Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
By Diane Schivera

Last winter MOFGA hosted two presentations about livestock health care that were well received by and very helpful to growers. One was presented by Dan Leiterman and by Paul Dettloff, D.V.M., from Wisconsin; the other by Henrietta Beaufait, D.V.M., from Albion. Beaufait will be speaking at MOFGA on a continuing basis throughout the non-haying season, and Leiterman and Dettloff will return in February.

Beaufait, a homeopathic veterinarian who also uses other natural therapies in her practice, addressed the needs of dairy farmers in caring for their calves. She emphasized remedies for respiratory disease and calf scours and provided handouts listing symptoms or rubrics for each acute disease, and these were linked to various remedies. For example, the homeopathic remedy Aconite would be used when symptoms include fever, sudden onset of the disease, exposure to cold, dry wind within 24 hours, and/or harsh, dry cough. As another example, if the symptom is a wet ropy cough, you could use either Antimonium tartatate or Hydrastis, depending on the other rubrics. Beaufait also spoke about levels and frequency of dosing with the remedy. Even more experienced folks find this topic difficult. There are always so many variables to consider. The more acute the onset, the more frequently you should evaluate the case, said Beaufait. Evaluation can occur as often as every few minutes to every 12 hours to once a day. If no improvement occurs or if symptoms change, repeat the remedy at least two more times. If improvement does occur, then wait; the body needs time to resonate with the remedy. If symptoms change drastically but the animal shows no improvement, look for another remedy that matches the new symptoms more closely.

Beaufait always emphasizes supportive therapies and good management. Just fresh air, rather than air smelling of ammonia because bedding has not been changed frequently enough, will do wonders to help any sick animal and to keep healthy animals healthy. Among her other recommendations, she said that vitamin C given orally (2000 mg twice each day for five to seven days) will help calves that have respiratory difficulties, as will Echinacea capsules (two to four capsules per 150 pounds, twice each day for five to seven days ) and Aloe vera juice (60 cc in milk, twice each day as needed). Scouring calves will be assisted by giving them probiotics twice each day until diarrhea stops, as well as 4 Tbsp. of a slippery elm preparation given as often as needed. To make the preparation, put 1 heaping tsp. of slippery elm powder in 1 cup of cold water; bring this to a boil, stirring constantly, then let it simmer for 3 to 4 minutes; add 1 Tbsp. of honey and let the mixture cool. Good feed, whole milk and good hay or pasture in season also are essential for raising healthy calves.

Leiterman and Dettloff represent a company called Crystal Creek. Leiterman is the company’s founder and president, and Dettloff is the resident veterinarian. “The biological approach is to help the entire system to maintain health and combat deficiency and disease,” said Leiterman. “Don’t worry about killing bugs. Balance the system and let a healthy system return itself to normal with its natural defenses.” These statements are crucial to organic management, of both animals and plants. This healthy system includes the whole farm environment, starting with the soil in which feed is grown. Then the farmer needs to do everything possible to reduce stress on the animal.

Leiterman made some interesting points about calf physiology in relation to feeding regimes. Corn is difficult for young calves to digest. They don’t begin to make amylase, the enzyme that digests the starch in corn, until about four weeks of age, so feeding any calf starter to calves under four weeks old stresses their system. Likewise, raw soybean cannot be digested easily until eight to 10 weeks of age. Calves have to make antibodies against 11 antigens in raw soy to prevent digestive upset, probably scours. So if your young calves begin to scour after giving calf starter earlier than four weeks, they may be reacting to the feed rather than to an infection. If you want to feed a grain earlier than four weeks, barley or oats would be better. Giving whole milk and some good hay until at least four weeks would be easier on the calf’s system.

Crystal Creek offers tinctures, botanicals or herbs, essential oils, vitamins, trace and macro minerals, whey products, probiotics, homeopathic remedies, and Aloe products. All of these products are probably familiar to you except Aloe, which can help animals that are stressed for any reason. Stressed animals release a hormone called cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Excess cortisol in an animal’s system promotes ketosis (the accumulation of excess ketones, a class of organic compounds, in the body). Aloe juice, from Crystal Creek of from other sources, absorbs cortisol from the animal’s body and helps the animal excrete it.

Dettloff presented many examples of his experiences using Crystal Creek products. He spoke about scours, pneumonia, mastitis and reproductive difficulties, emphasizing the primary importance of maintaining a healthy environment for livestock. This includes the physical environment – enough space, light and fresh air – and a balanced ration.

Dettloff wrote a book called How I See It, for amusement, he says. But the first cartoon shows an animal in a hole, with the veterinarian on one side and the farmer on the other. The caption reads “Been down long?” Keep this in mind when caring for your animals. Timeliness is crucial.

Beaufait will be speaking on Saturday and Sunday at the Common Ground Country Fair (check the schedule in this paper for times) and at other events throughout the year. If you are interested in participating in a homeopathic study group through the winter, contact me a the MOFGA office. The folks from Crystal Creek will be returning to MOFGA in February of 2003. Check the next MOF&G for specifics.

Diane Schivera is MOFGA’s assistant technical director. You can reach her at the MOFGA office. Remedies in this article are provided for information only. For serious health concerns, please contact your veterinarian.

MOF&G Cover Fall 2002