Cattle Natural Health
We keep animals for many purposes, and it is our duty to think about their health. Whether they are a pet or farmed animal it is important to keep their condition and quality of life at its best. There are many conditions which cattle can be susceptible to, and it is important to deal with these in the best way we can. Natural health remedies reduce the use of medicinal products, are more beneficial for the health of the cattle, are effective and can usually be generated with ease. Cattle, whether beef or dairy, may create produce which enters the human food chain, therefore using natural remedies to treat any infections quickly is important and less hazardous than some medicinal products on the market.
Worm infestations in cattle are less of a problem than in horses. Calves and yearlings are more susceptible than older cattle. Poorly nourished younger animals kept in overstocked or swampy ground may show serious symptoms of worm infestation. Under irrigation and intense stocking conditions worm burdens can also be a problem. Different parts of cattle including the lungs, small and large intestine, the eyes, liver, and oesophagus, may be affected by different types of worms.
Symptoms: Include loss of condition, scouring, dry coat, pot-bellied appearance, signs of ill-thrift, bottle jaw and anaemia.
Treatment: Alternative or natural de-worming treatments may include:
a) Using common botanical de-wormers like garlic (pills, powders, fresh, tinctures), wormwood, carrot seed, fennel seed, pyrethrum, goosefoot, pumpkin (squash) seeds, wild ginger, or mustard;
b) Diatomaceous earth (D.M.) and charcoal added to a grain ration;
c) Copper sulphate or hydrogen peroxide may be mixed with drinking water or added to feed.
Note: Many of these natural treatments can be considered poisons and it is therefore essential to follow recommended dosages.
Prevention: Management practices are the most important control measure. These might include:
a) Correct nutrition: Vitamin A, D, and B complex are integral in developing immunity to parasites. Essential minerals include cobalt (used to synthesise vitamin B12) and iron.
b) Herd management: An animal is better able to tolerate or resists internal parasites if the environment is healthy. Avoid over-stocking.
c) Pasture management: Lower stocking rates results in a higher residual grazing height of pasture forage. Leaving a reside of higher than 10 cm will lower the probability of parasite infection significantly as about 80% of parasites live in the first 5cm of above ground forage. Cross-grazing pastures with sheep or goats for a season, or using the pasture for hay or crops, will help break the life cycle of many parasites. Generally, grass dominated pastures will contain more parasites than pastures containing legumes.
Lice, mange, flies, and ticks regularly affect cattle causing irritation, blood loss, depressed appetite, lowered weight gain, and reduced milk production (in the lactating cow). Mange can affect the mammary gland and interfere with milking.
Symptoms: Rough coat, poor rate of gain, depression, lethargy, lack of appetite, and constant rubbing against fences and trees.
Treatment: There are few options available for treatment of external parasites. Prevention is the key. If a problem is detected the following may be used:
a) Liquid enzymes: liquid enzyme sprays work to break down the exoskeleton of the insect or mite. Once this occurs the parasites dies quickly. Liquid enzymes are not toxic to the animal.
b) Diatomaceous earth (D.M.) and Garlic powder: Do not use D.M. that is sold for pool filtration as it is not the same thing that is needed for parasite control.
c) Soap: Soap removes the waxy cuticle that protects insects and mites from drying out. Repeat treatments will be necessary especially with heavy infestations. Pure soaps are preferred.
d) Organic plant oils: Run oil along the neck and spine to cover some of the more commonly infested areas. As with soap repeat the treatment regularly.
e) Neem oil: a natural insecticide from the Indian Neem tree
f) Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum Flower): a true botanical insecticide that will kill insects and mites on contact. The powder form is effective but best used in the case of heavy infestations.
Prevention: Keep newly introduced cattle separated from the main herd for a few weeks, so they can be assessed for problems and treated if necessary. Separate animals that display early signs of infestation.
Mastitis in Dairy Cattle
Bovine mastitis is a serious economic problem for dairy producers. Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland that is usually caused by bacteria that enter the gland through the teat. In a healthy cow mastitis is rarely a problem. The use of milking machines has made the problem more prevalent.
Symptoms: Mastitis is usually subdivided into 2 categories: clinical and sub-clinical. Clinical mastitis is what we actually see: swollen teats, heat pain and swelling, clots in the strip cups, abnormal appearing milk etc. Sub-clinical mastitis is not visible to the naked eye but can be identified through evidence of high microscopic cell counts in the milk, reduced milk production, and decreased milk quality.
The most common causes of contagious bovine mastitis are:
• Streptococcus agalactiae;
• Staphylococcus aureus;
• Mycoplasma spp.
Treatment: Herbal treatment, in conjunction with other management strategies, has proven useful in the treatment of mastitis. Treatment must be immediate and thorough. Constant attention to the cow is essential for 1-2 weeks. The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable (1991) recommends the taking the following steps:
a) Confine the cow in a clean, well ventilated shed, or suitable shelter, during the course of the treatment.
b) Begin with a cleansing fast for 2 days – allow only water.
c) Drench each evening with a senna laxative – soak the senna pods in ½ pint of cold water for minimum of six hours, add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.
d) On the third morning - break the fast with a drench of 2 pints of milk, ½ pint of tepid water, with 10 heaped tablespoons molasses added.
e) At midday feed a meal of steamed hay – to steam the hay fill a gallon bucket with 1/3 hay and soften by heating gently over hot water for one hour. Add 2lbs of bran and 10 tablespoons of molasses. Repeat the meal in the evening. Do not give further senna laxative brew.
f) Keep on this diet for three days – increase the quantity of the feed according to the size and appetite of the animal.
g) Supplement the treatment with medicinal herbs.
Prevention: Minimising risk factors and taking various preventative measures is integral to controlling mastitis:
a) Implement plans to regularly monitor udder health through cell count monitoring.
b) Follow hygienic milking procedures: udder wash & pre-dip teats for attaching milking cups, fore-strip each teat, use gloves, do not milk infected cows at the same time as other cows or using the same equipment, and post milking teat dip.
c) Avoid letting machines over-milk and damage the teats. Finish milking by hand.
d) Clean, disinfect, and maintain milking equipment.
e) Maintain a clean and comfortable environment.
f) Cow management: Cull affected animal to prevent further spread.
g) Control fly populations as they are known to spread mastitis.
ACS offer a number of agricultural courses covering a varied range of subjects. Courses are available which cater for those newer to the industry and looking to develop their careers, for those already established in the business and wishing to improve their knowledge, or those seeking to manage their own agricultural enterprise. The full listing of Agriculture courses can be viewed here, and these include: