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THE MOO NEWS

Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care June 2011

Hi Folks,

All of a sudden it’s summer! I see lots of hay being made and corn starting to come up in the rows. Sorghum sudan really should be planted right now (in southern PA) prior to the usual hot and dry weather of later June and July. But for the moment, let’s savor the summer weather instead of that chilly and rainy spring we all just experienced in the northeast and beyond.

To keep with seasonal topics, this newsletter is dedicated to that pesky condition of pinkeye. It is interesting how people often will play the odds and bite the bullet, hoping that it won’t be a bad pinkeye year. As you know, I write from southern Pennsylvania and when I give dates, please consider where you are in climate compared to where I am. In this area, pink eye tends to start showing up, on average, in early July and runs thru mid September. It corresponds to a build up of continual hot, humid air - especially with summer thunderstorm activity. And this corresponds to fly pressures due to manure build up in various areas of the livestock operation. Flies are highly associated with pink eye, as they carry the germ to animals. Anything that attracts flies to animals will increase the chance of pinkeye as well as other fly associated problems (like mastitis in lactating cows, dry cows and young immature heifers).

If you are going to vaccinate against pinkeye – and I would strongly consider it on those young animals on pasture that are not handled much – do it prior to mid-June. Most vaccines are given with a single dose under the skin. The one I like best is Maxi-Guard® by Addison Labs as it seems to even act therapeutically in animals with very early clinical signs of pink eye. It must be remembered that vaccines should not be considered the only avenue of prevention that needs to be done. But pink eye vaccinating is one of those management tools that I think all dairy farmers should consider, especially in young stock on pasture that are generally not handled or easily treatable.

The very first sign of pink eye is a “weepy, sleepy” looking eye with some clear drainage running from the eye. At this point natural treatments such as sprays of eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) and homeopathic hypericum and aconitum can give good benefit. Spray the eye 4 -6 times a day. This is easiest with cows in tie stalls but is difficult with a handful of heifers. Animals need to be brought inside out of the sunlight which makes the condition worse with the ultra-violet rays. Of course animals can then go out at night to graze.

The next sign will be an eye which is pinched tightly shut due to intense pain that the animal is feeling. Effective treatment is needed without delay if one is to be considered kind to their animals. In conventional operations, a single shot of LA-200 in the muscle is quickly effective. In organic herds locally, I have used two different methods in the last few years. The first is to inject a small amount of hyper-immune plasma (Plasma Gold) under the first layer of the eye (the cornea), much the same way the conventional combination of penicillin, dexamethasone and atropine is used. The hyper-immune plasma corneal injection seems to work best in young stock. The other method is to sew the nictitans (third eye lid) across the entire eyeball and then sew the eye lids closed together. Absorbable suture is used which breaks down about 12-14 days later. This method is excellent for any age animal and is a “once and done” deal and the animal can go back outside right away. Since both the delicate intra-corneal injection and the stitching of the nictitans and eyelids need to have no motion by the animal, excellent restraint as well as sedation (xylazine) and anesthesia (lidocaine sprayed onto the eyeball) are needed. If on an organic cow, 7 day milk withholding from the tank is required.

About 90-95% of pink eye cases will return to normal and only leave a small white “dash” (scar) in the eye. The other 5-10% of cases will either completely rupture the eyeball and the eye ball withers to nothing or the eye stays very enlarged. In either case, the animal will be blind in that eye.

In talking about pink eye, we need to talk about flies. Conventional farms can put an ear tag into an animal that gives a slow release insecticide to the animal’s system which kills flies when they bite the animal. The manure from such an animal will also kill flies or fly larva that feed on the manure (both good and bad bugs are killed). Insecticide ear tags as well as regular fly sprays and the blue “sprinkles” are prohibited for use on organic farms. In most years, a combination approach to fly control on organic farms can be fairly effective. The following are usual methods of controlling flies - and remember that it is a COMBINATION of these approaches that work best. You are fooling yourself to think that using only one or two approaches will work. The list includes: sticky paper in the barns, pheromone fly traps, wasp predators routinely placed in strategic areas, botanical fly sprays applied daily, hanging barrel feeders with salt in the pasture with solar powered sprayers, electric zappers that animals walk through and of course clean, dry cows since flies are attracted to moisture and tunnel ventilation.

Flies cannot fight against the air current generated by tunnel ventilation. A few years ago I saw a really interesting invention. It is a walk through device that looks like a walk through zapper (solid walls) that blows a very strong current of air upon the side and under side of the cow – essentially blasting the flies off the cow; the other side has an opening with a really strong vacuum, sucking in the dislodged flies into a huge jug. It works GREAT. It is extremely effective, even for those darn belly flies. Of course the motor has to be quiet so as to not scare the animals from entering it.

While there will be many that simply hope it won’t be a bad fly season, do realize that when animals are living in the same area year after year, there will be flies coming around. The amount of flies depends on 3 factors: animal and building cleanliness, quick manure breakdown on pasture and that great unpredictable factor, the weather. But by applying smart management against fly populations, conditions like pink eye can be minimized.

 

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

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