Farming systems and environment

Evaluation of organic, conventional and intensive beef farm systems: health, management and animal production

I. Blanco-Penedoa1 p1 c1, M. López-Alonsoa1, R. F. Shorea2, M. Mirandaa3, C. Castilloa1, J. Hernándeza1 and J. L. Beneditoa1

a1 Departamento de Patoloxía Animal, Facultade de Veterinaria, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Lugo 27002, Spain

a2 NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Lancaster Environment Centre, Library Avenue, Bailrigg, Lancaster LA1 4AP, UK

a3 Departamento de Ciencias Clínicas Veterinarias, Facultade de Veterinaria, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Lugo 27002, Spain


The overall aim of the present study was to analyse and compare organic beef cattle farming in Spain with intensive and conventional systems. An on-farm study comparing farm management practices and animal health was carried out. The study also focussed on a slaughterhouse analysis by comparing impacts on the safety and quality of the cattle products. Twenty-four organic and 26 conventional farms were inspected, and farmers responded to a questionnaire that covered all basic data on their husbandry practices, farm management, veterinary treatments and reproductive performance during 2007. Furthermore, data on the hygiene and quality of 244, 2596 and 3021 carcasses of calves from organic, intensive and conventional farms, respectively, were retrieved from the official yearbook (2007) of a slaughterhouse. Differences found between organic and conventional farms across the farm analysis did not substantially reflect differences between both farm types in the predominant diseases that usually occur on beef cattle farms. However, calves reared organically presented fewer condemnations at slaughter compared with intensive and to a lesser extent with conventionally reared calves. Carcass performance also reflected differences between farm type and breed and was not necessarily better in organic farms.

(Received March 16 2011)

(Accepted November 22 2011)

(Online publication February 21 2012)


c1 E-mail:

p1 Present address: Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala SE-750 07, Sweden.