cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, August, 2011

Robust and practical discussions about udder dips and preparation; treating hernia; costs versus pay price; problems with let down; and dealing with poisoning from milkweed.

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Producer Representative and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added August 4, 2011. There was a lot of conversation last month about udder preparation - especially in the extra muddy conditions during the spring. Several producers used the "dip, strip, and wipe" routine - pre-dip with an iodine dip, strip, and wipe with individual towels. Other suggestions included using homemade dip mixtures: one farmer uses a mixture of 2 ounces of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide and 2 ounces of glycerin in a gallon of water; another farmer mixes a solution of Dr Bonner's peppermint castile soap and sprays it on as a pre-dip. One farmer reminded us how important the let-down is and he likes to give the cow 45 seconds to one minute before attaching the milker. For chapped teats, one producer really likes Udder Fancy from Crystal Creek. Other producers suggested that the handling of the cattle and the emotional state of the milkers come into play as well.

A producer asked for some advice about his 4 week old heifer calf with a hernia. It was suggested that he push the intestines back in, and wrap a band around to keep them in place until it heels. Elastikon was recommended for this use; use 2 rolls and repeat in 2 weeks (duct tape was also suggested). It was recommended to give homeopathic support as well -- Calcarea is often used.

Several producers felt that production costs have increased broadly, and the pay price has not kept up. One farmer suggested that we work together to create a cost index for producing organic milk that would include factors affecting cost of production. It was suggested that it include factors for grain and diesel fuel, and could be applied to the base just as fuel surcharges are used. It could be a monthly index, rising and falling with its associated costs. It should be kept simple, honest, and realistic. Another producer recommended that we use the parity figures, since those calculations are already done there.

A farmer felt that his pastures are over-run with bedstraw. He indicated that he plans to graze those pastures fast, then cut it before it flowers. Others added that bedstraw does not stand up to intensive pasturing and cutting; it will likely disappear with those practices. Improving overall fertility to give grasses and clovers a competitive advantage was also suggested.

A farmer who keeps his calves on the cows discussed problems with let down. Other farmers chimed in with some advice, and it seems to work well to keep the calf in the barn at night and milk the cow in the morning. Then allow them to be together on pasture during the day. Two farmers agreed that the butterfat in the milk increased dramatically after the calf was removed.

A heifer was showing signs of poisoning after grazing milkweed. It was recommended that activated charcoal be administered right away; using one tube at a time, and repeat every 4 to 6 hours. Sedation may be required if she is uncoordinated.