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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care July 2010

Hi Folks,

Flies, pinkeye, internal parasites, heat stress, water, coliform mastitis – the causes and organic treatment of these issues I have covered repeatedly during the summer months of the Moo News over the years. I could talk about these topics now that summer has hit, but hopefully you have saved some of my newsletters over the years to refer back to.

But - if you haven’t saved any copies of the Moo News, my new book is being finished up by the publisher (Acres USA) and it looks like it should be available sometime in September. It is about as practical as possible: roughly 200 pages with over 100 color pictures to accompany 30 pages of physical exam findings from nose to tail and about 95 commonly encountered types of real life cases (individual animals and animal groups), presented in a standardized step by step format, headed not by disease name but by actual symptoms that you see. It is my best effort at giving the farmer the most precise, useable information when working with organic livestock. Every case is set up in the same way, so a certain rhyme and reason is interwoven throughout all the cases. Here are two free previews of this kind of format:

Signalment: 1st lactation Holstein, just fresh 2 days ago.
History/Onset: within last 12 hours
Environmental: middle of summer during heat wave (100° F; 95% humidity)
Visually Observable Signs: watery secretion from right hind quarter, off-feed
Physical Exam Findings: hard, swollen, painful, hot right hind quarter, 104° F/ 40° C temperature, dehydrated (by eyebrow pinch test), increased heart rate, lungs OK, uterus OK
Barn Diagnosis: coliform mastitis
Initial Treatment: Dextrose with 90cc Phytobiotic tincture (garlic based tincture), 250 cc hyper-immune plasma (Plasma Gold “Udder/GI”), 5cc ImmunoBoost® (immune stimulant), 500 cc vitamin C (anti-oxidant), 1 liter hypertonic saline IV (to stimulate drinking), peppermint essential oil lotion rubbed into quarter topically.
Follow-up: Strip out quarter frequently, re-apply peppermint lotion after each stripping (48 hours max), and 2 capsules oral antibacterial powder boluses (Get Well) twice daily for 4 days.
Considerations: Homeopathic Belladonna hourly and Pyrogen 4 times daily; flunixin IV against pain, swelling and fever (especially if pregnant). Vaccinating against coliform infection is highly advisable if you have more than one of these cases in a year. If an older fresh cow, a fairly common reason is low calcium, causing the cow to lie down longer and the teat end sphincter to not close as well, allowing ground dirt to gain entrance into the teat.

Signalment: 2nd lactation Holstein, fresh about 8 months, confirmed pregnant (about 60 days).
History/Onset: Within last 12 hours
Environment: Component fed diet of hay, corn silage, grain.
Observable Signs: An obvious swelling on right side of jaw in lower area. Completely off feed (had been eating normally up until the current morning).
Physical Exam Findings: Temperature 104 F, heart rate increased, lungs OK, rumen slow, no pings, and lump on right lower jaw is somewhat firm.
Barn Diagnosis: Lumpy Jaw (Actinomycosis)
Initial Treatment: IV Sodium iodide (a form of electrolytes), hyper-immune plasma 250 cc (to counteract gram negative effects of normally found germs in oral cavity), vitamin C 500cc, 90cc Phyto-Biotic tincture (contains garlic, echinacea, baptisia, hydrastis, barberry) in 500cc dextrose.
Follow up: Must repeat the IV sodium iodide every 4-6 days for two times after initial treatment. Give 15cc Phyto-Biotic orally 3 times daily for 4 days. Topical peppermint essential oil lotion can be applied to jaw against heat from swelling.
Considerations: The cow has been in milk a long time and is pregnant – should a fever reducer be used to help the cow not got too feverish and possibly abort? Flunixin would be preferred as it is 100 times as strong as aspirin and aspirin has to be given by a pill gun – the cow probably does not want things rammed down her mouth, especially with this condition.

Why have I written a new book? Basically because my first book may have provided too much information and farmers often only have time to look at things they need on the spot. Also, perhaps too many options were given for a condition as well as the names of conditions not easily understood. And now that I am no longer in everyday practice, I’ve realized that this new book will help preserve my way of approaching cases and share insights on how to help organic animals that are in need of medical attention. In a sense, it’s a journal of my time “in the trenches” as an everyday practitioner. Fortunately, there are dramatically less instances of needing a vet on organic farms in the first place, but when an animal is sick, appropriate and timely care is needed. I do believe that the new book will go a long way towards that end.
Recently, some people have asked if I am still a veterinarian. Yes – of course, forever! You can never take away the education someone has put serious time and effort into, regardless of what the education might have included. But just because I don’t necessarily fix things needing immediate attention anymore (“putting out fires”) does NOT mean I am no less a veterinarian. Well, maybe perhaps to those who see veterinarians only as “fixers” (like the plumber and electrician, etc). In reality, veterinary medicine is a very flexible profession and a vet can move around fairly easily within the profession as needed. To be honest, I could have switched into small animal (dog and cat) work. But helping produce food for people and my fascination with cows, especially organic cows, is still as strong as the day I realized as a herdsman that homeopathics were working so well that I wanted to become a vet. As a herdsman at Seven Stars Farm I simply loved putting the cows out to graze, then standing there in the early evening and listening to them happily munch away. I still do - some 20+ years later.

So my current focus of working with farmers to learn how to comply with the new pasture rule for organics actually makes for coming “full circle” for me in the agricultural world. It is an even bigger “full circle” when considering that I got my start in agriculture by soil surveying and helping to design farmland conservation practices. This summer as I continue to heal from my recent open heart surgery, I have been happily “pasture surveying” as part of my work with Midwestern Bio-Ag. So after 15 years of having truly loved doing the work commonly thought of as a dairy veterinarian - helping animals get back on their four feet and becoming productive again -  I am now immersing myself once more in the complete picture of animal husbandry, from soil to crop (especially grazing) to healthy animals. While it has always been a wonderful feeling to save an animal’s life during an emergency, I’ve also found it very satisfying to help prevent problems from happening in the first place. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

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

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