cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, May, 2017

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Farmer, NODPA President

A few farmers discussed the practice of spreading milk on pastures as a fertilizer since some thought that this was a good method to use surplus milk while improving soil biology. A farmer pointed out that there is conflicting research – a study in Vermont did not show a measureable benefit, another study in Nebraska showed increases in yields and soil porosity using as little as 2 gallons per acre. One producer used 5 gallons of milk per acre and felt he received “reasonable” results.

There was a discussion about ketosis; one producer wondered if apple cider vinegar (ACV) would help with her mildly ketotic cow. Agri-Dynamics’ product “Ketonic” was recommended, and it does contain ACV. Other recommendations for ketosis were: dextrose given by IV (250 to 500cc once or twice daily), vitamin B12, homemade drench using brown sugar and beer, and Milk Thistle (1 to 3 tablespoons fed twice a day). Most felt that the ACV, although healthy for a lot of reasons, was not a remedy for ketosis. Newborn calves were afflicted by yellow scours with red splotches. A farmer suggested that if this occurs in the first week of life, then you need to look at colostrum consumption, quality, and timing. Within 12 hours post-partum, and ideally within 3 hours, each calf needs to receive 2 to 3 quarts (depending on size and breed) of good quality colostrum. This farmer suggested purchasing a colostrometer (not an expensive item) to help in evaluating quality. A vet reminded us that the age of the calf can give us clues about the organism responsible in calf scours – “bacterial infections such as Salmonella and E. coli can appear within hours of birth (usually a few days), Crypto within just a few days (usually a week or more), viruses later. Get a manure sample to your vet, who can help you make a definitive diagnosis.” It was suggested that the calves’ guts may be irritated if they are fed grain. Grassy dry hay should be available instead. Other suggestions were: giving electrolytes, garlic tincture, use First Defense bolus at first colostrum feeding, and remember to dip navels.

A young cow calved with twins, and after two weeks was still feeling rocky. She is thin, has developed mastitis, retained part of her placenta, and struggles to stand although she eats well. Other producers suggested a bottle of Calcium gluconate given by IV and offer free choice hi-calcium mineral for likely milk fever, give Ketonic (from Agri-Dynamics) for energy and the supplemental vitamins it contains, get the vet to check the uterus and infuse with 1 part 7% Iodine mixed with 10 parts dextrose making a volume of 60 to 120cc (depending on the size of the uterus) to clean up the uterine infection. If she doesn’t respond to the calcium, it was suggested that she may require a dose of CMPK for magnesium and potassium. Another farmer suggested feeding the best quality hay you have with 16-18 ounces of High Energy Blend (from Lancaster Ag), “anything to encourage greater feed intake, along with energydense feed supply will help to build her up over time.”

Another fresh cow displayed signs of a pinched nerve even though she had calved a week ago; now she has difficulty in rising and exhibits that classic bent hoof. A vet explained that he had seen cases of a “delayed” pinched nerve in cows that had low grade milk fever, so recommended addressing that problem first with an IV of Calcium gluconate. To address the inflammation that is pressing on the nerve, homeopathic Arnica and Hypericum were suggested, as well as aspirin or Flunixin (Banamine). Remember to double the milk withholding if using Flunixin. “Then, when standing, have her tied to something and do physical therapy: use one hand to pull the hock forward while at the same time use your other hand to push the knuckled ankle back into normal position. They usually resist a bit but this will help keep the contracting tendons flexible. Do this a few times a day.”

Other farmers said they had seen several cows like this, but they turned out to be deficient in phosphorous and selenium. The phosphorous in CMPK is not biologically available; it is the trisodium phosphate in a Fleet enema that these animals need. It can be administered either orally or IV (if given IV, dilute in a bottle of saline or dextrose). A few farmers mentioned that they give Epsom salts, for the magnesium, mixed with water orally when giving a Fleet enema IV. Sel-Plex was recommended as a bio-available source of selenium, and is added to the feed. Mu-Se injections given at 2 weeks before calving will abate both cow and calf deficiencies. It was noted by a pasture and grazing consultant that the most common deficiencies she sees on grass-fed dairies are selenium and phosphorous. It is difficult to get supplemental minerals into cows without using grain as a mixer, and these deficiencies are often hard to diagnose. “In those cases it has been really helpful to have a good vet to work with to do some testing to know what the actual mineral that is lacking is so the balance of minerals can be adjusted precisely. Some farms are also changing the mineral feeding system so we are sure that all the cows (including the submissive ones that don’t get as much time at the feeder, sometimes) are getting enough.”

Another farmer posted a fascinating study where a neighbor wanted to raise the selenium content of his forages by applying selenium directly to his pastures. Background research revealed that plants won’t take in additional selenium unless they have enough sulphur. So he “fertilized some of his pastures with sodium selenite plus sulphur two years ago and tested his forage from those fields afterward. He found that the fertilized pastures were substantially higher in Se than those he hadn’t fertilized with it.” It is important to note that soil tests need to be done to determine the deficiencies and rates of application. This farmer recommended working with someone who understands that soils are more than “N-P-K”. Both Jeff Mattocks at Fertrell and Neil Kinsey at Kinsey Ag Services were recommended.

As tick season is underway, a producer asked if cattle can contract Lyme disease. According to one vet on the list, healthy cattle do not generally get Lyme disease. “The spirochete has a hard time reproducing in a body temperature over 101 degrees F, so horses and dogs are more commonly seen than cattle or cats, but if immune suppressed, with a sub-normal body temperature, they certainly can be a host.”

After a couple of dry cows flaring up with mastitis, this farmer asked the group about their protocols at dry-off. He received a variety of recommendations: one farmer uses only Cinnatube, another uses Phyto-Mast at dry-off, another CMT’s each cow at dry-off and treat any quarters that gel with 15cc Clearacel (Synergy Animal Products) and keep post-dipping for I to 2 weeks.