Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Holistic Herd Care

One of the most interesting presentations I went to at the Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference was the workshop by Will Winter called, "The Art of Raising Drug-Free and Healthy Livestock". Mr. Winters had about three hours with us on Friday afternoon, but I'm thinking thirty hours would have been better for me! He had lots of great information ... some of which I caught and lots that flew over my head while I was digesting other information. I took lots of notes about things to look up later though, and I'm beginning to work my way through them. Here are some of the homeopathic/holistic medicines (I'm not sure what they call them) and other things that he spoke about:
  • Rescue Remedy: If you go to this website you will find that Rescue Remedy is like "yoga in a bottle". I'm not sure what exactly that means, but Mr. Winter uses it when he is shipping or working livestock, trying to calm livestock, and even to help lower stress in people. Sometimes these things sound too good to be true, but there was a lot of positive feedback about this one ... maybe I'll check it out.
  • Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide: This is one that he recommended for livestock suffering from shipping fever. He said it needs to be the strong stuff (35%), but that you only add 8 ounces to every 1,000 gallons of water. Should be interesting to look into this one a little more.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: I know a lot of different people that add ACV to their livestock water tanks and to their own diets. I'm not exactly sure what it is all about, but there is a book that tells a lot of the story titled, "Folk Medicine". It is also supposed to help lower cholesterol ... do you think it does that for bovine also? :)
  • Desert Dyna-Min: One of the commenters mentioned that they keep this one around at all times and Mr. Winter spoke very highly of it. They described it as the bouillon cube of minerals for cattle. We are talking about 2 to 4 ounces per day, but I'm not sure how they feed this ... maybe someone can chime in.
  • Hemocel 100: This is a product by Agri-Dynamics (same as Desert Dyna-Min) that he likes to give to sick animals as a rumen starter. The companies website touts this one as a dairy supplement as well.
Of course most of those things are something that you add when there is trouble or to prevent trouble. The biggest thing that I got out of this workshop was that holistic herd care has as much or more to do with preventation as it does with treatment. Mr. Winter spoke a lot about soil health and forage quality being key to a holistic approach to care ... but, that does take time.

I would be interested in hearing anyones thoughts on the ideas of holistic vet care and herd health as it is something that is really starting to interest me.


Joe said...

About the Dynamin and the hemacell, we usually offer it in a feed pan mixed 1:1 with either kelp,loose mineral, or salt. It seems the critters self medicate when they need it. We usually put out about a 1/2 lb at a time so they clean it up in 1-2 days. Feeding small amounts often helps reduce waste since these products are not inexpensive.

Rich said...

Was there any information besides anecdotal testimonies about the effectiveness of these treatments?

I'm always reluctant to spend a pile of money on something that is supposed to work wonders, without some sort of evidence that the claims are valid. Even if there is evidence to back up the claims, I do have a few questions about some of these treatments.

How can 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide be an effective treatment if it is diluted so much? 8 oz. in 1000 gal of water would drop the concentration into the 100 ppm (.01%) range, if 3% hydrogen peroxide is commonly used for household disinfecting purposes, how can the 35% hydrogen peroxide be effective at a vastly lower concentration?

How much would it cost to treat cattle with Rescue Remedy? Wouldn't developing some basic stockmanship skills combined with some properly thought out facilities be a better way to keep cattle calm while working them?

Since Rescue Remedy is advertised as being the essences of a number of flowers, why couldn't those types of flowers be planted in a small plot (or in scattered clumps around a pasture) and then fed in small amounts to cattle?

How much would it cost per head per year to provide these products to cattle?

Anonymous said...

What makes hydrogen peroxide or any of these products any more or less "natural or sustainable or holistic or organic" than many of the pharmaceuticals and so-called unnatural products that so many are running scared from?

In the end, most of these snake oils are more expensive, less effective, and just as "harmful" as the pharmaceuticals that the marketers of the holistics decry.

Do the research and ask the same hard question of these folks as you do anyone else.

Beware wolves in sheeps clothing.


Ethan Book said...

I figured this would be a pretty hot issue ... but, I'm not sure that it is wolves in sheep clothing.

Holistic care like just about anything else can be proven or disproven depending on what your desired outcome is. For example ... you can find scientific study after study that finds that organic crops can compete with conventional crops if managed correctly. On the flip side you can find tons of studies that tell you the opposite. You can find studies that say grass is the only thing for cattle, and you can find studies that say that corn finishing is the only way to get quality inexpensively. For what it is worth you can find scientific results that prove the basis of Christianity and of course results that don't. You get the idea...

Rich - One thing that I failed to mention is that when Mr. Winter was talking he was going through various conditions and talking about ways to treat them. Of course there was a lot of overlap that he mentioned, but the Ready Remedy for example was specifically mentioned with shipping fever ... something that can't completely taken care of with facilities.

The hydrogen peroxide may have had something to do with getting the correct pH levels in the rumen ... maybe ...

Oh, and I don't think he was giving the Ready Remedy to each individual animal ... more of an in the water type thing or even misted in the area where they are loading/unloading.

sm - I think the thing that makes these products "natural" is the basis from where they come ... many of them are just combinations of natural minerals that animals can be low in. And you do make a good point about asking tough questions ... which is why I posted and asked questions ...

Like I said, I knew this would be a hot button issue, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be investigated. It's like our pastor. The doctors and nurses can't understand why he has recovered so well from such a massive double-sided stroke ... well, because sometimes we don't have all the answers...

Rich said...

Ethan said, "...but the Ready Remedy for example was specifically mentioned with shipping fever ...I don't think he was giving the Ready Remedy to each individual animal ... more of an in the water type thing or even misted in the area where they are loading/unloading..."

That causes me to question the effectiveness of that treatment even more, 'shipping fever' is a respiratory infection that is typically treated with the appropriate antibiotic as soon as it is suspected.

How can a product like Rescue Ready that is advertised as a calming agent derived from five different flowers treat a bacterial infection?

Even if we agree that an excited or stressed animal is more susceptible to a bacterial infection, removing or eliminating the stress won't completely prevent or cure something like shipping fever.

I agree that homeopathic treatments can be a valid and sometimes a superior method of treatment, but I would still like to see some sort of tests or studies of their effectiveness. Any homeopathic or pharmaceutical treatments should be able to easily show a repeatable cause and effect. If treatment "A" is supposed to treat ailment "B", it should be relatively easy to show and explain how, when, and why it successfully treated that ailment.

A lack of shipping fever in a treated group of cattle doesn't prove to me that the treatment actually worked.

Anonymous said...


You'll have to forgive the sheep/wolf hyperbole as a generalization, but certainly appropriate for a pastor looking at sheep dogs.

I think the "source" or fact of something's "natural occurence" often leads us to adopt things that are, again, no better or more safe than existing things. For instance, isn't penicillin,everyone gasp....something that occurs naturally. If I remember my 7th grade science lesson.

BsT...the milk hormone that caused so much stir a few years ago, naturally occurs in cows at a low level. Steroids naturally occur in our blood, but they still don't cut athletes any fact.

Rotenone is derived from chrysanthemums but will sure wipe out a lot of fish.

Perilla Mint occurs out in your pastures naturally, but it'll kill your cows in a hurry.

BTW, from a practical standpoint I read that H202 can rust metal quickly so I hope you have plastic tanks. :)

just a few things to think about.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my wife was distracting me....that should say "they don't cut athletes any slack, even in light of this fact."

Ethan Book said...

Ugh ... I just typed a ton ... and then it disappeared. The basic thing I said though was this:

If someone likes holistic care and they feel like it works than that is fine, you probably won't convince them otherwise unless they experience. On the flip side if someone likes conventional scientific discovery treatments and they think they work you probably won't convince them otherwise. I suppose unless someone is willing to give it a try it is a lost cause debating in a way...

But, that doesn't make the debate unprofitable. And, there is nothing wrong with a combination of care either. To each their own when it comes to this. You gotta remember that there is also a group of livestock people out there that don't want to do much beyond provide the needed minerals and let them take care of themselves. If they get sick and die ... well, I guess you just call that culling.

Just my two-cents.

Sparrow said...

On our farm we primarily use herbal and homeopathic remedies, along with minerals. Usually, when one of our cows gets sick it is because she is lacking or low on a particular mineral. If you are interested here are a few remedies we use:
-Aloe Vera Juice for diarrhea
-aconitum napellus (homeopathic) for sudden illness
-arnica montana (also homeopathic) for bad injuries/ pain relief (works well for people, too)
-garlic (lots of it) freshly minced and given as a drench for diarrhea and pneumonia
-bentonite clay and/or vitamin C for poisoning
-essential oils for mastitis
-colloidal silver for disinfecting wounds

All these have worked for us many times.
We try not to use H202 much since it is a strong antibiotic.
If an animal is ill, the first and foremost thing you want to find out is WHY. If you know what caused the illness, then you can not only prevent it, but also bring about a cure. Always go for the root cause. Don't just treat the symptoms.
Here are a few books I would highly recommend that you get since you have cattle:
-Natural Cattle Care by Pat Coleby
-The Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable
-Where There is No Vet (for reference only)
-Cure Your Own Cattle by Newman Turner

Hope this helps. If you have any questions you can drop me an email at the contact part of my family's website:


Anonymous said...

Stumbled on your site because of a bit of research. Most specifically interest in the Dyna-min clay. Thinking of trying it.
As to the nay sayers. I don't know if any of the things you had recommended to you work since I have never used them. However we have always ran our farm natural/organic. We had much trouble at first...vets couldn't help us except to give medicine over and over thus defeating us in our decision to be natural. Then we stumbled on kelp which helped alot...animals loved it and ate it at first by the bag fulls....then we learned to do liver testing on our culls to get a full spectrum mineral panel. After that...with selenium low even though vets said it could never happen since we supplemented still with shots and "regular" mineral lick... we spent one year trying out extra selenium shots and selenium powder added to minerals to boost intake. No change...still had issue after issue (actually have inhibitors on our property: sulfur and molybdenum). Finally switched to natural selenium by Alltech (called high yeast selenium) Voila. Problem solved. After that it was almost easy. Kelp and natural selenium with a touch of copper and cobalt for our farm. Plain salt in a side dish. No vet EVER told us to check minerals. We happened to stumble on it through our own research and commitment to natural. All I have to say is that minerals are were it is at....either through the farmer feeding them or hopefully over time from well managed soil/pasture. (notice I put soil there as that is really were it all comes from). Sorry about length of comment. Don't listen to naysayers...I still have some that don't believe my entire story even though I have the documentation to show them and to prove it.
good luck

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