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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care June 2007

Hi Folks,

With spring soon turning into summer, it might be good to talk about preventing some of the common problems that seem to crop up at this time of year. Prevention includes spending enough time really looking at your cows even though you are busily trying to make hay and do other farming activities. Granted, cows out on pasture and eating fresh grass and exercising tend to be very healthy in general. However, there could always be an individual cow that for whatever reason does not thrive. Some of the common reasons for not thriving as the rest of the herd can be linked to possible infections of a dry cow that is springing or a recently fresh cow. These animals truly need to be watched more closely.

In the summer, dry cows may develop mastitis due to flies being on the teat ends or perhaps tramping a teat and not having it noticed by the farmer for a few days. Both these situations can lead to problems not only for the cow but for the calf inside. Mastitis in dry cows usually also causes a fever, probably due to the kind of infection itself and also since she is nice getting stripped out like she would during lactation. Springing heifers also can get mastitis and have the same results. The mastitis that is usually associated with tramped teats and/or dry cows is called Arcanobacter pyogenes. This type of infection usually results in a thick yellowish pudding like secretion that has a very foul odor. If prompt attention is given, the cow (and developing calf) may do OK but the quarter will invariably be blind when she begins lactation. Conventional therapy consists of penicillin, as the bug is highly sensitive to it. But this will not save the quarter once the infection is established. Natural treatments have given positive results for the cow and calf generally as well. This consists of my standard treatment: IV dextrose with 90cc of my Phytobiotic (herbal antibacterial mix), passive antibodies, 500cc vitamin C and 1000cc hypertonic saline. If this kind of infection is not caught in time, the cow can be generally sick and potentially lose the calf or have a dead calf born. Therefore, check your dry cows closely everyday. Remember, she is your next source of milk supply, so make sure she is OK going towards calving time.

Another thing to keep in mind is heat and humidity. Once the temperature goes above 80-85 and there is obvious humidity, cows tend to be uncomfortable. When uncomfortable, milk production drops. This can be off-set by having shade areas - but hopefully they do not bunch together in those areas. For some reason cows do like to bunch together! But if there is enough shade, they will at least disperse into small groups. Free access to clean, fresh water is mandatory. Cows will seek water from other sources if you do not give provide easy access water in the pasture. When they drink from creeks and puddles, the water quality may be highly questionable. Not only could there be germs (especially in slow moving water or ponds) but also unwanted chemicals and nitrates. This will definitely stress your cow's internal equilibrium and if challenged with infection, she may not be able to fight it off as well. Remember that cows will drink anywhere from 10-30 gallons of water a day depending on stage of lactation and season. Therefore a fresh cow in July may easily consume 30 gallons a day - so please do provide what she needs.

Calves that are weaned and sent out back are usually not looked at as closely as the milking herd or the milk fed calves. Weaned calves need enough energy available to them in order to have a healthy immune system. And while energy is what appears to be lacking generally, they also need the correct balance of minerals in order to have a healthy immune system. Since young weaned calves are not yet accustomed to parasites, they tend to get parasitized easily until they develop specific antibodies at about 12 months of age. This is why it is critical to feed those calves well. I see both really nice calves and also very poor looking calves on pasture. I think the difference is truly in the feed management. Of course this means pasture management as well. Do not keep putting calves onto the same little lot year after year after year unless you like to treat for parasites. Remember that while the buffalo were all grass fed, they also roamed thousands of miles of open prairie. On dairy farms, the animals are confined to certain paddocks and the parasites can really take advantage of this. Therefore, please feed this age animal appropriately. If fed well, calves rally won't become obviously parasitized.

Remember that parasites include flies. And flies like moisture (humidity). Flies are the vector for pinkeye and pinkeye often hits either young weaned animals that are parasitized internally or that have to poke their faces down through rank growth and irritate their eyes. Irritated eyes tend to water, which will attract flies and with them comes the Moraxella bovis germ to start the pinkeye. Flies need to be controlled not only on the animal but more importantly where they breed and grow up. Remember that flies don't like dry surrounding - so try to keep areas more dry than moist. Not easy to accomplish, but keep it front and center. Tunnel ventilation is very comfortable for cows as flies cannot fight the strong air current. There is a one-shot pinkeye vaccine available and it still can be given now. It should be given 3-6 weeks prior to pinkeye season, which in southeast PA is generally late July to mid-September. There is also a lamb pinkeye germ which is different than the cow one. Regardless, treatment can consist of putting an eye patch over the affected eye and if done early this can work pretty well. Spray the eye is likely only possible for an individual cow and consists of water based calendula spray with homeopathic euphrasia and hypericum sprayed into the affected eye 3 -4 times daily. And always, always, always keep pinkeye animals out of direct sunlight as sunshine makes it worse.

Well there are some reminders about your livestock as you go about your field work this summer. Again, grazing cows, as a whole, are very healthy. But you need to keep alert for individuals that may "not seem right" . If you are organic, it is even more important to stay on top of problems as the treatments are more limited, yet are also fairly effective if started early. And one last reminder, please keep your dogs tied at the farm when going into the fields to mow now, especially with a sickle bar mower. Thanks!

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

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