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Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care July 2007

PLEASE NOTE: I will be away for the first 2 weeks of July visiting my aunts, uncles and cousins in Holland (the Netherlands). This is my first actual vacation (no cow talks or meetings) in 10 years. If you would like herd checks, sick cow work or emergency work done, please call Gap Veterinary Associates at 717-442-4825 and let them know you are a client and they will send out a vet to help you out. Gap Vet carries most of the extra stuff needed for working with organic dairy cows. Alternatively, you may call whichever veterinarian you would like.

Hi Folks,

The pinkeye season is occurring earlier than usual this year. Pinkeye is the classic case of a combination of factors giving rise to a pesky but not fatal disease. This is when the term 'holistic management' can be seen working or not. (By 'holistic' I mean using every available means possible.) The three underlying factors are stress, nutrition, and environment. If one or more of these is out of balance, then the flies that carry the pinkeye germ will start to do damage. It is rare, in my experience, that pinkeye hits animals when all three factors are in balance. But it can happen if there is an unusually potent strain of the pinkeye (Moraxella bovis) strain on the farm.

The animals most likely to contract pinkeye are weanlings and fresh cows. Why these two groups? Mainly because these two groups are under the most stress. For fresh cows, the stress upon their system (and lowered immune response capability) is obviously due to calving and the major internal changes that take place. For weanlings age 5 - 10 months old (weaned 1 - 6 months) when the flies make their appearance, they are stressed from the nutritional change from a rich milk diet to usually the poorest feed on the farm, coupled with parasites (worms and/or coccidia). Parasites, without doubt, do the most damage to young, growing animals. Environmental factors for both weanlings and other animals include unclipped pastures where animals need to reach through rank growth to get to the younger more desirable succulent growth, thereby poking their eyes and irritating them. Flies are attracted to moisture and they will go for any moist discharge from the eyes very quickly. Animals in good body condition with the correct balance of protein, energy and minerals in their ration will likely be able to mount an immune response to the bacteria that flies carry. However, weakened animals will not - such as those weanlings that are pot-bellied with a rough hair coat on poor pasture and always in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight accelerates the infection. I've seen more pinkeye on organic farms than conventional farms this year. I usually wonder what the factors are (especially on organic farms that cannot use regular fly spray and there is no pink eye occurring). I really think that the three factors mentioned are the key to whether or not pinkeye occurs. Of the three, I think that correct nutrition (as seen by good body condition) is the most critical for an animal to have the ability to fend off infections of all kinds. Internal parasitism robs nutrition from animals (especially weanlings) so they require more energy in the feed in order to maintain some sort of balance if no conventional wormer is being used.

As far as the actual infection goes, it starts with the eye appearing 'sleepy and weepy' with drainage wetting the side of the jaw; then a gray haze is seen in one location or throughout the eye; then squinting and intense pain; then the eye begins a rapid decline towards an angry looking reddish ring around a thick white center; then a tiny ulcer may develop on the center of the eye; then the eye will slowly recover over a few weeks, OR, rarely, it bursts forth its contents which causes permanent blindness in that eye. Normally upon recovery, a slight white 'dash' is seen in the eye and the animal will be able to see around that. The usual time frame for this sequence of events is about 5-7 days until the angry 'monster' eye appears and another 3 weeks for it to resolve.

The vaccine, MaxiGard or Piligard, requires only one shot under the skin about 4-6 weeks prior to pink eye season. It is intended as prevention, as vaccines routinely are. However, it has also worked nicely as a control measure IF it is given no later than the early 'sleepy and weepy' stage. If the infection has continued to the gray haze or further, the vaccine won't stop the infection - and especially when the animals are weanlings in poor body condition, parasitized internally and on crummy pasture, or, as a fresh heifer with the stresses of freshening all around.

Of course fly control is critical. This topic is itself a multi-factor effort. But for the weanlings out back, a hanging barrel with its own solar panel to trigger a spray of mist onto the animals face as it goes for salt, minerals or other goodies is especially useful for those face flies. The apparatus is called The Protector (call Arden Landis at 529-6644 for more information). As far as sprays go, either regular fly spray, Agri-Dynamics Ecto-Phyte essential oil mix or Pygantic (pyrethrum) work fairly well but need repeated spraying, often on a daily basis as they are a repellant rather than a killing spray. Some people have recommended adding iodine in the water tubs. Kelp (with its iodine) by itself may help to keep the animals in balance but does not seem to help clear an active infection once it is started.

Once the infection gets intensified, you will need to cleanse the eye with eyewash a few times a day to keep the infection in check. This can either be a non-alcohol based calendula tincture spray with Euphrasia 2X, Hypericum 30C and Aconite 30C or a 0.9% saline with each of the four ingredients listed. This is easiest with individual milking cows. Or you can use LA-200 (oxytetracycline - prohibited for organic), but that has milk withholding in milking animals and a 28 day slaughter withhold for any animal. That usually stops it rapidly. If the infection is at a crisis ('monster eye'), having the vet inject the eye with a combination antibiotic, steroid, mydriatic can save the eye from rupturing. I have injected hyper immune plasma into organic animals' eyes and have stopped the infection with a slow but constant gradual clearing. In any event, you must keep animals infected with pinkeye out of the sunlight - but remember to let them out at night to graze! Alternatively, call the folks at Nasco and get eye patches. These can work pretty well, especially if early. As a reminder, animals with pink eye are not eligible for state health charts for sale since pink eye is a contagious infection.

 

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:
www.bovinityhealth.com

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