cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, June, 2012

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Producer, NODPA President

Added June 4, 2012. In the last issue, we reported on a discussion of a farmer's concern for his pregnant cow that was unusually large for her time. He described her as "absolutely enormous" and was still eight weeks from her due date. Dr Hue Karreman kindly emailed the following suggestion after receiving the newsletter in the mail.

He suggested that the cow was "most likely suffering from hydrops allantois, a rare condition where fluid keeps pathologically accumulating in the uterus. It is generally a grave prognosis. Could be triplets, though. The 2 months prior to the due date is the tip off." He added that there is a photograph of this condition in his book.

A producer was concerned about a close springing cow that was overweight. He asked for advice, not wanting to complicate her problems by grazing early pastures that would be likely high in potassium. The responses generally agreed that the exercise and nutrition on pasture out-weighed the concerns over possible milk fever after she calves. But he was advised to be prepared with supportive care and calcium. Another producer reported that she has never had milk fever in her cows once they are out on pasture, even if they were overweight.

There was quite a lot of discussion after an article was posted on the internet focusing on the recommendation by the government's Office of Inspector General that organic livestock feed should be tested for GMO contamination. Even though they found no contamination, they felt it was a possibility. Farmers rejected the idea of paying for routine GMO testing of their organic grains and forages. One producer recommended that the polluter (Monsanto and their ilk) should pay for the testing since they are the source of the contamination. Another producer pointed out that the organic standards were written as a method of agricultural production, not a food purity standard. Contributors generally agreed that we all need to be working upstream to prevent genetic drift, comingling, and other sources of pollution.

A farmer has a heifer that is covered in warts. It was recommended to treat the heifer with Immunoboost injections at a rate of 1cc per 200 lbs once a week for 3 weeks. Other suggestions included giving homeopathic Thuja, Calcarea, Sulphur, Sepia, or Staphysagria; sometimes a nosode is made from the warty tissue; and selenium injections. Making a vaccine is possible, but one vet said it was not terribly effective.

A producer was treating a fresh cow for toxic mastitis. The day after calving, she was off feed, showed mastitis in her udder, had cold ears, and a temperature of 106 degrees. She was treated with oral Ca/P/K/Dextrose solution with 10ml each Echinacea and St John's Wort tinctures. Also added was cayenne and cider vinegar. She was given an injection of 3ml each of B complex and ADE. She was also given c3 liters of oral electrolytes and homeopathic support with Aconite, Apis, Phytolacca, and Belladonna given 3 times a day for that first day. Other farmers suggested that she "strip, strip, strip" to clean out her udder, apply Dynamint cream on the udder, give immune boosting boluses like Crystal Creek's Super Boost, and offer aloe pellets. One farmer proposed that she call the vet since there could be several things going on at once.

A farmer shared a classic technique for determining subclinical milk fever: pinch up the skin at her withers, and look to see if she opens her mouth and sticks out her tongue. Some farmers shared that if the cow was not down, they would administer the calcium under the skin for a slower release (but never dextrose under the skin). One farmer would give an extra bottle under the skin after administering a calcium IV. Generally, the sub-Q route is too slow if the cow is down. A farmer asked about giving a bottle in the peritoneum: three vets responded that this was a dangerous procedure for the cow, and there is no advantage over administering calcium solutions sub-Q. The risk of serious infections is too great to consider this a reasonable practice. Their advice: stick to IV or sub-Q administration of calcium gluconate. One of the vets went on to suggest that CMPK solution should not be used for milk fever cows -- only calcium gluconate. He said cows only rarely need magnesium; the phosphorous in these mixes is generally unavailable to the cow, and milk fever cows don't need dextrose.

A producer had a calf diagnosed with tetanus. Symptoms came on suddenly: flat out, breathing hard, 104 degree temperature, and stiff muscles. Another producer had a calf with tetanus recently and added symptoms such as "holding the tail out like a pump handle", a stiff gait, and the third eyelid kept covering part of its eye. That producer had to treat with penicillin to save the calf.