Introduction and development of foster cow systems on organic dairy farms in France - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Biological Agriculture & Horticulture Year : 2022

Introduction and development of foster cow systems on organic dairy farms in France


The rearing of dairy calves, whether in conventional or organic farming, is questioned in society, particularly due to its lack of naturalness caused by the limited contact between age groups. Foster cow systems, where foster cows stay with calves in low-input pasture-based systems, have been implemented in France since 2010. The aims of this study were to explain farmers’ motivations for establishing their cow-calf contact systems and to describe the ways in which they have implemented them, in terms of daily practice and as part of their organic dairy farm. A documented investigation of the introduction of these rearing systems in France was carried out. In addition, individual semi-structured interviews were conducted between January and March 2019 on 20 organic farms that had implemented this practice. Farmers’ perceptions of the practice were explored through content analysis of the interview responses. Calves were separated from their dam after an average of 4.5 days. The bonding phase was conducted by leaving them together for 2–7 days in small bonding pens. Weaning and separation took place either simultaneously or gradually, between the age of 4–10 months. The farmers perceived these systems as working very well and being easy to implement on grazing-based farms, as well as ensuring good profitability and working conditions. According to the farmers, the calves appeared to have high growth rates and good health status, enabling the first calving at a younger age. These rearing systems seemed to be compatible with an agroecological transition
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hal-03819888 , version 1 (21-03-2024)




Caroline Constancis, Florence Hellec, Nathalie Bareille, Mette Vaarst. Introduction and development of foster cow systems on organic dairy farms in France. Biological Agriculture & Horticulture, 2022, 39 (2), pp.73-90. ⟨10.1080/01448765.2022.2124884⟩. ⟨hal-03819888⟩
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