cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, June, 2014

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Farmer, NODPA President

Added June 9, 2014. Last month, a producer asked if steam-flaked corn may be a better feed choice than ground corn when cows are out on pasture. According to one producer, “the steam-flaked corn increased our milk protein content and increased our rumen output efficiency. It did this by allowing more corn to be digested while minimizing rumen acidosis potential. Forages in our diet were alfalfa hay and minimal corn silage, with canola meal as protein supplement.” Another producer pointed to research from Arizona State, which concluded that steam-flaked corn could be 15 to 20% higher in energy. But it was also noted that obtaining quality stream-flaked corn can be difficult; and the added water can make it difficult to store without spoiling. Another producer reported that he saw “very little difference” when he fed steam-flaked corn on his farm.

A down cow, 6 months fresh, puzzled the farmer and their attending vet. She eats well, has normal blood work, and can crawl to change position. But she can’t rise, even with help. Several farmers weighed in with similar experiences, and all of them suggested the cow was probably suffering from cancerous tumors. There is no cure, and often the meat will be condemned. A few farmers discussed the Bovine Leukemia Virus (BLV), also called Leukosis. The virus is transferred from cow to cow by re-using needles and from saliva; the virus will cause multiple tumors throughout the cow’s body in 3 to 5% of infected cows. Roughly 80% of the cattle in the U.S. are positive for BLV. Several producers agreed that needles should only be used once and then discarded to avoid the possibility of spreading the virus in their herds.
A farmer was treating an older cow, at 80 days in milk, for pyometra (uterine infection). He asked for treatment suggestions from the group. One vet shared the experiences of two of his clients that cleared up similar long-standing infections: the first farmer used homeopathic Pulsatilla twice daily; the second farmer infused a mixture of 55cc dextrose and 5 cc iodine once weekly for three weeks. The vet pronounced the treated cows at both of these farms “in perfect shape” after the treatments. A producer (who didn’t have much faith in homeopathy at the time) gave it a try with three cows with “pretty bad” pyometra. She gave Pulsatilla 30C twice a day for 14 days, then switched to Pulsatilla 200C twice a day for 30 days. During that month, the cows were offered free choice Dynamin (Editor’s note: we assume this is Desert Dynamin from Agri-Dynamics), and the treated cows ate this aggressively. By the end of the treatment, the cows were cycling and ready to breed. Another vet suggested that acupuncture can be a very effective treatment along with the homeopathics.

Stomach 36 was suggested since it is a master point for the lower body -- a producer can massage that point, or use it as an injection site for sterile water or vitamins. And the final advice: “The absolute best way to prevent them is to be intensive with treatment in the first 7 - 10 days of lactation if there is a retained placenta.” Caullophylum was recommended for day 1 to 3, either as a mother tincture or multi-potency homeochord. Then switch to Pyrogenium for days 4 to 8. At day 5, manual removal of the placenta begins, and is attempted daily thereafter. Iodine pills are administered at this point, if she is not yet improved.

A young Jersey calf had a very swollen knee and developed some ear drainage. A vet attempted to drain the knee, but there was no fluid there. Several producers suggested that it was most likely a naval infection, and experience tells us the once it shows up in the knee joint, it is likely not curable. A vet on the list suggested that it may be a mycoplasma infection. He suggested treating the calf immediately with antibiotics.

There is a lot of interest these days in A2 cows - cows that produce milk with the A2 type of beta casein protein. A producer asked where to get A2A2 testing done. Clean tail hairs are pulled for the test - make sure they have the whole hair follicle including the little root ball on the end; place them in a paper envelope. Two labs were suggested by producers: The University of California Veterinary Genetics Lab at Davis, CA (phone #530-752-2211) has a fast turn around and tests cost $25. Geneseek in Lincoln, NE (phone #402-435-0665) charges $12 for the test plus $1 for the hair card in which you send the hair to the lab.

“Star Gazer” syndrome was the diagnosis for this 6 month heifer calf - viral meningitis with polioencephalomalacia (from a thiamine deficiency). Vets concurred that the heifer should receive Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) injections. If giving the Thiamine IV, make sure that it is labeled for IV use, and push it in very, very slowly. Generally, the first dose of 20cc Thiamine is given IV, then follow up with 10cc IM injections twice daily for 4 days. It was suggested to have a bottle of epinephrine on hand; rarely, an animal will experience anaphylactic shock. It was also suggested that the farmer administer immune supportive preparations such as garlic tincture, Vitamin C, or Echinacea.