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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care February 2009

Hi Folks,

What a difference a week can make, especially if visiting a totally foreign land as I did with my trip to Korea. The main reason for the trip was to help teach interested farmers and agricultural officials about organic livestock health care and the non-antibiotic treatment of infectious disease. While I am very comfortable discussing this topic in any setting, it was exciting to be among a people in a very different culture. In addition to being on farms in the country side, I was in the capital city (Seoul) and also made a day trip to the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), where the free society of South Korea is bounded and confronted by the strictly controlled dictatorship of North Korea. The Koreans I met are very friendly and extremely hospitable. I enjoyed lots of exceptionally tasty meals which always include a variety of vegetables (especially kelp) served in many small bowls around a central serving of beef, chicken or tofu fried in toasted sesame oil and the best rice I have ever had.

My hosts, Raymond H Yang and Seung Pil Kang, work at Doalnara Certified Organic Korea (DCOK), the major certifier in Korea and only certifier of organic dairy farms there. DCOK is part of the International Organic Federation of Agricultural Movements (IFOAM). IFOAM will be having their 2011 world meeting in Korea. Doalnara is also being accredited by the new Korean government organic certification system (similar to PCO, GOA, OEFFA, etc). My trip was specifically designed to be the centerpiece for their first ever International Organic Dairy Seminar, which was held at two certified organic dairy farms. One was on Jeju Island and the other in the mountainous region in Wonju. The average size of most Korean dairy farms is 70-100 head, usually Holsteins. Pasture is a rarity in Korea as many farms are “land-locked” at the edge of villages with zero pasture. Most farms never let their cows outside at all due to no pasture availability. It is not that they would not like to let their cows out; it is that there is no available land. The country is 72% mountains with narrow valleys being farmed for rice mainly. In certain areas it reminds me of the mountain ridges and valleys of central Pennsylvania.

The dairy farm on Jeju Island, Isidore Farm, milks about 330 Holsteins and is part of a large complex built up by an Irish Catholic priest (Father McGlintchy) over the last 40 years. They also farm the local Hanu beef breed of cattle (excellent marbling and some of the most succulent beef I’ve ever had) as well as thoroughbred race horses. All profits from the farming operations go to support their charities that provide care for the poor, namely those in the final stages of cancer, those that are retired and need a place to live and children needing special attention and care. About 50 people are employed on the farm, which is about 500 hectares (1000 acres). The land is in parcels throughout the edges of a central village. All the soil on the island is derived from volcanic stone, some being very shallow at only ½ foot thick with some that is very deep. The weather was damp, humid and cool but not cold. The snow had just melted and green fields were everywhere to be seen. Individual mountains suddenly rise up in many places. The cows were not in pasture the day I was there as it was too muddy.  The average milk production at Isidore Farm is currently about 26 kg milk daily (about 55 lbs) with a 4.0% butterfat and less than 200,000 somatic cell count. The main problem that Isidore has is that the pasture are infested with ticks in the grazing season and a disease called piroplasmosis is rampant, affecting cows within their first 100 days in milk (when cows are at their most susceptible to disease generally due to natural immune suppression). Part of the problem is that Holsteins have no immunity to piroplasma while the local Hanu cattle are fairly resistant as they have been there for about 5000 years. As their main goal is to have long-lived cows rather than high producing cows, they are thinking of cross-breeding to bring in hybrid vigor. Calves are raised in hutches and every one had a calf jacket on.

The other farm milks 250 Holsteins and is located in the mountainous region of Wonju.  Mr. Ko, the owner, sold a river bottom farm a couple years ago and built the farm with milk processing plant on 12 hectares (24 acres) There are 21 employees for the 250 Holsteins, milk processing and delivery to market along with door to door delivery. There is no scent of dairy as the bedded packs and open air barns (no curtains) are well situated high up in a narrow area bounded by steep mountain slopes. The steep slopes are where the cows graze in the grazing season (May to October). The cows are friendly and interested in visitors. Calves are housed in hutches after they spend 2 weeks in a well ventilated building under heat lamps. This has reduced calf mortality to near zero. Due to the open air environment there are no pneumonia problems. The only problem they have is a few cases of mastitis – there were 5 out of 250. Certified organic baleage and beautiful bright green dry hay is grown on a nearby farm on river bottom soils and is of obvious high quality. Organic grains and prairie grass are bought from China. Milk production has climbed from 25 kg (55 lbs) to 30 kg (66lbs) daily now that they are organic - quite an accomplishment. It is an extremely clean farm and essentially one man’s dream come true, with personally manicured bonsai gardens and a carp pond as well. About 12,000 visitors come there yearly. Fortunately there are no ticks in the mountains, but lack of pasture is an issue.

While IFOAM standards allow therapeutic antibiotic and hormone use under the direction of the farm veterinarian, both these farms try to minimize use since they need to withhold milk for twice the official withholding time. And like farmers everywhere, no one likes to waste milk if possible. This is where my experience with organic livestock health care was helpful to them. The non-antibiotic treatment of infectious disease is of interest to people the world over as the awareness to reliance on antibiotics is well known. Also, pictures of strip grazing from Lancaster county were very much of interest. While organics is not for everyone, raising livestock without synthetic crutches and good grazing is of interest to more and more people. It is a true honor to help with this goal.

Click here to see pictures from the trip, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them.


NOTE: Tom Weaver of KOW Nutrition will be having a meeting at Yoder’s in New Holland on Wednesday February 25. Focus will be on high forage rations. Please call Ken Muckenfuss at 1-609-760-3030 for more information. Cost is $15 to cover lunch.


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

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