The study investigated and compared welfare conditions and gastrointestinal (GI) parasites distribution among organic (ORG) and conventional (CONV) farms in central Italy. Five ORG and five CONV farms were assessed for animal welfare with an adapted version of the AssureWel protocol. Faecal samples collected from the rectum of the animals both in ORG (n = 150) and CONV (n = 150) were analysed using conventional copromiscroscopy. The presence of skin damages in the rear legs was significantly predominant (p < 0.001) in CONV (26.7%) compared with ORG farms (10.0%). No differences were found for lameness, cleanliness, Body Condition Score, hair loss, body lesions and swelling prevalence. Data concerning the productive performances, e.g., total milk, fat and protein yields standardised in mature equivalent (ME) were collected. ME milk yield (ORG: 9656.9 _ 1620.7 kg; CONV: 12,047.2 _ 2635.3) and ME fat yield (ORG: 396.6 _ 66.8; CONV: 450.3 _ 102.8) were significantly lower in ORG farms (p < 0.001). Anthelmintics were used regularly in 4/5 CONV and 0/5 ORG farms. In 2 CONV farms (40%) and 4 ORGs (80%) at least one animal tested positive for GI parasites. No significant differences in parasites prevalence emerged (ORG = 10.7%; CONV = 8%). These data indicate that ORG farming does not influence parasite prevalence and animal welfare status.

Matteo Chincarini , Lydia Lanzoni, Jorgelina Di Pasquale, Simone Morelli , Giorgio Vignola, Barbara Paoletti and Angela Di Cesare