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THE MOO NEWS

Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care June 2004

Hi Folks,

This month I would like to start out this Moo News a little bit differently than I usually do. Normally I begin by mentioning various factors (seasonal weather, environmental stresses, etc.) to start off the topic. But this month, I’d like to let you know that I have written a book called “Treating Dairy Cows Naturally: Thoughts and Strategies”. It is 268 pages and hard back, covering treatments for common (and uncommon) dairy cow diseases using biologics, botanical medicines, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and conventional medicine. However, before the chapters on medicines and recipes, I describe how cows can be kept naturally and the basis of natural treatments to be used. The book also discusses organic dairy farming, conservation principles, grazing, and comparison of DHIA data between organic and conventional herds. So far it has been received very well and if you are interested in it please contact me at 717-529-0155 or see www.penndutchcowcare.org The cost for one book is $34.95 + $5 shipping and handling; $3 shipping and handling for each additional book. A box of 12 books gets a 25% discount + $15 shipping and handling. Please send a check to Penn Dutch Cow Care, 1272 Mt Pleasant Rd, Quarryville PA 17566. Producers for Horizon across the country are getting it directly from their headquarters.

One of the topics covered in the book is pink eye and fly control. With the heat we’ve experienced in May, I have seen a few early cases of pinkeye already. And we should be experiencing more heat soon. Pinkeye is almost directly related to flies and their control (or lack of it) because flies are a vector for spreading it from animal to animal.

But what makes flies attracted to cattle in the first place? Three things: cows are warm blooded, their hide can look moist and they produce manure in massive quantities. What can we do about the first item- being warm blooded? Nothing. What can we do about the two remaining items? Quite a bit actually, although it takes time and labor. Obviously, we can simply use fly sprays or ear implants that are insecticidal. The fly sprays usually are either a quick knock-down type spray with little residual effect or they can be more of an oily substance with much longer lasting effects. Both are externally applied and commonly used in our area. Less commonly used in our area are the ear implants which slowly release an insecticide internally into the animal over a long period of time, which makes the manure she produces somewhat of a sterile substance that flies either won’t lay their eggs in or they die when in contact with it. I have some strong reservations about the ear implant type insecticides because of the idea of an insecticide circulating through the cow and that the piles of manure won’t necessarily be broken down by the bugs out on pasture whose ecological job is to break down manure (because they are repelled by it or killed by it). Fortunately, not many of the dairy farmers around here use the ear implants in my experience.

Notice how I immediately began talking about fly control instead of prevention - it always seems just so much easier to throw a product at the problem than to work through the problem to correct its root cause. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be flies around if cattle are nearby. However, by taking a multi-prong approach, we can reduce the fly population. First - keep animals clean. This cannot be stressed enough. If animals have manure all over their back legs and sides, flies will automatically be attracted to those animals simply because manure is present. Animals that graze outside are generally clean. But even clean animals can have unfair fly burdens. This is because the hide of the animals may glisten - and simply put, moisture attracts flies. A cheap and effective method to keep animals looking dry is to dust them liberally with field lime. If you don’t believe me, try it. Make a black cow look gray. If it gets washed off while outside, fine, then it’s on your land. Just re-apply it as needed. If cows are kept in a lot of the time, tunnel ventilation is an excellent way to keep fly populations down without even using any sprays. The mechanical action of the wind simply makes it difficult for flies to stay put anywhere long and it is a very dry air compared to outside. Of course using sticky tapes in the barn is almost universally done these days as well. However, in tunnel ventilation barns, it probably dries out too quickly (and is not needed due to the moving air).

As far as manure goes, keep it well away from the cow living area. Keep box stalls as clean as you can. If you can keep the moisture in accumulated manure to less than 40%, it has been shown that fly populations dramatically drop. How best to do this? Compost. There are many ways to compost, but if you can mechanically turn it even just once, you will achieve great results (in addition to heating weed seeds and killing them). Add rock phosphate, straw, fodder or paper into the gutters to help drop moisture. Out in the pasture, splatter out manure pies with tines or when you clip the pasture. This will dry it out quickly and also reduce internal parasites. Inoculating areas of manure with parasitic wasps that eat fly larva (maggots) is good, but to get a stable parasitic wasp population for over-wintering, a few inoculations need to be done in the first year.

Other ideas to help cows deal with flies is to not dock tails. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association has just come out with a new position statement on tail docking: “The AVMA opposes routine tail docking of cattle. Current scientific literature indicates routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly season.” There has also been some talk about possible nerve problems stemming from the docking site that ascend (progress) towards the spinal cord.

Using screen boxes with pheromones to attract flies, either standing on the window sill or ones that cattle can walk through, can be very helpful as part of the over all strategy as well.

Pinkeye is not actually only the result of flies, although they are the major cause. Pastures which are let go and not managed will have taller plants which can poke and irritate animals eyes as they plunge their heads down to get at younger pasture growth. This eye irritation causes tears (moisture) which attracts flies. Most of these kinds of pastures tend to be populated with stressed young stock which are recently weaned and essentially “forgotten” to let go to grow on their own. Add internal parasite burdens and you’ve got a recipe for disaster, with pinkeye usually showing up quickly which then puts the animal back and rapidly becoming malnourished, very weak and sick. It happens every year on various farms.

You can prevent pinkeye by trying all the just described methods as well as by vaccinating. I usually like the Maxi-Guard brand of pink eye vaccine because it can effectively stop an early infection (vaccines usually are only to prevent infections). However, research is now showing that the coliform vaccines (Endovac Bovi, J-5) are very effective at preventing pinkeye (both the cattle and sheep strains) mainly due to core antigens of all gram negative bacteria (ie E.coli, Salmonella, Klebsiella, Pasteurella, and Moraxella/pink eye) being very similar. So, while protecting your animals against coliform mastitis and scours, you can also protect them against pink eye as well. But please remember that no vaccine can overcome environmental pressures such as sweaty, perspiring animals in hot and humid conditions standing ankle deep in manure with a manure pile not fifty feet away.

 

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

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