cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, June, 2013

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Producer, NODPA President

Added June 3, 2013. There was quite a bit of discussion about treatments for ringworm last month. One farmer says he prefers a preventative approach by feeding 2 to 4 ounces of kelp per head per day; he feels it improves the hair coat and immune system. Several farmers offered treatment advice; their suggestions included Dr. Paul’s Wound Spray, homeopathic Bacillinum nosode in the water, and 2cc Thuja/Calendula tincture orally for one week. Others suggestions included scraping the gray crust off, then topically using 7% iodine, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, or Ecto-phyte. And most everyone noted that it will disappear when the animals are back out on pasture. The pen can be disinfected after to prevent future outbreaks.

A producer was considering feeding whey from his neighbor’s small cheese operation to his cows and heifers, and asked if others had experience feeding whey. One farmer had used a concentrated whey in a TMR when he farmed conventionally; he felt the benefits were increased energy and protein with increased feed intake. Another farmer feeds the whey from their on-farm cheese plant to their heifers, and he says “they love it”.

A fresh heifer was refusing to let her milk down. Some suggestions included massaging the udder with a warm towel, especially in the milk vein area. One farmer suggested treating the udder edema first, since the swelling will keep her from letting her milk down. She suggested homeopathic Apis (10 pellets given 3 or 4 times a day), 1/8 cup ground coffee, and an udder mint massage twice a day. She also reminded us that access to salt has an effect; too much salt before freshening or putting her onto salt too quickly after freshening will encourage edema. Gently rubbing the area below the vulva will stimulate the release of oxytocin, and help with her milk let down. One farmer shared his technique: stand on the right side of the cow, use your fingers to follow the milk vein from the udder to where it passes back into the body. You will feel a small hole there. Massage there with your fingers for 2 to 3 minutes, then put the milkers on. Continue to massage for another 2 to 3 minutes.

The topic that generated the most discussion this month was in response to the NOP’s recent decision to disallow the use of antibiotic sprays in orchards. Tetracycline and streptomycin had been allowed as a treatment for fireblight in organic apple and pear production. Many of us were surprised that this provision existed, since antibiotic use in livestock operations is not allowed at any level. There was empathy expressed for fruit growers, who have few tools to manage the disease, and who face staggering losses if their orchards are seriously affected.

There was solidarity expressed for the organic industry as a whole; it was felt that this decision helps to safeguard the integrity of organics. There were several insightful and thoughtful posts that outlined the variables involved in this decision. Parallels were drawn with organic dairy where producers had few products for animal health just 10 to 15 years ago; when farmers no longer could rely on synthetic/antibiotic drugs, then they learned to use other methods to prevent illness and to restore livestock to health.

One commentator called this allowance a “loophole” in the NOP regulations. An individual asked, “if they want to call out the national standards for having loopholes, why don’t they start with the dairy replacement provision?” It was agreed that this was a good question.