cows in field

ODairy Discussions - March/April, 2020

By Liz Bawden, NODPA Board President

Last month we heard from some farmers out there who have been breeding towards an A2/A2 herd for years. Although the mainstream organic processors have yet to move into the A2 milk arena, direct-to-consumer and local niche sales have been on the rise, according to these producers. (Remember that A2 refers to a form of beta-casein protein in milk.)

Testing can be done through NeoGen/Genseek Labs in Nebraska for about $16 per sample, or through University of California (Davis) for about $30. Some larger dairies in CA and NY with more than one barn reported to have filled local niches for A2 milk by testing their herds, and moving all A2A2 cows to one facility.

A horned milk cow locked horns with her herd mate, breaking off her outer horn shell. The farmer had already treated the exposed horn with Dr Paul’s Wound Spray and dosed the cow with homeopathic Arnica, Hypericum, and Aconite. Several other farmers said they had seen this type of injury before, and suggested that she had treated it appropriately and, given some time, the animal will grow back her horn shell and fully recover.

It was over a year ago when this farmer faced an “abortion storm”. After exhaustive testing over several months, the cause of these late-term abortions was determined to be Neospora. This protozoan parasite causes abortions at 4 to 6 months and in live births, calves may be weak. Once infected, animals are infected for life. There is currently no known cure, and a vaccine that is available is reported to be only modestly effective. “There is a 90% chance that a dam will pass it to her offspring so we now breed all identified Neospora animals to beef semen. That is the vertical transmission route. There is another transmission route and that is horizontal--being passed to cattle from the infected feces of the Canidae family, which includes dogs, coyotes, wolves, foxes, and others…”

A non-certified farmer asked the group if anyone had any experience using composted biosolids. Biosolids/sewage sludge have always been prohibited in organic production, and this farmer wanted to understand why. Several respondents explained that the main reasons are the heavy metals and unknown chemicals in sludge. One story was shared of a farm in Maine that had spread sludge on their dairy farm’s fields under a state program since the 1980’s. Their farm became so polluted with Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) that their milk tested very high for these PFAS, and they lost their milk market and had to close the dairy operation last year. These types of pollutants are sometimes called “forever chemicals” since they are very persistent in the environment.