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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care September 2004

PLEASE NOTE:   I will be away from the afternoon of Thursday Sept 9th until late at night on Thursday Sept 16th, visiting family in Seattle and then educating farmers and veterinarians about natural treatments in California. I will back on duty Friday Sept. 17th. If you have a sick animal or an emergency, call Dr. Kelly at 687-7756. If you get his answering service, tell them you are a client of mine and they will page him.  You may call the veterinarian of your choice in any case.

Hi Folks,

 This is the time of year when the cows may go through some major feed changes, especially in regards to corn silage or other ensiled feeds. Remember that a cow’s rumen needs about two weeks to fully adjust to new feed ingredients entering it. Therefore the more gradual the transition of feed stuff, the less the cows in the herd will be negatively be affected. The usual situation is that the farmer finishes up some feed commodity and then simply opens up a new ag-bag or silo and beginning shoveling it out at the next feeding in full amount. To buffer against such a drastic feed change, either feed extra dry hay to ensure a good rumen fiber mat so the new feed doesn’t go unnecessarily fast through the rumen into the small intestine and cause major negative impact in the intestinal bugs or feed extra probiotics to help the rumen bacteria and protozoa stay as healthy as they can. Or do both.

If cows are being pushed for maximal milk production and are recently fresh, there is a possibility that they are on the verge of acidosis. Any major changes could send them into a sub-clinical acidosis with a consequent shift in microorganisms in the gut. There are some theories as to the causes of hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS), one being that there is a microorganism (and possibly a specific mold) that is usually present when the animal is checked at post-mortem. Clostridium Type A often seems to be found in animals with HBS. Clostridial organisms are normal inhabitants of the gut and are kept in a delicate balance when there is healthy rumen and abomasums activity. When, however, there is a drop in pH in the gut environment, it is possible that the delicate balance is upset and this allows the amplification of the Clostridium Type A to overtake the local environment and cause rapid death. Therefore, as I usually mention, it is never stupid to feed extra dry hay to a cow in order to keep her rumen healthy and functioning as it is meant to. 

 Another problem that we probably will see this year is molds in the grain corn, fodder and silage. This should not be a surprise with all the wet weather we have had again this year, although we had more sunny days this summer than last. I have heard from some farmers and feed personnel that red mold has been spotted in corn fields. I have seen a fair amount of corn smut (Ustilago maydis). Moldy feed can quickly ruin a herd’s milk production due to digestive upset while it is being fed and unfortunately can negatively affect reproduction for a longer period of time until the molds are fully out of the cows’ system. You really need to use a binder that the cows eat right along with the questionable feed, like DynaMin® or Flow-Bond®, which binds the molds so they pass harmlessly through the animal’s gut. Of course you should not be feeding any questionable feed to begin with, but sometimes it is unavoidable. 

For situations of cows going off-feed and the reason is pretty obvious because mold was seen, it is important to let the cow break with diarrhea in order to let her rid herself of the toxins. However, you must also support her by heavily feeding probiotics as well. If she will eat, feed only your very best hay. Always feed a scouring cow like a horse – only dry hay to re-establish a fiber mat in the rumen, absolutely NO ensiled feeds, and some grain if it is sound. Also keep any scouring cows off pasture and indoors to eat only dry hay until the manure becomes more normalized. If the cow is totally off-feed and has a really watery diarrhea, then we need to support her digestive tract by pumping her stomach with fluids and protectants. The most commonly used protectant is mineral oil. I use one gallon when I pump it in. Like in a horse with colic, it will lubricate the gut but more importantly for a case of diarrhea, it will cap the excess fermentation taking place in the small intestine as well as line the gut so toxins aren’t being re-absorbed into the animal’s system. Another product that works very well, in addition to mineral oil or even given alone, is activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is not the charcoal most farmers think of – it is a processed product made from vegetable sources that helps adsorb (like a magnet) toxins to help pass them out of the animal without them being absorbed. These two items will often stop the cycle of diarrhea quickly without “stopping up” the animal and retaining toxins which are better released than retained. Aloe would be a good follow-up as it has some immune stimulating capabilities and is an astringent. If the animal is dehydrated (squeeze the eyebrow and see if it stays “tented”, the longer the “tenting” the worse the dehydration) then IV replacement fluids will be needed. A fresh cow milking well will probably need this extra IV treatment more quickly than a non-stressed animal. I like to give a few liters of lactated ringers solution as well as dextrose, calcium and hypertonic saline. 

Most of the time cows will definitely be slow to eat but not be entirely off-feed. Sometimes they will be totally off-feed but then break with scours and quickly begin to eat a little. Anytime a cow eats when she is scouring, probiotics and high quality dry hay (preferably grass) is your best treatment plan.


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Levi J. Fisher, 160 Furnace Rd., Quarryville, PA 17566,     786-3378       

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

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