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September 2018. There was a lot of conversation last month about pink eye; if you had an outbreak of it, you were not alone. Producers shared their treatments for afflicted animals and prevention strategies through pasture management, nutrition, and fly control. To treat an animal, it was recommended to irrigate the eye with raw milk or raw milk mixed with honey. Homeopathic remedies were also suggested: one producer has had good success with spraying the eye with liquid Hypericum. Other common remedies used (based on the individual cow, and how the eye looks) are Pulsatilla, Silicea, Mercurius, and Sulphur. Dr. Paul’s Pink Eye Plus Nosode was also recommended; it is put into the stock tank on pasture for a week.
Pasture management was discussed since tall, old grass tends to poke cows’ eyes as they graze the undergrowth. Any minor abrasion may cause an eye to “weep”, attracting those face flies that will cause more damage and can spread the infection in the process. It was suggested that we evaluate our pastures from a “cow’s eye” perspective, and take action where it’s needed.
Nutrition plays an important role as well. Adequate levels of iodine and vitamin A were identified as being critical for cattle to resist infection due to pink eye. One producer reminded us that feeding kelp helps keep iodine levels up. Another producer shared that he “put 1oz of EDDI (79.5% or 92%) and 1 oz. of Copper sulfate diluted into 1 gallon of water. Take a pint out of this gallon and pour it into a 100 gallon stock tank full of water and let the herd drink it. Do this for two weeks and it will arrest the spread.” EDDI is an acronym for Ethylenediamine dihydriodide, a water-soluble salt that is a source of iodine with high bioavailability. It is sometimes called “Organic Iodine Salt” by some farm supply vendors.
Fly control is a big issue on organic farms since we don’t have good tools to use once the fly population has fully developed. We have to be vigilant in reducing fly breeding habitats; this includes basic sanitation in the barn and around buildings – “(1) Cleaning up areas of standing water, manure, spilled feed, wet bedding, clogged drains etc, (2) stringently cleaning gutters, (3) maintaining good barn ventilation, (4) keeping barn bedding fresh and dry, (5) rotationally grazing to keep the cows on clean grass and letting the dung beetles do their work behind, (6) dragging to break up patties all are very important”. One feed supplier shared that they are receiving “impressive reports on the feeding of the Agri-Dynamics product, Flies Be Gone. This product, made primarily of elemental sulfur and calcium sulfate, seems to do 2 primary things - it seems to make the animal bodies themselves less attractive to flies, and it also seems to reduce fly larva in manure. The best results seem to be when started in the feed early in the season, the fly population simply does not develop, but even if fed now, it will probably reduce the discomfort animals have with flies.” Herbal fly sprays are a temporary repellant, and can be useful in the barn at milking, but do not deliver long-lasting results. “Oil-based and oil-dilution results in slower evaporation of the essential oils that do the repelling, so it makes sense that oil-based products last longer, but the water-based products are certainly cleaner and easier to use.”
A vet on the list added, “It’s also important to remember that we commonly see symptoms that look like early pink eye in animals that are experiencing a relative imbalance in the energy and protein of the pasture offered to them.” Runny eyes, panting, a sweaty nose are symptoms of an animal grazing too close, eating the lower parts of the plant which will not give her enough energy.
In response to a post about armyworms, a farmer reported that a nickname for the Bobolink is “armyworm bird”. She noticed a large increase in this bird’s population on the farm when she let pastures grow taller, converted more hay fields to pasture, and delayed clipping and hay harvest on some fields.
A farmer had been battling hoof problems and high cell counts since the winter. None of the cows have clinical signs of mastitis, just high SCC and some milk out poorly. Several producers suggested that as a first step, he contact Quality Milk Production Services (main phone number 607-255-8202) to arrange to have milk from his cows individually cultured so he knows what he is dealing with. One vet was suspicious of Step ag, which is contagious, so he suggested that the farmer (a hand-milker) should wear gloves to avoid spreading the organism. Another producer recommended “resolve the hoof problem first. Hoof issues will drive up SCC similar to mastitis.” And another farmer suggested looking at the pastures since high protein intake from grazing lower on the plant may be contributing to laminitis.