Every year dairy professionals (farmers, veterinarians, scientists) meet in a European country to share knowledge with each other and to discuss challenges and opportunities of dairy farming in the hosting country. The next meeting will take place in Austria, which, for the most part, is characterized by a small scaled and family (farm) based agriculture. Like in many other European countries dairy farmers are currently facing a number of challenges, e.g. the discrepancy between maintaining high milk quality standards, complying with increasing animal welfare standards and at the same time stagnation of income, or the climate change with measurable impact on productivity. Additionally, Austria has a high proportion of Mountain Areas that allow only extensive farming and husbandry.
Our farmers found a lot of solutions and answers for these challenges: they apply new technologies and marketing strategies. About 1000 farms use robotic milking and precision dairy farming is a topic of increasing interest in the dairy community. Fortunately, Austria has a high proportion of organic farms and many consumers are willing to pay a reasonable price for high animal welfare standards. In less favoured areas, about 60% of farmers work part time on the dairy and 10% of farmers use agritourism activities as an alternative source of farm income.
Regardless of the size of the operation, mastitis is still one of the most important diseases in the dairy sector. After working on this topic in the last 20 years, I have learned that prevention is the most successful strategy to ensure good udder health. The ongoing discussions on antimicrobial resistance have one positive effect: sustainability and livestock health has become a key issue.
I am convinced that our primary responsibility as veterinarians and scientists is to support dairy farmers in keeping their animals healthy and efficient, regardless of farm size and management.
Martina Baumgartner is DVM and employed on the University Clinic for Ruminants, Vetmeduni Vienna, Austria. She is head of the Clinic´s diagnostic laboratory with focus on mastitis diagnostics and research.
Text and illustration: Martina Baumgartner