cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, October, 2014

Robust discussions about eye injuries, constipation and bloating, organic grain supply in the Northeast, a debate about 100% grassfed, and more.

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Farmer, NODPA President

Added October 7, 2014. An electric fence insulator (the kind made to screw into a wooden fence post) was caught in the eyelid of a cow. The farmer was concerned about damage to the animal’s eye, and asked for suggestions. One of the veterinarians pointed out that often times foreign objects will just skirt the edge of the eyeball, as it tends to roll out of the way. She suggested irrigating the area with diluted calendula tincture to flush out any foreign debris, or to drop a pellet or two of homeopathic Aconite, Arnica, or Symphytum in water to make an eyewash.

A three-month old calf on pasture with his mother appeared bloated, constipated, and was breathing heavily. Homeopathic Nux vomica was suggested. Then, if the animal breaks with diarrhea, give homeopathic Colchicum or Colocynthus. Two ounces of olive oil, some activated charcoal, and herbal cascara sagrada were also suggested to get things moving along. If the bloat seems serious, you could pass a tube to relieve the gas; then the olive oil could be administered down the tube. The following advice was offered when tubing a calf: “Remember to pass the tube under the left nostril down the left side of the throat. The word swallow has two LL’s in it: stay left of center (when you are standing the same direction as the calf)”.

Some suggestions were offered to all in a discussion about the Northeast organic grain supply: “Make sure you test your barley, triticale, and wheat this year for vomatoxin - this is a high vomatoxin year due to wet weather during bloom. Become familiar with what vomatoxin does to cows; recognize the symptoms, and learn what you can do if you have it. Home-grown grain is a risk, no doubt about it. The damp weather that mattered for infection was back at bloom, about 4 to 6 weeks ago, but the current damp weather can make the infection worse. This is not a year to late harvest your grain. Also, much of the barley and triticale is coming out of the fields damp, and needs to go through the grain dryer. Please remember that heat-dried grain will not sprout, and therefore will not be suitable for fodder.”

There was a long thread initiated by a farmer who took issue with the common practice of feeding molasses to cows shipping milk that will be labeled as “100% grassfed”. It was pointed out that organic molasses is used as an energy supplement, and is allowed by organic certifiers. A researcher added that he has seen nothing that indicates that feeding molasses would change the fatty acid profile in the milk, and he feels that, with all the other challenges in the dairy world, this is not an “A” list issue. Others farmers pointed out that organic molasses is already in tight supply, and that it is expected to get worse. Another producer suggested going back to feeding root crops such as carrots to supplement energy (but then, that’s not strictly “grassfed” either...).

Liz farms with her husband and son in Hammond, NY. You can reach Liz by phone or email: 315-324-6926,