cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, October, 2012

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Producer, NODPA President

Added October 5, 2012. Fly control was a big topic of discussion last month. One producer was looking for suggestions from the group for an effective fly spray. One producer recommended keeping fly populations in check in bedded pack barns or other good breeding areas by adding humates and soft rock phosphate at the rate of about 1 pound per cow per week. He suggested 4 oz per week for a calf in a hutch. Several farmers said they noticed a huge reduction in flies using fly predators. Some use a repellant spray like Ecto-Phyte or No-Fly mixed with soybean oil when the flies are at their peak. One farmer mixes vinegar, citronella, and oil -- but she has problems with the oil clogging the sprayer used for application. Another producer solved that problem by applying her repellant mixture to the cows with a paint brush. And another farmer uses a high-quality battery-powered paint sprayer for his oil mixture with good success. Neem oil was also suggested. It was pointed out that most farms have a plan that attacks flies at many levels - general cleanliness to remove breeding sites where possible, traps like sticky tapes, repellants used on the cows, and predators.

A really unusual suggestion for fly control came from one veterinarian who has friends with horses who use glitter (applied as a dusting on the topline) to keep flies away. Check with your certifier before trying this idea -- it seemed to be a new thought for everyone!
Hot, humid weather brought out a persistent cough in a Jersey cow. One farmer said he has had great success using Dr Paul’s Wild Herbal Tea Drench. A first calf heifer had a sunburn on her udder. It was suggested that the producer make a soothing salve with beeswax, comfrey, and mint.

One producer recommended a new way to target grain to the cows that need it. He uses urine pH testing on the cows. He suggested if a cow’s urine pH is below 7, she needs more protein. If it is at 7, she’s fine where she is; and if she’s above 7, she needs more energy.

Several farmers caught short of feed are planting annual crops for later harvest and grazing. The favorite seems to be oats -- planted in late summer, they will grow well in the cooler weather and can be cut for baleage or grazed. Peas can be added. Millet and buckwheat can be grown, and will tolerate lower soil fertility. Brassicas are another option, but they require high soil fertility.

A farmer was considering pouring a concrete slab for the base of his bedded-pack barn, and asked what others had done. One farmer agreed that concrete is better to clean out, since you don’t scoop up the gravel as well. He suggested putting a slope on the pad for better drainage. Another farmer had a concrete base under the feeding and watering areas (the areas that require the most cleaning), and stone-free fill under the bedded pack section. He reminded us that bedded pack barns require large amounts of bedding. Another producer uses sand as the base of their bedded pack barn, and feels that it is easier to clean.

Cost of production increases, armyworms, drought. It has not been an idyllic summer, and farmers voiced their fears and frustrations over these things that are out of our control. They also voiced gratitude and relief for the recent rains that at least brought the pastures back to life over most of the Northeast.