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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care June 2005

Hi Folks,


Hi Folks,
This spring, although relatively dry, has been filled with lots of sunshine. This has made the pastures rich in energy, due to a healthy amount of photosynthesis. As a result, I am seeing most animals on pasture having very nice body condition, even the younger calves that are out there. It is great to see this as I travel around in the area. As many of you know, I like to take pictures with my digital camera of all the different kinds of breeds you graziers seem to have. Although I do like seeing black and white on green, I really do enjoy trying to guess the breeds of some of the more interesting mixes I see out there. Throw in a Lineback or a Milking Shorthorn somewhere in the genetics and quite a variety of colors start being observed. Anyway keep up the good work and enjoy the good gazing that we are having so far.

By the way, I am hoping to begin two research projects in the next month or so. These should last about a year in duration. The first is a mastitis study that I will be conducting using natural treatments to decrease SCC and to treat clinical mastitis. The other one will be with the Extension service to look at DHIA records of certified organic farms, looking for trends in production and reproduction. All DHIA information will be strictly confidential and only be used in pooled tallies. I will need to follow-up monthly testing averages with farm visits to determine why a specific farm performed outside the average of all the farms. I am hoping that those of you on DHIA testing will allow us to receive your records on a monthly basis over the next twelve months in order to come up with averages for all the organic farms that are on test. This kind of information is very needed within the organic industry, so others can decide to jump in or not. With about 75-80 local farms being organic, we should be able to get a good picture of what normal markers are within production and reproduction.

To do this extra work, I will need to be away from regular practice one weekday a week, every other week (two days a month). It will probably be on a Wednesday or Thursday. Fortunately, I have met a local veterinarian, Dr. Mary McCabe, who would like to cover during the daylight hours of those days. She contacted me during the winter to drive along since she is interested in natural treatments and wants to see how animals on organic dairy farms are treated. She has been a dairy veterinarian for 12 years and knows and does everything there needs to be known and done regarding dairy veterinary practice. Some of you have already met her over the last few months. In addition, I now rent an office building in Intercourse (where the Mennonite insurance office was for 30 years). I now keep my supplies and lab equipment there and hope to be able to have small meetings there as well. I will also stock Agri-Dynamics products as Jerry Brunetti and I are teaming up to better serve the needs of farmers wanting natural treatments.

Let's get back to the pastures. So far, so good, regarding their nutritional quality. It's probably a good time to remind everyone about the need to address parasites in young stock from a multi-prong approach. What do I mean by "multi-prong" ? Well, for instance, if you are used to giving calves a systemic wormer (like ivermectin or moxidectin) and you then you go look for some natural wormer to take its place -- this is called "input substitution" and is the opposite of a multi-prong approach. What we really need to do is to understand the biology of the parasites that like to live in or on cattle and then figure out where to break their life cycle. Only after that can we go and use a botanical mixture to substitute for the typically used synthetic wormer (ivermectin/moxidectin).

For internal parasites we need to address not only when the parasites are in the animal, but also when they are outside the animal in the environment. We need to think about how to make the environment hostile to them. In general, most life does better with moisture. Therefore, we need to dry out the areas where parasites would be happiest. This means splattering out the manure patties in the pasture and/or putting hogs and chickens out in the pasture to sift through the manure patties, which in turn exposing the patties to the wind and sun, thereby drying them out. We need dung beetles as well -- some wormers, like ivermectin, are shown to be more harmful to dung beetles than others. We also need to make sure that the animals are in robust nutritional condition so that their immune systems can handle and tolerate the likely parasite challenge. Weaned calves are usually the hardest hit because they do not have enough body condition when sent out to the pasture to fend for themselves. To get a calf in top body condition (in order to endure the stresses associated with post-weaning), keep them on whole milk for up three months, then wean slowly over 2 weeks. If you have high quality pasture for your youngstock, they will grow well without the need for grain. Most of this year's pasture ranks excellent (so far) and will depend on how well you manage it from here on out. However, if excellent pasture is not provided, you better be feeding additional forages and concentrates or those calves will crash and become malnourished, heavily parasitized, anemic and scour (and some will die). I see this every year on some farms. This can be avoided by paying extra attention to their nutritional needs and feeding what is needed before it is too late. By keeping nutrition where it should be and by reducing the moisture where parasite larva live, the need for wormers (of any type) will be significantly reduced. I can confidently say that calves that are well fed do not need wormers. Calves that have been well fed but are on marginal quality pasture with no clipping/dragging (where worm larva can build-up) and are exposed to an increasing population of worms over the summer season may respond fairly well to natural botanical wormers. This would be breaking the cycle of the parasites within the animal. However, the animals' environment better be cleaned up. managed better if this is to work well.

For external parasites, like flies, we again need to consider areas where moisture builds up, especially areas where there are big accumulations of moisture laden manure. Fly populations explode when there is humid air, heat, thunder shower activity, moisture/sweat on the animals, and manure on the animals to attract them. Of course we cannot control the weather but we can determine what kind of environment our animals live in. Do they slop around in "soup" near their feeding area (including round bale feed areas)? Do they lie in areas that are moist and damp? Do they lie under the only tree that is in the pasture -- making a mud hole? Is there such a build-up of bedding in their outdoor superhutch that a slow, steady trickle of fluid is draining away from it? Are the animals forced to plunge their faces down through tall, rank pasture growth to get at the more lush vegetation nearer to the ground -- thereby pricking their eyes and causing tearing (moisture)? Tears running from the animals' eyes, in addition to malnourishment, makes for pinkeye in short order. All these conditions attract flies, in addition to stacked manure that is aging (stacked either on purpose or due to "natural" build-up from not being mucked out regularly). "Clean and dry" are cardinal terms for the keeping of livestock. While the best efforts to keep animals clean and dry still can opposed by weather condition which encourage flies, it is the foundation before using "band-aids" to help during problem times. Methods of reducing the effects of flies include sticky tape, pheromones to attract flies into traps, tunnel ventilation (moves air so flies cannot land and keeps the animals drier), tails on cows to swat flies away, pouring liberal amounts of field lime on the animals to keep the moisture/sweat away, proper nutrition (as flies seem to be attracted to animals that are sick, have liver problems, etc.). Then, after all these are incorporated, a fly spray like Ecto-Phyte (Agri-Dynamics) will help quite a bit. But do not rely on a natural fly spray simply instead of an organo-phosphate fly spray. The difference between simple-minded input substitution and a wise holistic multi-prong approach will become readily apparent.

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

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