cows in field

Recent ODairy Discussion, April, 2017

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Farmer, NODPA President

A producer asked the group for suggestions to control lice in his herd. Several farmers suggested feeding Agri-Dynamics’ “Flies Be Gone’. Other recommendations included Crystal Creek’s No-Fly, Ectophyte, Sulphur powder, powdered tobacco, and PyGanic. It should be noted that there was some confusion over whether PyGanic is still allowed for use on livestock; different certifiers may have different interpretations. So check with your certifier. One person on the list quoted a NYS IPM Guide for Organic Dairies stating, “PyGanic is the most effective OMRI-approved pesticide available for use against lice in organic production.” In all the external treatments, producers were reminded that there must be a second treatment, 10 to 14 days after the first, to kill the newly hatched lice.

On the subject of vaccinations, it was said that the very best vaccination program is “DRY bedding, fresh air, high forage diet, sunshine, and well-managed pastures (when available).” Some producers followed a yearly vaccination schedule with the standard combinations. Inforce 3 was recommended for pneumonia as it can be given when an animal is ill, and has a positive effect. One farmer’s vet cautioned against the use of the Bovi-Shield Gold vaccines in bred animals; he prefers the Masterguard vaccines.

Using ultrasound at 28-35 days, cows at one farm are confirmed to be bred. If these cows come back into heat again, the farmer counts this as an “early embryonic death”. With a rate of 29% EED, this farmer believed they had a problem. A vet on the list suggested that an “acceptable” level would be generally one cow per year on a 40-cow herd, or 2.5%. This farm’s high rate of early embryonic death may be due to a Persistently Infected (PI) BVD animal. “No vaccine will ever overcome the presence of a PI animal.” Other causes could be genetic mismatch, inbreeding (especially in Holsteins), and twinning. It was suggested that the farm test the cows individually to search for the PI BVD animals.

Looking ahead toward spring, a transitioning farmer asked if fly parasites were an effective tool. Several producers that had used them for up to a decade felt they were definitely an effective part of a fly control program.

A farmer had a cow with a uterine infection; their vet said it is the size of a 3 month pregnancy, and they would most likely have to ship the cow. A vet on the list suggested this remedy, which was the most successful in his experience: “Make a mixture of one part 7% Iodine with 11 parts 50% Dextrose. The cow with a 60-day size “pregnancy” infection would get infused with 60cc weekly for 3 weeks; a 90-day “pregnancy” infection would get 90cc weekly for 3 weeks. If larger than that, go with 1cc per day of “pregnancy”, but twice weekly for 3 weeks. Works pretty darn well in most cases.” A Chinese herb, Yunnan Baiyao was suggested if the infection was necrotic and foul-smelling. If the infection seemed yellow and pus-like, Andrographis and Dandelion root infusion were suggested along with an oral dose of the herbs - one Tbsp. twice a day. Other suggestions were 60cc of hydrogen peroxide once or twice daily and a product called Utrecept (available through IBA).

A producer asked the group about their experiences of regularly feeding apple cider vinegar. Several farmers replied that they regularly fed organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) in the feed or mixed in the water and felt that the cows liked the taste of the vinegar in the feed, so ate the grain ration better. One producer sent a link to a 2011 NODPA News article written by Jerry Brunetti where he discusses why feeding ACV can be so beneficial – it “is the precursor to bovine growth hormone, which in turn drives butterfat and milk production”; it acts as a tonic, buffering an acidic rumen; “it is also a wonderful source of electrolytes and since it is a VFA (volatile fatty acid), it can really fortify the ration with energy.” Other producers chimed in that they use ACV as a drench to treat calf scours, apply it externally for udder rot and ringworm, and feed 2 oz. twice a day for 2 weeks before freshening to prevent milk fever.

What to do about wet spots in the pasture? One producer asked for suggestions about reclaiming some “wetland” areas. One farmer said that he feeds round bales in the winter when the ground is frozen to add organic matter to the area. Another suggested seeding pasture species into a wet area that are adapted to those conditions: Reed Canary grass, Meadow Fescue, and Festilolium. And other producers suggested that diversity is key to organic farming, and true wetland areas should be left alone, maybe just grazed in very dry periods in the summer.

Liz farms with her husband and son in Hammond, NY. You can reach Liz by phone or email: 315-324-6926,

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