cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, October 2010

Robust and practical discussions of pasture policy changes, scouring calf problem, cow bloat, mastitis problems in fresh cows, mob grazing, dealing with army worms, and uses for triticale.

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Rep and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added October 1, 2010.

Some producers were discussing how the pasture policy was bringing about changes on some farms, and how different certifiers were approaching the new regulations during recent farm inspections. One individual was stunned because an organic inspector explained they were not really looking at pasture this year, since the farmer had one year to comply with the new regulations. A surprised farmer in another state responded that her certifier wanted to see the system in place with all the appropriate paperwork. Since the regulations state that all organic farms must be in compliance by June of 2011, it was suggested that we all get our pasture systems into compliance now, so we can fix any “bugs” in the system.

A farmer was struggling with a scouring calf that had not received much colostrum. It was suggested to feed the calf 4 times per day, alternating milk and electrolytes. Another suggested the addition of 1 tsp baking soda to the milk to buffer the gut. Several farmers fed yogurt for this condition, and they seemed to feed about 1/2 to 1 cup either mixed with the milk or separately. Chamomile tea was suggested also, as it is soothing to the gut. Because of limited antibody protection, it was suggested to administer BoviSera or PolySerum. A toxin binder like Crystal Creek’s Calf Check was suggested, as well as resorting to a stomach tube since the calf often refused to eat. Oats were suggested by two farmers as an addition to the milk - one rolled the oats, the other liked them ground. You may have to open the bottle’s nipple to feed them. A tea made with blackberry root was also suggested to firm up the stool.

One producer had a cow down with bloat; the cow was righted, but still unable to rise. Suggestions were to give IV Calcium right away followed by IV Dextrose for energy, and to physically move her on to her other side to get the gas moving. One farmer suggested rocking her back and forth to allow the gas to escape. If she is cold, cover her with a blanket. Don’t drench a down cow, but when she can stand, a pint of vegetable oil reduces the gas.

Having some mastitis problems in fresh cows, a farmer asked the group about approved teat sealants to be used at dry-off. Cinnatube was mentioned as a teat sealant. UdderSol, manufactured by Ralco Nutrition, and PhytoMast, available through Dr. Hue Karreman, were suggested as treatments at dry-off. It was also recommended to give one 5cc injection of Immunoboost one week before dry-off in cows where the SCC was relatively low. If there is a history of trouble with coliforms, then treatment with Scour Guard 4KC or J-Vac one week before dry-off and again one month later was recommended. In cows with high SCC (400,000+), use Cinnatube or PhytoMast. A simple prevention procedure of dipping teats two weeks after putting a cow dry, then again two weeks before freshening was also recommended. MuSe can be given three weeks before freshening to boost the immune system and prevent retained placentas.

There was a long discussion about the idea of “mob-grazing”. One producer defined it as as grazing more mature growth with an ultra-high stocking density, knowing there will be waste from trampling. The animals are moved as much as 4 times a day, and the land has a much greater rest period than conventional rotational grazing. This is different from the “grazing tall” system, where the aim is balancing the protein/energy intake by grazing more mature forage. Both systems were a concern for some who weighed in that they have enough problems with pinkeye without encouraging the cows to plunge their heads through tall, dead stalks to reach the undergrowth.

Some believed this to be a good strategy for beef cattle, but probably not for dairy cattle. One farmer felt that this was an excellent strategy to renew pasture fields one at a time, since this allows the pasture plants to go to seed -- he suggested that perhaps heifers and dry cows, not the milking animals would be the group to use to accomplish this. Re-seeding pastures by allowing the plants to go to seed before grazing is a great cost savings over the traditional methods. One researcher noted that mob-grazing doesn’t seem to effect the performance of the animals; the major benefit is in pasture performance: the soil dynamics, biological activity, pasture growth, composition, and nutritive value. Several farmers noted that weather is the dominating force determining how they pasture, more high-stocking intensive grazing when the grass is growing very fast, and less intensive as the season slows down.

One farmer just completed a harvest of winter triticale, and asked others for their experience in using this versatile grain. Triticale is a cross of rye and wheat, marrying the robust nature of rye with the grain qualities of wheat. It is very useful, as one producer pointed out, as a forage -- mixed with peas, it is a high-yielding and nutritious forage. As a grain, it can be used within limits, like wheat. One producer likes to mix triticale with corn and oats. Another producer cautioned that triticale, like wheat, should be limited to no more than 4 pounds per day; another likes to limit triticale to 10 to 20% of a ration. Another usually roasted the grain. The danger of mycotoxins in small grains like triticale is a real possibility, and is it not visually detected -- not all moldy grain has mycotoxins, and not all clean grain is free of them. So the suggestion was to test for mycotoxins before feeding, or buying, grain that has already been roasted or grain that is visibly moldy or off-color, is a light test weight, or contain lots of broken grain.

Armyworms were on the march in some fields in Pennsylvania last month. The recommendations were to mow and harvest invaded fields as rapidly as possible to limit the food supply. One farmer related his experience several years ago, and after mowing and baling the affected field, they seemed to disappear. Another producer noted that the insecticide Entrust (spinosad) is approved for use on organic farms and is OMRI listed. He pointed out that although it is effective on armyworms, it will likely kill beneficial insects as well.