cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, April, 2013

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Producer, NODPA President

Added April 3, 2013. A producer asked the group if anyone had experience with calf warmers, in particular the Polydome type. Two farmers gave these calf warmers high praise. Both had used them for years, and felt they were built to last.
A calf was born after a difficult calving, and within an hour of birth began to seizure. It was suggested to give a high energy supplement or dextrose - fortified fluids by mouth if the calf will eat or in the vein. Homeopathic Belladonna was suggested as the most helpful remedy for a calf with convulsions. The Belladonna calf will be hot, with wide pupils and heart pounding; they will not be interested in drinking; their mucosa and membranes will be dry and red. If it was just a difficult birth - a calf with head back, breech, or just a hard pull, then Arnica may be the better choice. Choose Nux vomica if the calf is in spasm of the muscles, eyes, nerves, or gastro-intestinal system; these calves will be very sensitive to noise, chills, and smells. It was suggested that the best way to administer homeopathic remedies to a calf this ill is to put a few of the pellets into a cup of clean water and shake them for around 30 seconds. The entire pellet need not dissolve completely for the medicine to be released. Give a spoonful on the gums every fifteen minutes three times. Then stop and reassess the calf.

A farmer asked about treatment options for ringworm on calves. One producer recommended Dr. Paul’s Wound Spray (which can safely be sprayed around the eyes) and feeding 1 to 2 ounces of kelp per head per day. Another producer suggested applying a 7% iodine solution to the affected areas for a few days. A homeopathic nosode was also suggested: use 5 pills Bacillinum 30C in water for one week. Thuja/Calendula tincture was also recommended: 2cc orally for one week. Another producer suggested tea tree oil or cider vinegar with copper sulfate. Most producers reminded us that this goes away in spring with fresh air and sunshine.
The greatest number of posts last month was on the subject of Staph aureus. A producer was planning to control the spread of Staph aureus in her herd by killing off the individual quarters of the infected cows, and asked if others had methods of killing the quarter with allowable substances. A vet suggested that the real question was not how to kill quarters, but how to clean up a herd. He suggested that producers must honestly scrutinize facilities and equipment, management and milking procedures, and cleanliness. Put together a team of advisors with your vet and other specialists to build a plan. He feels that culling is the only answer, and gave the following recommendations: A cow that tests positive for Staph aureus should be culled if she is older than 2 years, is chronically infected, is in a later stage of lactation, has lumpy quarters, has a SCC of more than 400,000, or if she has additional problems (like lameness, etc).

A milking system salesman on the list suggested that because Staph aureus is not a mobile bacteria, then the milking system must be the cause, pushing the bacteria into the teat canal. But two producers both shared experiences where they saw a percentage of fresh first calf heifers test positive, so they felt the milking equipment cannot be the cause of infection in those animals. Dry cows were also seen freshening with Staph aureus, even though they were clear of the infection in the previous lactation. It was suggested that sucking action of an individual in a group of calves, heifers, or dry cows could transfer the bacteria to a new animal, and push it up the teat canal. One farmer who tests regularly feels she has seen some cows self-cure. Quality Milk Production Services at Cornell did some strain-typing on her farm, and found that there are several strains of Staph aureus, some of them environmental. She suspects that those cows that appear to be “cured” may have had an environmental strain. The same farmer reported that, in their experience, Brown Swiss cows and crosses were more susceptible to Staph aureus. Another interesting point was that in reviewing her records, her farm recorded almost no new cases of Staph aureus in the winter; most appear in the summer, which suggests there is some other cause or carrier (like flies).