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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care April 2006

REMINDER - We are now on FAST-TIME. Please make your calls for regular work between 6:30 -8:00 am or the evening before. Calls made after that could incur a late call fee. Emergencies are accepted 24 hours a day.

Hi Folks,

As we green up this month, I'd like to discuss some issues regarding medicines from plants. Fresh herbs, dried herbs, fluid extracts, tinctures, glycerites, extract tablets and freeze-dried granules are all examples of botanical medicines, as are herbal teas. I believe there is good reason that cows, being herbivores, are well adapted to using botanical medicines in very efficient ways. Their efficiency to handle plants (and therefore plant based medicines) is based on their bacterial and protozoal activities normally occurring in the rumen as well as their digestive enzymes in the small intestine.

Some farmers will make their own tinctures at home and can find what works best for themselves. However, when purchasing tinctures and dried herbs of commercial origin, integrity of the manufacturer is paramount. Try to get an idea of the manufacturing facility or tour it personally. Some websites and brochures give a clear picture to the manufacturing facility. Get a sense of the manufacturer's knowledge of plants and educational background in the herbal world. Perhaps the manufacturer holds degrees or certificates to support assertions of natural plant medicine knowledge. Is the person interacting with peers in order to stay on the cutting edge? Definitely read the entire label of any tinctures you buy. The following basics will help to identify a reputable manufacturer: (1) use of proper name (i.e. Echinacea angustofolia vs. Echinacea purpurea vs. Echinacea pallida - which is it?), (2) strength of concentration (1:1, 1:3, 1:5, etc.), (3) alcohol content, (4) part of plant used (root, rhizome, herb or flower) and (5) fresh or dried material used for extraction. Some companies may not have the strength on the label but they will then specify it in the catalogue (Starwest). If the strength is not specified on the label and it's not specified in the catalogue, you have no idea how strong or weak a tincture you are buying nor do you know if it is being made consistently from batch to batch. Correct information is critical to successful and safe use of a product. Safety should come above everything; remember - dose separates therapy from toxicity. If you don't know the strength of the tincture, you cannot possibly know the correct dose to use. Perhaps more importantly as a farmer, you may be wasting your money.

Next, please compare a few different manufacturers by inspecting a specific tincture of each - for instance, compare different garlic tinctures (Allium sativum). Some popular manufacturers are: Gaia, Buck Mountain, Herbal Vitality, Crystal Creek and Star West. Hold up the tinctures to the light and visually inspect the depth of color. Generally the darker a tincture, the stronger it is. Then, open the bottle and smell the product for the richness of aroma. A well made tincture should not smell like alcohol. Most well made tinctures of roots will have a strong earthy aroma while tinctures made from flowers will have a light and lifting aroma. Lastly - taste it! My supplier at Herbal Vitality is a master herbalist and holds a PhD in Experimental Medicine. He creates the absolute strongest and most energetic tinctures I've come across - and for the same price as other popular brands. I would urge all readers to compare the ones you are using to at least one or two different brands to see what the differences are. I have three different brands in the office and will begin to carry them along in my truck for you to compare.

While dosing is somewhat of an art, there are volumes and volumes of work showing exactly how much of different tinctures to use for a variety of species. Veterinarians in the old days had detailed charts of how much Echinacea angustofolia (4-15 cc orally 2-3 times daily), Eucalyptus oil (8-15 cc orally 2-3 times daily) or Aloe (8-40 cc orally 2-3 times daily) to use for cows, horses, pigs, sheep, dogs and cats. I have these books and can tell you that there is no one dosage to give a cow for various tinctures - they are as varied as the pattern of spots on a Holstein.

Regardless of the above, there are a few rules of thumb regarding how much botanical medicine is to be given for different farm animal species. The following table was created by the most respected authors in herbal veterinary medicine from around the world. This can be used as a guide if you do not know how much to give. In another newsletter I will get into more specific dosages - as well as addressing the very real issue of residues that need to be considered when administering botanical medicines.

Common Dosages HERBIVORES






4 oz

12 oz

8 oz

Extract powder

1 tsp

2 Tbsp


Extract tablet




Freeze-dried granules

1 tsp

2 Tbsp

2 Tbsp


1 tsp

2 Tbsp

2-3 Tbsp

1 Tablespoon = 15cc

Jim Duke, the world renowned botanist and retired USDA ARS researcher, has compiled a vast amount of information regarding herbs. In one listing, the highest scores indicate the most overall usefulness of the named herb (for humans). I would say that I pretty much agree with the top 10 (underlined), except that for cattle I would substitute in ginseng (Panax ginseng) instead of gingko, peppermint (Mentha piperita) instead of stinging nettle and move peppermint up the list.

Garlic- 65, Ginger- 61, Licorice - 54, Echinacea- 37, Red Pepper- 36, Willow- 36, Gingko-33, Evening primrose-27, Stinging nettle-24, Goldenseal-22, Peppermint-19, Pineapple-19, Teatree-16, Camomile-15, Eucalyptus-15, Lemonbalm-14, Rosemary-14, Calendula-13, Purslane-13, Aloe-12, Bilberry-12, Cardamom-12, Honeysuckle-12, Plantain-12, St. John's-wort-12, Chasteberry-11. DongQuai-11, Pigweed-11, Turmeric-11, Carrot-10, Celery-10, Dandelion-10

I will be present more usable information regarding plant medicines in the future. Remember, let your food be your medicine and, as such, get those cows out on the grass as much as possible within the limits of your own farm's agro-ecology. And remember to feed DRY HAY prior to sending out to legume pasture to prevent pasture bloat, especially in the early part of the season when it is cool out. If you do experience bloating, carefully give 1 pint vegetable oil, walk the animal around for 15 minutes and then carefully give another pint of vegetable oil and walk more.

NOTE: There is to be a meeting of the USDA National Organic Standards Board on April 18, 19 and 20 at State College (Penn State). During the first two days there will be a pasture symposium in order to help the USDA hammer out what the new law will be regarding pasture requirements for ruminants. Please try to make it to the meeting and let your voice be heard.

I need to be there since I'm on the Board. I will also be up in Maine again beginning the afternoon of Wednesday the 12th through the night of Friday the 14th. Dr. McCabe will be covering most of those times and I will send you out a card when that time approaches.

FOR SALE: Stephen T. Stoltzfus on 5268 Amish Rd. in Kinzers has a proven Jersey x Holstein bull for sale, call 717-442-8569

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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