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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care November 2005


NOTE: I'll be away at a USDA National Organic Standards Board meeting in Washington, DC - leaving Tuesday evening Nov.15th and returning Thursday evening Nov. 17th. Dr. Kelly will not be available during that time. Please find another vet if you have an animal requiring attention.

Hi Folks,
I'd like to thank those who attended a successful open house at my office store this past week. I'm sure those who were there enjoyed talking over some questions with Jerry Brunetti who was there all day on Wednesday. We'll have to do it again sometime soon as I think people like having Jerry to discuss things with. Please take note that products bought at the store are discounted compared to otherwise. The office is open Mon, Tues, Wed 9AM - 1PM.

Being that we are in the cool season and pastures are growing again after the September drought, we once again need to be careful about bloating due to pasture. Pasture bloat is a result of continuous intake of legume (alfalfa and/or clover) over a period of about 3-5 days while not being fed enough effective fiber (dry hay). It is worse when a frost occurs and the animals are put out to pasture with not a care about frosted forage. If frosted, wait to put the animals out until a couple hours later. There is a specific treatment, poloxalene (Thera-Bloat®), which is readily effective and will reverse bloat within about 2-3 minutes. This is not yet allowed for organic herds (it has been recommended by NOSB but not yet added to the Federal Register). The next best thing is to use vegetable oil. Give one pint carefully (to avoid accidental inhalation!), walk the animal, repeat with another pint in 15-20 minutes. This has worked nearly all the time if animals are not yet down due to the bloat. If down, there is not much time before she dies and you must stab the rumen with a strong, sharp knife to release the deadly internal pressure. The rumen is on the left side of the animal - if you are standing behind the animal, your left is its left. Stab the knife in, keep it in and turn it 90 degrees. Allow the gases to escape. While the rumen contents escape and potentially contaminate the belly cavity (which is normally sterile), cows seem to have an amazing ability to cope with such events. But anyway, remember that prevention of this condition is simple - feed hay prior to the cows going out onto legume type pastures and avoid frosted pastures for a couple hours. Every autumn I write about this and every autumn there are calls about bloating. Hmmm...

Another condition I tend to talk about is coughing calves. We are beginning the peak pneumonia season for calves right now (Nov-April). This is minimized by raising calves outside of the main milking barn wherever there is plenty of circulating fresh air. Individual hutches are best but calf kennels are OK also. Critical to any area where calves are raised is DRY bedding. If there is damp/spongy bedding mixed with chilly overcast weather the calves will more likely get a respiratory infection. Dry bedding is critical - how would you like it if you had damp sheets and blankets for your bedding? If using sawdust now, switch to fodder/straw for better insulation.

Calves with a dry cough but eating well and looking bright should grab your attention and you should monitor them fairy closely for a few days. Take some temperatures and see if a fever is happening. Normal cow temperatures range between 100.5 and 102.5. Temperatures in the 105-106 range usually indicate a viral challenge to the calf and the fever indicates that the animal is actively fighting the infection. If the animal is bright and alert and eating, do not necessarily try to drop the fever with forceful anti-pyretics like aspirin and flunixin (Banamine®). However, if the animal is droopy and not eating, dropping the fever will benefit the critter by making it feel better enough to probably start eating and taking in nutrients so that it can fend off the infection better in general if possible. In viral infections (as indicated by high fever), antibiotics are of no primary use. Botanical or homeopathic remedies like Aconite (recent onset) and Belladonna (fever with throbbing heart beat, reddish pink dry mouth, dilated pupils) are more in order. Wet coughs would indicate Antimonium tart, if early in the infection. Immune boosting substances would be very valuable. Substances which have demonstrated immune enhancing qualities include some biologics and botanicals. Immunoboost® stimulates interferon which positively impacts the animal's non-specific immune system and the hyper-immune plasma I've developed essentially transfers some of the donor cow's enhanced immune system to the recipient animal. A dose of vitamin E/selenium of vitamin A, D, E combination would also be good. Ginseng has been shown to increase the immune system in some studies on cattle (shown by decreasing the SCC in Staph cows) while goldenseal, barberry and wild indigo all have potent berberine alkaloids that are proven to be anti-microbial. Garlic with its sulfur based allicin and derivatives have anti-microbial activities. It should be noted that echinacea has been shown in many studies to be not effective during actual infection but can help to prevent infections to a certain point. Therefore, use echinacea on a continuous basis at this time of year and don't just reach for it when an infection actually occurs. Antibiotics can be excellent for bacterial pneumonia, but if an organic animal is given an antibiotic, it is banished from organic production forever. But, hey, a live animal is better than a dead organic one!

Speaking of garlic and echinacea, I'd like to discuss botanical tinctures in general. Tinctures are very handy to use on an individual animal basis and should be used, especially if you are organic. By studying older veterinary textbooks as well as current scientific literature it is easy to understand how the active ingredients of plant medicines can be effective. But you really need to know the quality of the tincture. Read labels. A professionally made tincture can be so much more effective than a poorly made one. I have tinctures from a few different companies at the office and I invite you to come in and compare them - look at the richness of color and their aromatic quality as well as the information on the label. A well made tincture should NOT smell like alcohol (unless alkaloids like belladonna, aconite, nux vomica, etc.). A tincture offered for sale should be labeled to tell you the complete botanical name (i.e. Echinacea angustofolia or Echinacea purpurea or Echinacea pallida), the part used (root, rhizome, herb, flower, seed), fresh or dried starting material and, of course, the strength (1:2 or 1:4 or 1:10). A 1:4 means there is 1 part of plant in 4 parts of the overall tincture. If this information is not provided, you don't really know what you are buying, do you? I also carry glycerites (glycerin based tinctures). They are much more palatable orally and less irritant to the vulva if placed there. The only tinctures and glycerites I use are made by a master herbalist that also has a doctor's degree in experimental medicine. Perhaps most importantly to you are that the tinctures I carry are the exact same price as the ones commonly seen in the barns. All natural products I carry also have veterinary labels so they can be kept in the medicine cabinet legally. Come in and compare the aroma of the garlic (Allium sativum), St. Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum) or Echinacea angustifolia. You will be pleasantly surprised. Finally, veterinary natural product companies should be members of the National Animal Supplement Council, an organization which develops policies and procedures on adverse event reporting and quality control, or the Organic Trade Association. This tells you that they are professional and you are getting the best possible product for your money.

Levi S. King (523 Valley Rd., Quarryville, 17566) has 5-8 milking cows he would like someone to milk (no charge) between now and March 1st. They are Holstein and Holstein-Jersey cross.

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

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