cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussions, September, 2017

September, 2017. Wild Parsnips (also commonly called Cow Parsnip, Cow Parsley, or Wild Chervil) were noticed spreading into one farmer’s pastures and hay fields; he asked the group if this plant will bother his cattle. A few producers responded, some shared links to information on plants toxic to cattle from the Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota. These fact sheets revealed that Wild Parsnip contains furanocoumarins which can cause photosensitivity, or severe sunburn, in light-colored cattle. Although the toxic dose has not been established, one researcher thought that wild parsnip had to account for at least 20% of the cow’s diet to see a toxic effect. Another farmer had beef cattle that regularly ate the wild parsnip in their pasture with no ill effects, having a diverse pasture for the animals to graze. But if you are removing the plant by hand, one farmer reminded the group to use protective clothing and gloves, since the sap can burn the skin and eyes. Interestingly, one vet provided information that Wild Parsley was historically used for treating bruises, and it is currently being studied for its effectiveness in treating gastric and breast cancer.

During a herd check, a cow was found to have a mummified calf. To expel the mummy, it was suggested that homeopathic Secale at a 1C potency may work. One vet added that if you have an “old-timer” vet, he may manually remove the CL on the ovary to cause the cow to cycle. And he cautioned, “If you've had other simmering reproduction issues then a mummified fetus could mean a BVD problem. Certainly 2 or more mummified fetuses would indicate a diagnostic work up in the herd.”

There was a discussion about electric fencers, and several producers highly recommended the Cyclops fencers, available from Taylor Fencing in Alabama. Most said it was the best fencer they had ever used, although one farmer preferred his Stafix fencer. A few farmers asked if there were any local dealers. According to their website at, dealers in the northeast include: Equine Supply in Nichols, NY, Wholesale Fence & Supply in Gap, PA, Buck Hill Fencer Shop in Paradise, PA, and Cameo Fencing in Valentines, VA.

A hoof trimmer was called in to trim a cow that was lame with a foot ulcer. The farmer had the foot trimmed, and was giving garlic, vitamins, Biocel CBT, and Vitamin C, and asked what else he should do for her. It was suggested to put a block on the good toe for a month or more to allow the ulcer to heal, and to increase her biotin, zinc, and Vitamin A levels. Zinpro hoof health products were also recommended. Aspirin (3 to 5 boluses given twice a day) would help reduce the swelling and improve blood flow. One producer soaks the hoof in a bucket while she’s being milked in the parlor with warm water and a mild soap; he feels that this helps the infection to drain down. And one vet suggested having your vet administer sodium iodide IV (as an electrolyte by vet’s prescription) to provide some antibacterial protection since a sole ulcer can migrate into deeper tissues causing serious problems; but sodium iodide must be given intravenously and can cause abortion in a pregnant cow, so talk with your vet. Comfrey poultices on the foot and Hypericum tincture added to the soaking water were also recommended.

Mary-Howell Martens at Lakeview Organic Grain issued a strong warning about the appearance of mycotoxins in small grains coming into her mill in Penn Yan, NY. The weather has made it a good year for the fungus that can grow on a variety of small grains, and this has the potential to seriously impact cow health. Her advice for northeastern farmers: “Especially if you grew small grains or are buying small grains from a neighbor, please be aware of this and get them tested. There are very good mannan-oligosaccharide toxin binders you can feed to reduce the impact, but you need to know what you are working with. This is not someone else’s problem this year in upstate New York, it is ours.”