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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care January 2009

Hi Folks,

Happy New Year Folks!

Let’s all try to make this year a much better year than 2008. We who are in the agricultural world have a bit of a safer spot when the economy is not doing well. That is because without farmers, there will be nothing, since food is essential for humanity. Farmers are the essential building block for society to go into the future. That is reality and cannot be denied. Blessed are those that help create a safe and healthy food supply from which the rest of society can benefit.

Farmers in many areas of the world are now very much interested in learning how to raise cattle organically and/or to use natural methods to treat their cattle. In relation to this, I’ve been invited to South Korea to teach farmers about such methods and preventive strategies to keep their animals well in organic settings. To do this I will need to be away for the entire first week of February. My colleagues at Gap Vet Associates will be available for any needs your animals may have during that time.

Speaking of Gap Vet, I am grateful to my friends there for allowing me the freedom to accept offers to give talks in other geographic areas. As you all know, I’ve been in the emergency rotation with them for 2 years now and enjoy emergency work with their clients when I am on for them. Likewise, they have willingly learned how to treat the needs of organic cattle on emergency calls when I am off duty. Professional friendliness among veterinary colleagues is something for which I continually strive and I’m very gratified with my colleagues at Gap Vet. It is also from this line of thinking that I enjoy teaching veterinarians in other areas about organic veterinary medicine.

I’m sure you sometimes wonder “just what does Dr. Karreman talk about when he is away?” Fair question and I’ll give you a little insight. Generally, I talk from direct experience from being out in the barns of Lancaster County, relating true situations and health conditions (without ever mentioning exactly where or who has had a problem). I also talk about the specifics of how to treat cases without antibiotics or hormones. One of the main things people appreciate is that I talk about follow-ups on specific cases – showing what worked and what didn’t work. To simply suggest which natural treatment could be used is not fair - nor does it give a complete picture. It is entirely a different matter to know the treatment is suggested for specific cases and whether or not it worked - and how well. It is very easy for someone to say “try this”. However, I think I have enough experience by now as a practitioner to not view the world of natural treatments simply through rose-colored glasses. In other words, just because something is natural does not automatically mean it is effective in treating real disease. I am all in favor of natural treatments, but before farmers use them they should have some reasonable assurance that they will truly work.

Having been working directly with dairy cows since 1984 and having an interest in alternative approaches to health since a couple years before that, I’ve had a lot of time to sift through various approaches – having read lots of books on homeopathy and botanicals/herbs, attending many lectures on alternative health care, over the years, reading current scientific research trials as well as also having used alternative approaches to certain illnesses for myself which have popped up over time.  Knowing that farmers don’t have a lot of extra time to really sink in to studying extra things outside of everyday farming and livestock issues, and also knowing that dairy farmers are probably some of the hardest working people I’ve ever known, I’ve boiled down 25+ years of direct experience and work as a medical professional into a handful of treatments with farmers in mind.  I’ve also been able to follow up directly on these treatments out here in the barns. It is this handful of treatments I talk about to interested people who live in other areas.

Yet more importantly than how to treat organic dairy cattle is how to prevent problems in the first place. I realize that many people in the organic world, including some of the largest figures in its history such as J.I. Rodale, Lady Balfour and Sir Albert Howard, have stated: healthy soils = healthy crops = healthy animals. From my experience as a dairy vet I think this statement is overly simplistic, although appropriate to stimulate interest for those just beginning in organic farming. I think seasoned farmers know better. There are simply too many factors that can come into play that can de-rail such a simple statement. The closest time the soil directly affects the cows’ health is during the grazing season. Unfortunately we do not have year round grazing. It is safe to say that if the soils are in poor health then the animals will probably be in poor health as well. From experience as an animal health professional my rule is: Dry bedding + fresh air + sunshine + high forage diets = Healthy Animals. To farm without the reliance on synthetic crutches, health providing building blocks must continually be in place. Additionally, with pre-weaned calves, feeding whole milk for a minimum of 3 months along with feeding soft, grassy hay makes for very healthy and sturdy young animals.

While success with natural treatments is very pleasing, such treatments work best on farms that the animals have the proper building blocks. Then, when the occasional animal does become ill on such biologically sound farms, the animal’s ability is much better to respond to challenge. This is based on their immune system functioning properly, which it will, if life is lived more closely with the way Mother Nature intended. This definitely calls for a high forage diet year-round.

None of what I’ve said is rocket science. And as farmers in the organic world know, organics itself is not rocket science. In reality organic farming is “back-to-the-basics”. There will be dramatically less problems if you do not violate biological principles. Not that there will be no problems - that would be misleading and be giving false hope. Simply talk with others who have had direct follow-up with cases in the barns. Ask them what exactly happened to animals or herds that have used whatever product is being heavily promoted. Knowing the pre-treatment condition and post- treatment effects across many herds is the best way to understand what you could do versus what you should do for your livestock. Remember that using the incredibly simple foundation of dry bedding, fresh air, sunshine and a high forage diet will lead to robust, healthy animals which generally respond to natural treatments more effectively when needed.

NOTE: Come and listen to Gary Zimmer of Mid-Western Bio-Ag at Yoder’s Restaurant & Buffet, 14 S. Tower Road, New Holland on Thursday January 8th from 9:00 – 2:30. Gary is a widely known expert in feeding cows in a biological way to achieve good levels of milk production. His talk “Don’t Violate the Principles of the Soil and the Cow” will include discussion of: (1) balancing soil to produce healthy forages (2) what’s in the ration and cow comfort and (3) why microbes and humus are the key to convert balanced soil to rich mineral forages.

This is sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag. Abraham Stoltzfus and Sam Zook will gives remarks as well. Cost is $15 and includes lunch.


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

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