cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, September 2008

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Rep and Newsletter Co-Editor

Added September 5, 2008. As most of us struggled to get in some feed between rains in June and July, there was a discussion about wrapping bales for baleage that had been made from rained-on forages. All who responded emphatically said that baleage should not be made from forage that has been rained on. Another cautioned about making it with too high a moisture content, as it can put the cows off feed. One person suggested testing for mycotoxins this year, since the conditions have been good for their formation.

Testing before purchase?

There was a question about recommended testing before purchasing organic cows. It is mainstream thought to test for Johnes disease, Strep ag, Staph aureus, BVD, and Mycoplasma. Purchased animals, in a perfect world, should also be quarantined for 3 to 4 weeks.

Johne's disease testing and irradication

A participant posted a link to a site discussing the connection between Johne’s Disease in cattle and Crohn’s Disease in humans. That prompted a good dialogue on Johne’s testing and erradication on dairy farms. Those that have participated in research projects noted that there are genetic factors at play -- some cow families will have a higher incidence of the disease than others. As to the human connection with Crohn’s Disease, they reported that dairy farmers do NOT show a higher incidence of the disease than the general public. One farmer strongly encouraged organic farms in New York to enroll in the NYSCHAP program (New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program). The program tests cattle and helps to define action plans for health issues. One of the vets on ODairy mentioned that an older textbook states that Johne’s is more common when the soils or rations are deficient in Magnesium. Several farmers noted the connection between cows that were grazed or fed a diet high in dry hay and the lack of visible Johne’s symptoms in the herd. But it was stressed that this was likely due to less inflammation due to a diet more in line with the nature of the cow, not the lack of the disease. There were estimates tossed around that about 75% of the US herds are infected to some degree. Testing is definitely suggested. The blood tests (ELISA tests) are quick, but carry a risk of a percentage of false positives. The fecal test is very reliable, but takes 3 to 4 months.

Round bales outside in winter?

There was some discussion on feeding round bales outside vs. in the barn during the winter. The questions over which is better for the cows, and which is better for the farmer were discussed. Most seemed to feel that putting the round bales in feeders outside was the best method in all with the exception of severe weather, assuming that you have wind breaks and powdered teat dips to avoid frozen teats. Several farmers told us they happily fed bales outside in temperatures well below zero.

Best antibiotic for advanced calf pneumonia?

It’s a little unusual on ODairy to have a series of posts discussing the best antibiotic to use in a situation, but that’s what happened when a farmer had a couple of cases of calf pneumonia that had gone too long to be effected by the alternative therapies. Most of us have had to make a decision, with the advice of our vet, when an animal must have antibiotics to affect a recovery or eliminate suffering. It was recommended that for calf pneumonia Micotil is the most effective, although must be given with care as it can be fatal to humans. Nuflor is also used, although one vet said he finds it to be less effective.

Treatment for mastitis

A farmer shared her treatment for mastitis: homeopathic Apis (10 pellets per dose) twice a day for 2 weeks and a home-made udder salve made from lanolin cream and peppermint oil.

Foot rot

The wet soils led to discussions on the treatment for foot rot. One farmer says he has good success by spraying the hoof with tincture of iodine, then applying pine tar on a piece of gauze onto the affected area, and wrapping the entire hoof with hoof wrap. A vet suggested cleaning the hoof with peroxide, then applying a paste made from Betadine and sugar, and wrap the hoof. Repeat in 3 days.

Growing winter triticale

A farmer shared his experience with growing winter triticale. He feels that like all winter grains, triticale does best in well-drained soils, but is a bit more forgiving that other grains. It can be grown for grain or forage, and can be planted with Austrian peas to boost the protein as a forage crop. It yields well and produces lots of straw. It does well in fertile soils, and he cautioned farmers from plowing up old hay fields in the fall to plant directly with triticale -- the fertility bound up in the old sods needs to be available to the emerging seedlings to encourage growth and tillering.
Liz is a NODPA Board Member and farms with her husband Brian in Hammond, NY.