cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, December, 2013

Robust discussions about ovarian cysts, fly control, milkweed and chicory, and more.

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Producer, NODPA President

Added December 9, 2013. Back when the weather was still warm and cows were still grazing, there was a long thread about different combinations of techniques farmers are using to control flies. Many producers chimed in with their experiences and favorite control measures. One producer said it was “better to look for the silver buckshot than the silver bullet.” Dr. Hue Karreman summed it all up in the following post:

“No one I know goes to all the following measures, but the more angles of approach you take the better the outcome. The multi-prong approach (...) includes: clean, dry cows; tails on cows (vs. docked); using a very dry powder of whatever sort in a liberal amount along the back and trunk of the cow, such as common field lime or diatomaceous earth (and especially right over the shoulder blade area where flies gather just out of reach of tail and tongue), solar powered sprayer attached to a barrel where animals stick their heads in for mineral which then triggers a botanical spray upon them; parasitic maggot eating wasps placed in strategic locations; clipping pasture 48 hours after the cows have been in there to allow the first 48 hours for dung beetle action as well as horn flies to lay their eggs (and then obliterate them), chickens to peck thru manure patties where flies have laid eggs; sticky tapes in barns to randomly catch flies; pheromone traps in barns to randomly catch flies; tunnel ventilation in barns (as flies can’t battle the wind current) and if possible a Spaulding Fly-Vac to blow flies off and then have them sucked into a container where they are taken out of action in large numbers.”

A farmer had a cow with ovarian cysts. Recommendations included acupuncture, a 10cc injection of MultiMin to bring her Manganese levels up (repeated in 3 to 4 weeks), and a product called Heat Seek - given orally for 12 days, and the farmer likes to give a 5 ml shot of MuSe under the skin at the beginning of the treatment. Since the cow was in a persistent heat, homepoathic Lillium tigrinum (30C) was recommended, dosed three times a day for 10 days.

A producer was concerned about the milkweed and chickory in the pasture. The milkweed seems to be increasing, and he was concerned about getting too much in the haylage when it is cut. Another farmer related that milkweed is thought to represent a zinc deficiency. It will be either that the soil is deficient in Zinc, or it is unavailable to the plants by interference from other minerals - high or low levels of Calcium, high Magnesium or high Phosphorous. Based on the farmer’s soil test, it was suggested that he spread some composted manure (that had lots of bedding in it) with 400 to 500 pounds of gypsum along with a good blended fertilizer (the farmer recommending likes Fertrell Feed and Grow) with some added Boron and Zinc. Chicory is known to bring up minerals from the subsoil with its very deep roots. It was suggested that if you have fields where the wild chicory grows well, you could try to establish a forage variety of chicory that the cows would enjoy.

Stray voltage was making one farmer’s job very frustrating. A number of producers had helpful ideas. It was frequently suggested that the farmer look to the ground rods on the electric fencer. Rods should be set 10 feet apart in a wet area and connected with coated wire. The lead wire from the fencer to the fence should also be coated wire. Solar fencers were suggested by some farmers, since they can be positioned to loop electricity back without having it come under, and into, the barn. Another suggestion was to have all the electrical boxes checked for how the ground and neutral wires are set up. It is often seen that the ground and neutral wires are connected, and this can cause stray voltage. Also, the neutrals should be a heavy enough guage to handle the load. A producer recommended Stray Voltage Testing, Inc. in New York as a source for information.

A farmer reported that nearly every one of his calves have become infected with giardia, and asked for suggestions from the group. It was recommended that he get the water supply tested and cleaned up. To treat the calves, use a Fenbendazole product or Ferro. To help the calves cope, feed probiotics and keep calves warm, dry and hydrated. Pay attention to getting the colostrum to newborns to prevent viral infections. The colostrum/whey products (Impro and Transfer Factor) were also suggested.

One producer was struggling with what he believed to be a coliform mastitis in his herd. After weeks using various products and frequent stripping, it has not made much difference. Veterinarians encouraged him to get the milk tested right away so that he will know what he is dealing with. Impro has some products specific for different mastitis organisms. It was suggested to use Immunoboost if there is a high SCC with no clinical mastitis and Phyto-Mast tubes for environmental “bugs”.

An organic farmer’s nightmare -- the certifier called to tell this producer that a random sample of his oats had trace amounts of a prohibited chemical. The bin was disqualified; no more could be fed. With certifiers required to test 5% of their farms, perhaps we will see more of this. A number of farmers weighed in on this to express their concerns and worry. Others expressed outrage that tests were performed so casually. And some asked the serious questions about contamination -- how much is acceptable? Since “organic” is a label that means an organic production system, not a label for absolute purity, how can we grapple with the seedy details of determining acceptable levels of contamination? “This is especially important with GM presence, if that is ever part of this random testing. Of course, 100% is GM, and probably so is 50%, but what does 2% mean? What does 0.5% mean? It certainly does NOT mean the farmer grew a Bt variety of corn! But is it background from pollen drift (and therefore something that the farmer might have not been able to control), or was it background from the seed?”

No one wants to be in this position ever, but one producer makes the following suggestions for immediate actions a farmer can take if there is a positive test from their farm:

  1. Determine how the grain was tested, and what test was performed. A pesticide scan might suggest the only a likelihood of that chemical. Request the follow-up test be specific for the prohibited substance.
  2. Request a second test. Labs do make mistakes.
  3. Request the second sample be drawn according to approved USDA GIPSA grain sampling technique.