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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care December 2006

Hi Folks,

This month I'd like to talk about anti-oxidants and free radicals since it seems a popular topic in general. What is a free radical? It's a compound with an extra electron that does not have a partner to stabilize it, and as a result will oxidize anything in its path. For instance, rusting metal is a result of oxidative damage. A prime example of a free radical is good old hydrogen peroxide - it's bubbling and fizzing is evidence of its abrasive "cleansing" action on whatever substance it encounters. This is OK if there are a bunch of germs (an infection) that need to be gotten rid of - the hydrogen peroxide is strongly oxidizing to the infected area and thereby cleans out the area. When using hydrogen peroxide always keep it at the 3% concentration in order to be safe and not cause unintended injury to sensitive areas. I use hydrogen peroxide on every hoof problem I work on since it is such a great cleanser (and hooves are not generally very clean!). Some people claim that hydrogen peroxide given IV can be helpful in infections - this may be the case but the risks of giving it IV outweigh the potential benefits in my opinion. Using it in the quarter for a bad mastitis infection may make sense, however, it must be stripped out within 5 minutes or else the bubbling action may damage the quarter worse than any benefit derived from infusing it. In short, hydrogen peroxide is actually a very harsh substance when dealing with living organisms.

Free radicals at the cellular level inside the body cause oxidative damage and create many serious problems by damaging cell membranes, proteins and DNA, leading to premature cell death. If there are too many free radicals in the body, the body essentially begins to "rust away". Defenses against free radicals are built into cells as anti-oxidants. Examples of anti-oxidants that exist within the cells are vitamin E, glutathione peroxidase (a selenium dependent enzyme), catalase (which converts hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen), and superoxide dismutase (a copper- and zinc-dependent enzyme).

Naturally occurring anti-oxidants occur in a variety of plants and plant parts, often those that are colorful such as fruits and berries. Flavanoids, flavanols and oligoproanthocyanidins (OPC's) are excellent antioxidants. Some plants containing OPCs include grape skins, grape seeds, elderberry, blueberry, cranberry, cherry, hawthorn, gingko, and green tea. Pycnogenol® (grape seed extract) is a commercially prepared OPC. Quercetin is an extremely good antioxidant and is found in onion, kale, broccoli, lingonberry, cranberry, black currant and tea. Witch hazel also has antioxidant effects as well as its well known astringent effects.

Some other plants which have antioxidant properties include Astragalus, Chaparral, Pau D'Arco, Schizandra, Olive Oil, Rosemary, Echincea, Garlic, Ginger and Violet. Violets have healthy amounts of carotinoids, flavanoids and vitamin C. Remember that plants are rich in many compounds and a lot of the ones that are good ant-oxidants also have antimicrobial activities or immune stimulating activities.

So, if you are looking to add some anti-oxidants to your cows' diets, consider adding some of the above plants into either their pasture mixes or as a winter time feed additive. For cows needing individual attention when they are run down or obviously ill, consider obtaining some of the above plant materials and put them in a capsule and give a few capsules a few times a day. They may also simply eat them right on their feed.

Regarding vitamin C, it also is an anti-oxidant, though not as powerful as vitamin E or any of the OPC containing plants. When a cow is obviously ill with a fever and especially when off-feed, I always give 250-500cc of commercially available vitamin C in the vein. This is the equivalent of 62 grams of vitamin C. I have been using vitamin C I.V. for 11+ years now and recently saw a study (published in the Journal of Dairy Science in 2002) that showed using two doses of 25 grams vitamin C I.V. after experimentally infusing endotoxin significantly helped increase milk production recovery after the endotoxin exposure. Additionally, an article in The Veterinary Clinics of North America (1997) showed that vitamin C therapy helped to counteract the immuno-suppression caused by the common corticosteroid dexamethasone in cattle. It is always gratifying when the science backs up what I've already been doing in the field(!). It seems that more and more dairy vets are starting to add in vitamin C therapy for sick cows and believe it helps clinically. So the next time someone tells you that cows don't need any vitamin C (because they normally make their own in the rumen), you can say that there are scientific articles that support the use of it and that cows off-feed aren't making any of their own vitamin C anyway. One tip - if you give the vitamin C in the muscle, use 5cc/100 lbs but place no more than 30cc in one site, and it must be CLEAN. I find vitamin C given at 60cc in one site on the back leg is the most common cause of getting really big abscesses. Be smart and be careful.

So for a sick cow or calf that has a fever and is slow to eat, but you don''t know what is quite wrong with her, I would suggest using anti-oxidants as well as immuno-stimulants. Therefore, get your MuSe® or BoSe® (calf formulation) of vitamin E and selenium (remember that one of the anti-oxidant enzymes in the cells, glutathione peroxidase, needs selenium). Also consider using injectable MultiMin®, which is a source of zinc and copper (for the other anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase). Fill up some capsules with grape seed extract (Pycnogenol®) as well. You might as well also add garlic powder, ginger powder and rosemary to the mix (or any of the mentioned plants). Immunostimulant plants include echinacea, astragalus, green tea, chaparral, poke root, red root and yellow dock, among others. An injectable immunostimulant is Immunoboost, a biologic which stimulates the non-specific immune system by raising the interferon levels.

Always remember that no matter what you want to treat a problem with, you need to support the patient by giving them dry bedding, fresh air and good quality feed. If you are cheap with the bedding for calves, you will regret it when there is a run of damp, rainy days. Adding in the various anti-oxidants ingredients into the daily feed will help during the winter months of feeding stored feeds which are never as health giving as fresh green pasture - and nutritious pasture is beginning to only be a memory now as we head towards winter.

NOTE: Ben M. Stoltzfus has a certified organic Jersey heifer for sale, bred to calve in April. You can call Ben at 717-768-3437 or write to 648 Cambridge Road, Honey Brook, PA 19344.

THANKS to Mose Esh of Myerstown, PA for saying some kind words about the Moo News - we now have 10 new readers in Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky and other parts of PA.

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

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