I have not invented the cure for cancer. In fact, I can’t say that I have invented anything. But if you are looking for some alternative forms of animal health, then maybe this is for you. I would say my techniques for animal health are more of a preventive maintenance than a cure. I always try to work with Mother Nature, not against her. I will simply share with you a few ideas I have picked up over the years in regards to animal health.
Internal and external parasites are a natural occurrence and thus are a product of Mother Nature. Why do we spend so much time fighting them? Maybe it is the agriculture practices that we promote that allow the parasite cycles to be prolific. I am going to go against one of my key lessons in this article. The lesson: solve the problem first, and then deal with the symptoms. I would encourage you to learn more about the whole systems that you are dealing with when it comes to animal health and not rely on quick fixes and magic bullets.
I believe we could reduce our problem of parasites a great deal if we worked on the following three areas.
1) Grazing management — With proper grazing management we can break the parasite cycles by improving nutrient recycling. If manure patties decompose before the cattle are allowed to regraze the same paddock, the cycle would be broken. (Harrowing does not accomplish this; it actually spreads the parasite eggs around and makes the problem worse.) Why are your patties not breaking down? Improve your grazing management techniques by attending a grazing conference.
2) Hormonal systems — If we don’t disrupt the cow’s hormonal system, she can maintain a natural resistance to parasites with the oils secreted from her skin.
3) Genetics — Genetic selection is a huge reason for the parasites problems we see in the livestock industry. If we hide the problem every year, how can we select animals that are resistant to parasites? I know in any herd that I have managed, some animals are less susceptible than others. I believe Mother Nature would remove these genetics from the herds by natural selection. Why do we keep them?
I challenge you to look into these ideas further and see what you can do about addressing the problem. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of these topics, but the more I dig into them, the more they make sense.
Now let’s look into the symptoms. Here are a few little tips that I have picked up over the years. They have come from my mentors and the schools and seminars I have attended. None of these ideas come with a set of instructions, so take them as you will. I would love for a research group to put them to the test for me, I would be glad to help out.
For internal parasites I have fed apple cider vinegar with what I think are good results. It is used as a natural health product in humans, as well. I feed three ounces per head per day for two weeks in the fall, take two weeks off, then feed for two more weeks. I am hoping I will get two generations this way and hit the parasites in the weakest part of their cycles. I mix it into the water but I’m sure it would mix into silage and I have also heard of mixing a dry powder version of apple cider vinegar into the mineral. I would love to find a supplier who could sell it in bulk, but so far, I still purchase the 4 L bottles from the local grocery store. I tell you, they look at you funny when you go through the till with 20 jugs of apple cider vinegar.
I deal with external parasites with an organic product made by Watkins. It is their “Multi-purpose Organic Cleaner” and it works as a contact pesticide. It is not systemic and will have to be reapplied more than once. I aim again for the fall with applications two weeks apart. Does it work? I have seen it kill the flies on a cow’s back instantly. I feel safer as it is not systemic but I have also put it on an animal in too high of a concentration and it “burned” the hair of their skin. The label states that it is corrosive so I still take care with the product. I spray on a two per cent solution all over them with a backpack pressure sprayer when the animals are in the alleyway. I tried it in an oiler but I am sorry to say it evaporates too quickly.
I have had difficulty with pinkeye in the past and spent a lot of extra time in the summer months treating animals. A friend put me on to using kelp meal to help with this. It was suggested to me to replace the mineral with straight kelp meal when a breakout of pinkeye starts. This sounded like a good idea but I am one to look for prevention, not the cure. For the past three years I have added kelp meal into my regular mineral mix as a preventative maintenance with great success. I have had a very low percentage of pinkeye in any of my herds. With over 1,200 head this summer, we have treated one animal for pinkeye. I am pretty happy with the results so far. I mix in 100kg of kelp meal in every 2,000 kilograms of mineral.
This one might not fit in as a parasite control, but it has been well received whenever I have shared it in the past. How about predator control? I have come across a few times where coyotes or wolves have been an issue and my suggestion is always bacon. What? Yes, Bacon. If you are having an issue at calving time with aggressive predators, this might help. Insure that the perimeter of your calving area has a good charge of electricity running around it. With the fencer turned off, tie strips of raw bacon onto the wire all the way around the calving area. Once the fencer is turned on again, you will no longer have a predator problem. I believe that once the predator has “sniffed” the bacon up close once, it is the smell of the bacon that will keep him out of the calving area, not the electricity. It is no different than training the cattle to stay in the fence; we just train the predator to stay out.
Again, I believe this is a symptom, not the problem. Why is the predator there? Is it because you are calving at time when food is hard to come by for them?
All of these “tricks of the trade” are experimental and I would love to hear back from anyone who has experience with them or any comments or questions. My goal is to work alongside Mother Nature as a partner in hopes that both of us can benefit for generations. My aim is to work on the whole system and reduce the need for symptom solvers.
Steve Kenyon runs Greener Pastures Grazing
Management in Busby, Alta., www.greenerpasturesgrazing.com,(780) 307-2275