; and the time of year was switched to the fall to encourage the highest attendance level.

The 2007 conference presentations were professionally video taped and were available for sale in 2008 and 2009. Final documentation of the grant took place in 2009. The 2007 and 2008 Conference proceedings, power point presentations, and other resources have been posted on the NOFA Vermont website and are free for download. (www.nofavt.org/programs/tech-assistance-education-dairy-farming/dairy-livestock-resources). Three sets of the 2007 9-disc DVD package containing the 2007 conference presentations are included with the final report and other copies were sold or distributed.

The workshops were formatted in a way to provide classroom style learning, round table discussions, reading materials, interactive problem solving exercises, and hands-on learning. General practices and concepts included an overview of the National Organic Program, an understanding of how allowed, restricted and prohibited materials are categorized and reviewed for organic production, preventive management for optimum livestock health, complementary therapies approved for use on organic farms, grazing management, livestock nutrition, external and internal parasite management,economics, growing grains and summer annuals, animal welfare, clinical trial design and organic research plans and opportunities, a field trip to a neighboring organic dairy farm and continued learning resources. These conferences qualified for continued education credit for veterinary professionals, extension agents, NE Region Certified Crop Advisors, and USDA NRCS agents.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Linda Tikofsky

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

During the first twelve months of the grant, a three-day conference was planned, promoted and implemented. Eighteen months later a second conference was offered, furthering the information learned in year one and introducing more subject material in response to attendee evaluations. A Conference Planning Committee/Advisory Board was formed, consisting of:

• Jerry Bertoldo, DVM (Cornell Cooperative Extension)
• Diane Bothfeld (Vermont Agency of Agriculture)
• Dorthea Fitzsimmons, DVM ( Alfred State College)
• Dave Johnson (Organic Farmer representative)
• Hue Karreman, VMD (Penn Dutch Cow Care)
• Steve Morrison (Organic Farmer representative)
• Chuck Schwab (University of New Hampshire)

This committee was responsible for curriculum planning, workshop promotion and project evaluation, and met by phone (conference calls).With this committee, the content and format for each conference was determined and each committee member was able to promote the conferences within their professional networks. It was decided, for the first year, that the initial conferences would be located near Universities or Colleges where organic dairy farming practices were being studied and/or practiced. Locations such as these would highlight recent initiatives and would also provide opportunities for attendees to provide feedback on research needs for the coming years.

The 2007 conference was presented in a format that included very few concurrent sessions. We felt that in laying out the foundation of organic livestock production, we needed everyone to be in the same room. Topics that were covered on day one included a keynote address sharing the story behind a successful organic dairy farm followed by the history of organic agriculture, and understanding how materials are reviewed as allowed, restricted or prohibited for use in organic agriculture. Day two provided more focused topics on soil health, livestock nutrition, homeopathy, parasite management, botanicals, grazing management, animal welfare, the multi-pronged approach to animal health, and basic clinical trial design. A field trip to a nearby organic dairy farm was planned on day three where participants could visit and talk about housing, prevention management and cover a few specific livestock ‘cases’ with a number of veterinarians and other professionals in the group sharing their expertise. Before the meetings were adjourned, we asked participants to join us for a final working lunch to reflect on the past three days and to help us generate ideas for the future.

For the second year, one conference was offered in a central New York location and followed the first of what would be fiveNational Organic Program Pasture Rule ‘listening sessions’ (October, 2008). After the NOP Pasture Rule Listening Session, Richard H. Matthews, Chief, Standards Development and Review Branch of the USDA National Organic Program and author of the Proposed Pasture Rule, stayed for the entire Understanding Organics Conference and was very impressed with the content and speakers. Acting on the feedback of our 2007 attendees and the Advisory Board, the 2008 conference was designed with more concurrent sessions. A Veterinary Track and an Extension Track was created to allow for advanced subjects that would meet the needs of two different audiences. We also included opportunities for poster presentations highlighting recently completed and ongoing research impacting organic and grazing dairy farms. We made sure to have topics presented to the whole audience throughout the 3-day conference as well and made sure to have plenty of time for attendees to visit the posters and the tradeshow area.

A significant amount of time and energy was put into making sure that the food provided for our attendees was organic and/or locally sourced. This entailed finding a conference center that was willing to work with us, and budgeting the food costs to be about 20% higher than the normal menu fare. Feedback from attendees and from the conference center was very positive. The food was noticeably delicious, with some creative menus. The conference center (Holiday Inn, Auburn, NY) and the staff were also impressed with the experience. We even made a point to applaud the food service crew, which was something that they were not used to (but they were glowing). We hope that this experience will set the stage for other professional gatheringsin the future, as well as the conference centers providing the food.

The conferences in 2007 and 2008 were formatted in a way to offer classroom style learning, round table discussions, networking opportunities, on-farm case studies and reading materials. Included in the conference was information on funding options and presentations on proper conduct and analysis of ‘on-farm clinical trials’ for the evaluation of management strategies and complementary therapies. All the conferences were approved for education credits by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), state veterinary associations, Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS). The 2009 workshop on udder health and milk quality offered CE Credit for Vermont veterinarians.

For each conference year, brochures were sent to over 600 veterinarians, extension, NRCS and other professionals in the Northeast by direct mail, and a press release and brochure were made available at numerous meetings and conferences in the Northeast. Information was also provided through veterinary (AABP-L), dairy (Dairy-L/ODairy) and extension listserves. A web page was created that contained the conference agenda, brochure, sponsors, and registration information. Posting the information electronically through listserves and on the QMPS webpage was very effective and saved money in postage and printing. The webpage received over 500 visits for each conference in 2007 and 2008 and provided the conference brochure, press release, major sponsors, agenda, workshop descriptions, speaker bios, directions and lodging.The 2007 conference was professionally video taped and copies were created and marketed in an attractive 9-disc DVD set. Conference proceedings and power point presentations were promoted and marketed at conferences and workshops, through the NOFA Vermont website, the QMPS web page and through various publications and email discussion lists.

Some of the feedback received in 2007 and 2008 was about the challenge in traveling the distance to these events for multiple days. Many veterinarians cannot be away from busy practices for more than a day. During the third year of the grant (2009), a full day workshop focusing on a specific livestock health topic (udder health and milk quality) was offered in Vermont to an audience of veterinarians and pre-vet students. This workshop was supported through sponsorship and tradeshow vendors and partnered with the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association, providing 6 hours of Continuing Education Credit to Vermont veterinarians. This workshop was well attended and validates the feedback from attendees that if workshops could be one day long, covering a single topic, allowing for advanced discussion, and offered in regional locations, then more professionals would be ableto attend and it would have a greater impact within each geographical area.

Another suggestion to consider, however would be to offer important subject material in the form of web conferencing, also known as a‘webinar’. This would allow for live meetings, training, or presentations via the Internet. Each participant would be able to participate from his or her own computer and be connected to other participants via the internet.

No milestones

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

Over the three and a half years of the grant, a total of 185 professionals took part in one or both of the conferences: 137 professionals attended the first conference in 2007, and 27 of those reconvened for the second conference in 2008 along with an additional 67 new professionals who attended for their first time in year two.

In 2009, a one-day workshop was offered with a focus on udder health and milk quality. This workshop drew in a total of 50 professionals 19 of those had attended one or both conferences held the previous two years. A final evaluation was sent out to everyone who had attended the conferences in 2007 and 2008 and from that we received 35 responses(19%) were mailed back. Of those responses, 66% (23) applied new practices as a result of one or both of the conferences offered and 48% (17) have actively engaged at least 2 new management practices or complementary therapies with their clients. 17% (5) have actively sought funding and to date, 3 have been awarded research funds. The final evaluation showed that 20% used new information within 1 week, 40% used new information learned within one month and 17% of the respondents applied new information learned within 6 months after attending one of the conferences. Since those who responded are only 19% of those who attended, we feel confident that we achieved our last milestone of having 20 professionals actively engage in using at least two new management practices or complementary treatments with their clients.

Within a few months after the 2007 conference, Dr. Hubert Karreman was invited to Vermont by the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association to present at their annual summer meeting. Dr. Karreman was also hired by a northern vet clinic to consult with their practice. He traveled with the veterinarians when they went to see clients and shared his approaches and expertise. In the spring of 2009, Dr. Karreman was invited again by Cold Hollow Vet Clinic to present a one-day workshop on livestock health for their clients and other interested producers. This event was also sponsored by NOFA Vermont.

The 2008 conference was given a rating of 4.3 with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. As a result of the conference, attendees felt that they had a better understanding about organic dairy production and why certain products or practices were allowed and others were prohibited. Many appreciated the fact that this conference focused on pasture and nutrition on high forage diets. Others benefited from the economic information shared and achieved a deeper understanding of herd health issues. Many wondered why more professionals were not present and hoped that this conference could become an annual event.

As a result of the conference, attendees intend use the knowledge learned and act on some of the following: 1) look into performing research on certain medical treatments, 2) learn more about herbal therapies and homeopathy, 3) educate their clients more about homeopathy and incorporate into their practice, 4) offer more organic programming, 5) feel more confident that they have something to offer their organic clients, and 6) better able to discuss animal welfare with organic clients.

Some notable comments from the evaluations are included below:

• I used the information I learned to provide direction to producers in a sheep home study course who had an interest in natural or organic sheep production.
• This conference gave me ‘legitimacy’ in advising organic farms on mastitis control,
• I get many questions from farmers, so I am always transferring what I have learned to help them.
• Broadly, I have not found any significantly useful complementary therapies other than standard fluid support, low stress housing/bedding. However, emphasizing prevention and conservative production goals has reduced the need for alternative or conventional therapy.
• Your conferences have been excellent. Well run, well planned, and have something for everyone.

Participants were asked if they had spoken at any conferences or organized an educational event as a result of the Understanding Organics conferences and below is a list of responses from the final evaluation:

1) Upstate Organic/pasture conference (Author unknown)
2) Boundary Waters Vet conference in 2007 & 2008; WI Organic Vet conferences in 2007 – multiple locations; MOSES and MN Organic Conferences – every year (Jim Riddle)
3) NOFA Vermont Winter Conference, Feb 09 (Dr Guy Jodarski)
4) ‘I did FAMACHA training in 2008/march for local farmers’ (author unknown)
5) MOFGA, workshop on Homeopathy, March 2009 (Dr. Glen Dupree)
6) ‘I will be speaking at the MOSES conference Feb 2010. I was also asked to speak for Organic Meadows Coop in Canada.’ (Karen Hoffman, USDA NRCS)
7) Organic Meadow in Ontario, Canada (March 2009) (Dr. Hubert Karreman)
8) Milk quality workshops in Vermont for NOFA Vermont in 2008 (Dr. Linda Tikofsky)
9) Horizon Organic Producer meetings, 2009 (Dr. Glen Dupree)

Suggestions for future events included:

1) Keep expanding eOrganic dairy content, including videos.
2) Please keep the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food (NHDAMF) Organics program informed of any future trainings! Nice Job!
3) I would like to be able to use a fact sheet that focuses on internal parasite control.
4) Homeopathy workshops and/or webinars.
5) Feeding, understanding regulations and where to get definitive answers.
6) To be available to a wider vet audience. Have you presented at a large dairy conference?
7) Create a mentorship program in areas where there are high densities of organic farms or simply pair those with interest with those that have knowledge, regardless of the mentor’s daily professional activities.

Additional Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Future Recommendations

Conference participants for both years saw the need for more peer-reviewed research studying health care products as well aspractices for organic livestock production. Subjects that attendees want to learn more about include: an advanced session on feed rations as well as grain, starch and sugar metabolism with forages; more information on animal health; exercises in calculating intake and quality of pasture; case studies of pasture problems; feedback from producers on what they need from a veterinarian; nutritional components of organic milk, such as CLA, and how that compares to non-organic milk; and cow behavior and case studies to substantiate the information.

Potential Contributions

The conferences and workshops offered as a result of this grant have had a deep effect on the organic industry. Of greatest impact is the awareness of organic dairy management and needs among agricultural professionals. Although not all of them will go on to become full organic dairy advocates, these men and women are now informed about organic dairy and are much better suited to consulting accurately and compassionately on their clients’ farms. One of the greatest bottlenecks for organic dairy farmers is the lack of support or knowledge of their unique farming requirements among their farm consultants. By increasing the knowledge base of the professionals, they become better consultants to these farms and help increase the farms’ economic viability and sustainability. Although most of these professionals work primarily in the conventional dairy arena, they may take some organic methods to these conventional farms and have an impact there (e.g., increased use of Integrated Pest Management methods on conventional farms).

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.