Springtime Challenges for the Grass Farmer: Homeopathic Remedies
By C. Edgar Sheaffer, VMD
Added February 3, 2011
"Honor the healing process of the patient at all times."
Birthing in early spring has advantages for grass based systems because it allows for synchrony of the livestock with the cycles of the earth. As the grass is pushing upward, young calves, lambs and kids are learning to graze for the first time in their lives. As lactating mothers are increasing in milk production, the nutrition in spring forage is also increasing providing just what is needed.
In some years the concern is the weather that does not cooperate with your schedule. For example, your cows have been bred to calve in March, and this has been a late spring. A major concern would be frost bite in the newborn and on the teats of the cows. Homeopathic medicine has answers and remedies easy to use.
Aconitum napellus – Keynotes are clinical Illnesses after exposure to cold and being chilled. The patient may be fearful with a rapid heart rate reflecting the intensity of the stress. Since she has not been outside the womb long enough to rally a fever, the neonate's temperature is usually normal or sub-normal. In newborns: Dose with 200C every 15 minutes at first and hourly to follow.
Carbo vegetabilis – Frostbite with fainting and collapse are keynote symptoms. Along with warming and massage to stimulate circulation give the "great reviver" Carbo-veg 30C every 15 minutes for up to 5 doses.
Mastocream – used topically for chapped teats and inflammation of the udder, and the first stages of mastitis; Mastocream may be applied to ears and any other part of the body suffering frostbite.
Post Calving – Retained Placenta
The last two weeks of gestation are excellent days to help prepare your cow for labor and delivery. Caulophyllum 30C (homeopathic Blue Cohosh) dosed daily regulates contractions and often prevents a retained placenta.
For mothers that have not received Caulophyllum before labor and delivery with the result of a post-partum retained placenta, it is not too late for Caulophyllum. Dosing three times daily is recommended when delivery has been from a normal presentation. If the condition comes after an abnormal presentation with dystocia consider Pulsatilla dosed three times daily for three days.
Milk Fever and Homeopathy
Hypocalcemia can occur as a medical condition in all species and fortunately when diagnosed early is readily treatable. In dairy cattle it occurs just before calving and/ or within 72 hours after parturition. Traditional treatments involve IV electrolyte solutions containing Calcium gluconate and/or Calcium boro-gluconate. Organic dairy farmers have reported success dosing with Calcarea carbonica 30C and Calcarea phosphorus 30C upon observing stage I hypocalcemia. The early signs are excitability, muscle and ear twitching, head bobbing and mild ataxia.
Experienced dairy persons and veterinarians have learned to recognize Stage I Milk Fever signs. Rubbing the cow's neck or pinching the withers can cause her to drop her head, open her mouth and extend her tongue. Another person carefully studies the neck and spinal cord for an S shape indicating muscle weakness. Others choose touch, feeling the top of the head, ears, and down the back for cold spots. Cows in stage I will stay on their feet, and usually respond well to homeopathic medications.
Cows in recumbancy (stage II) have been successfully gotten back on their feet with homeopathic medicines as well. Holsteins and other large framed breeds should be dosed with Calc carb 30C in alteration with Calc phos 30C every 15 to 30 minutes for at least three doses of each medicine. Smaller framed cattle (Jersey, Guernsey, Devon) usually respond to Calc phos 30C in alternation with Magnesia phos 30C dosing at the same frequency.
It would be prudent to have Calcium solutions and oral preparations in the medicine chest as well. If a cow has deteriorated into stage II hypocalcemia, the blood calcium level may be below 7 mg/dl. A normal healthy cow has a level of 10 – 12 mg/dl.
Patients in stage III will always have a blood calcium level below 7mg/ dl, a life threatening condition. These cows must receive parenteral treatments quickly. Fortunately, a rapid response to therapy is usually witnessed.
Post Calving Paresis
Nerve injury can occur during delivery especially when a large fetus is forced through a small pelvic canal. Post calving paresis is more often witnessed with heifers than in older multiparous dams. The top three homeopathic treatments are as follows:
Arnica montana 30C or 200C – dose three or four times daily on day one. Keynotes calling for Arnica are bleeding, bruising, inflammation, swelling and pain.
Hypericum perforatum 200C - dosed three times daily on day two. If the heifer has considerable tissue bruising and swelling, alternate Arnica and Hypericum every 3 hours on days two and three or until the condition resolves.
Conium maculata 200C – For the animal that has not fully recovered by day four, it is recommended to alternate Hypericum with Conium mac every four hours.
A thorough physical exam is in order for any animal that is recumbent more than 24 hours. Fractured bones and torn ligaments take much longer to heal than bruised nerves.
Diarrhea in mothers are usually due to feed change, stress and/or trauma. Fastrack probiotic products especially Fastrack Jump Start Gel should be dosed twice daily in all cases until the problem resolves.
Three homeopathic medicines also are to be considered:
Carbo vegetabilis 30C– indigestion, trapped gas and stalled rumen. Manure is watery and offensive; she has a depressed appetite and threatened acidosis. Dosing three or more times daily is recommended.
Nux vomica 30C – Diarrhea or constipation with bloat and straining are keynote symptoms of this medicine. Untreated cases can quickly develop ketosis followed by abomasal displacement. Dose hourly for five or more doses.
Phosphorus 30C or 200C – Patient is thirsty, fearful and easily excitable with bloody mucous in the manure. If not treated she can quickly deteriorate into nervous ketosis, and become dangerous to handle. In addition to Fastrack, complementary medicines are B-vitamins and homeopathic Lycopodium clavatum. Dose three times daily for up to three days.
Ketosis / Acetonemia
Metabolic illness after calving begins in the digestive tract and the liver. Even cattle in grass based systems are threatened with ketosis after the stress of dystocia or a sudden change in feed. When a person's blood glucose drops, she becomes hungry. It is the same for all non-ruminant animals. When a ruminant's blood glucose drops, she loses her appetite, and then her rumen shuts down.
Lycopodium clavatum 30C and 200C – Keynote symptoms are trapped gas, lost appetite, with easy satiety (eating a little, gives a sense of fullness).
A cow with clinical ketosis has an acetone odor to her breath, milk or urine. Farmers, helpers, and veterinarians who can smell acetone have a diagnostic advantage. For noses that cannot detect acetone, Keto-test powders and strips are available for testing milk and urine.
The cow with diarrhea and ketosis is calling for Lycopodium and Phosphorus given alternately. Conversely, ketotic cows with hard dry manure are often relieved by alternating Lycopodium with Nux vomica.
Pulsatilla nigricans– Symptoms manifest at freshening with thick, creamy, or stringy secretions. There may have been dystocia with a fetus in the wrong position before delivery. The cow is (presently) thirstless and has a timid personality. Dose with 30C three times daily for three to five days.
Phytolacca decandra– Mastitis is associated with Gram positive organisms like Streptococcus and Staphylococcus. There is painful inflammation, (hard swelling) with a pain that radiates to other parts of the body. The febrile patient resents nursing and milking, and cold washing, and is made worse from cold wet weather.
Dose with 30C three times daily for three to five days.
New Forrest Eye/ Pink Eye
Aconitum napellus – This is the number one homeopathic medicine for any trauma to the eye (instead of Arnica) and indicated for the first fever of any illness in animals. The patient is fearful and restless and may be exhibiting both chills and fever. In peracute conditions, dose hourly for up to 5 doses; in less acute conditions dose three or four times daily.
Euphrasia officionalis – This follows Aconite well in cases manifesting photophobia and excess tearing. Euphrasia 30C orally, and diluted tincture (5 drops in an ounce of isotonic saline) topically as a spray, mist or compress may be given concurrently.
Hypericum perforatum – topical applications (5 drops in an ounce of saline) as a spray or mist will relieve inflammation and local pain. Some homeopathic practitioners add 5 drops of calendula tincture to the wash when corneal ulceration is a threat. Apply four or five times daily.
New Forrest Eye nosode is available only from a licensed homeopathic veterinarian.
Magnesium is second only to Calcium as a beneficial mineral in livestock health. Lush green pastures or green cereal crops are the usual culprits for the developing hypomagnesemia, but grass tetany has been reported in lactating cattle being fed silage. When Magnesium is deficient in pasture it will manifest in some sort of neuromuscular symptoms along with diarrhea.
The signs of hypomagnesmic tetany in cattle and sheep are hyper-excitability, muscular spasms, convulsions, tachycardia and respiratory distress. When improperly treated collapse and death may follow in a short time.
Homeopathic treatments of Belladonna, and Magnesia phosphorica, frequently dosed may be effective as the sole therapy. However, it is best to have your veterinarian slowly and carefully administer IV solutions containing magnesium if the cow or sheep is already recumbent. After treatment the patient should be quietly left alone to recover over time. Homeopathic Mag phos and Calc phos may be dosed hourly, but no violent stimulation should be applied. At no time should an electric shock prod be used.
Hypomagnesic blood reflects magnesium level of the Cerebral Spinal Fluid space. It may take hours or longer for the body to correct the CSF deficiency. If the patient is unduly stimulated at this time, a fatal convulsion will result. Subcutaneous fluids containing Mag sulfate may speed convalescence after the IV therapy. In all cases livestock should be fed dry hay before grazing lush green pastures spring and fall.
Trace Mineral Deficiency
Copper Deficiency – nerve and muscle weakness, sluggish response to stress or infection, dull bleached out hair-coats. These symptoms are worsened in the presence of high levels of iron in the drinking water and/or forage.
Zinc Deficiency – immune depression, rough hair on legs and feet, weak hooves, high Somatic Cell Counts in milk. Animals that are deficient in both copper and zinc are prone to infections, including foot rot, hairy hoof warts, gastro-intestinal ulcers, and mastitis.
Plants have difficulty taking up Phosphorus when Zinc is in short supply, and when soil Phosphorus is extremely high, plants are unable to take up Zinc. Therefore, it is possible for livestock on all forage diets to exhibit signs of Phosphorus - Zinc imbalance, or Calcium – Phosphorus imbalance. Such imbalances can lead to lower production, slow growth, reproductive problems, and pica (eating sand, gravel, and other indigestible stuff).
Soil Testing and tissue testing are valuable tools to know nutrient status of fields. Soil tests reveal soil chemistry; tissue tests and forage tests tell us what nutrients that the plant is able to take from the soil. Roundup and other glyphosate herbicide application have grave consequences regarding future soil fertility. The plant detoxifies poisons by pushing the chemicals through the roots and deeper into the soil. The chemical does not disappear, but like chronic conditions in animals and people, dis-ease is forced deeper into the organism.
If your pasture field grew Roundup Ready corn five years ago, the longterm effects are still there in the soil. Quantitative deficiencies may be observed in the appearance of the forage and the health of livestock.
For example, glyphosate binds to Zinc so that the plant root cannot take up Zinc. Cattle eating that forage can be prone to high Somatic Cell Counts in milk, foot rot, hoof warts and an overall sluggish immune response to stress.
We are excited that certain private companies are running trials to detox the soil by non-toxic methods. Biological programs appear to be favored over chemistry, although all improvements are gradual, taking several growing seasons, not just one year. One system plants cover crops with microbial rich compost in an attempt to return the balance and fertility that was previously disrupted by herbicides.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on total symptom pictures. Whether one also doses with nutriceuticals or herbs depends on the condition of the patient and the knowledge of the prescriber. Homeopathic medicines are compatible with probiotics, ascorbates and most other vitamins. Herbal mixtures may not be and should be evaluated on a case by case basis. At no times should symptoms be suppressed. At all times the natural healing process of the body should be honored.