A stochastic frontier approach to study the relationship between gastrointestinal nematode infections and technical efficiency of dairy farms
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
The impact of gastrointestinal (GI) nematode infections in dairy farming has traditionally been assessed using partial productivity indicators. But such approaches ignore the impact of infection on the performance of the whole farm. In this study, efficiency analysis was used to study the association of the GI nematode Ostertagia ostertagi on the technical efficiency of dairy farms. Five years of accountancy data were linked to GI nematode infection data gained from a longitudinal parasitic monitoring campaign. The level of exposure to GI nematodes was based on bulk-tank milk ELISA tests, which measure the antibodies to O. ostertagi and was expressed as an optical density ratio (ODR). Two unbalanced data panels were created for the period 2006 to 2010. The first data panel contained 198 observations from the Belgian Farm Accountancy Data Network (Brussels, Belgium) and the second contained 622 observations from the Boerenbond Flemish farmers' union (Leuven, Belgium) accountancy system (Tiber Farm Accounting System). We used the stochastic frontier analysis approach and defined inefficiency effect models specified with the Cobb-Douglas and transcendental logarithmic (Translog) functional form. To assess the efficiency scores, milk production was considered as the main output variable. Six input variables were used: concentrates, roughage, pasture, number of dairy cows, animal health costs, and labor. The ODR of each individual farm served as an explanatory variable of inefficiency. The results showed that an increase in the level of exposure to GI nematodes was associated with a decrease in technical efficiency. Exposure to GI nematodes constrains the productivity of pasture, health, and labor but does not cause inefficiency in the use of concentrates, roughage, and dairy cows. Lowering the level of infection in the interquartile range (0.271 ODR) was associated with an average milk production increase of 27, 19, and 9 L/cow per year for Farm Accountancy Data Network farms and 63, 49, and 23 L/cow per year for Tiber Farm Accounting System farms in the low- (0-90), medium- (90-95), and high- (95-99) efficiency score groups, respectively. The potential milk increase associated with reducing the level of infection was higher for highly efficient farms (6.7% of the total possible milk increase when becoming fully technically efficient) than for less efficient farms (3.8% of the total possible milk increase when becoming fully technically efficient).