Welcome to Book of the Week – a weekly feature of an Acres U.S.A. published title offering you a glimpse between the pages! Get the Book of the Week email newsletter delivered directly to your inbox! This week’s Book of the Week feature is Homeopathy for the Herd, by C. Edgar Sheaffer.
God did not intend cows to eat grain. Cows do not need to eat soybeans. The cow was not created to eat the things man eats. Ruminants convert forage into milk and meat and hide and things for us to use. A conventional farm is feeding grain to these cows by the shovelfuls and then they have to give drugs in large quantities to combat the acidosis produced by the high levels of grain and the stress of confinement and crowding. By contrast, organic livestock in a grazing system have little indigestion and live a lowstress lifestyle.
Chemical fertilizers were first promoted in Europe and then in North America in the early 20th century. By 1950, chemical fertilizers had replaced composted manures as the most frequently applied soil amendment. Many of the world’s farmers had become convinced that all you need to do for larger yields was to put a little-N-P-K fertilizer on the plants. The nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash compounds on the plants would produce faster growth as well. The farmers of the early 21st century are paying for the sins of the farmers of the 1940s and 1950s. Fortunately, Farmer A and Farmer S are not going that route. As Farmer S would say, “I’m religiously opposed to chemical fertilizers.”
In 1990, our practice serviced one organic dairy in Vermont. Opportunities developed to allow my wife and I to lecture and instruct farmers and veterinarians in the principles of homeopathy for the health needs of their organic farms. At present there is a dramatic increase in the number of organic dairies. In the first nine months of 2000, about 1,300 dairy farms were certified in the United States. It is growing at about the same rate as homeopathy—25 to 35 percent growth per year. Now the consumer is no longer limited to specialty stores but can purchase their organic vegetables, chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, milk, eggs and meats directly from the farmer.
Farmer A, Homeopathic Medicines
What homeopathic medicines did Farmer A use his first year? For the bloating symptoms, Carbo veg was dosed frequently. Later, when a new pasture was opened, the drinking water was medicated with Carbo veg and cows were encouraged to eat a little dry hay and take a drink before grazing. A few stubborn cases of bloat were dosed with Nux vomica in alteration with Carbo veg.
The first year of farming Sepia was prescribed for each missed estrus. A dairyman knows that it is too late to breed a cow when he observes blood-tinged mucus on her tail. Ovulation has passed. After Sepia she will again be receptive in 19 or 20 days. Cows in proestrus were given Ovarian before each breeding. This homeopathic nosode prepared from the fluid of a healthy ovary helps to regulate ovulation.
Today, Farmer A employs Arnica in cases of trauma, Phytolacca in painful mastitis, and Aconite for acute fevers. The next most frequently used medication is Lycopodium, which is effective in the prevention and treatment of the metabolic condition known as ketosis.
Farmer S, Homeopathic Medicines
In his first homeopathic year Farmer S found that Calcarea carb and Calcarea phos were strongly therapeutic in maintaining milk production and fertility in the herd. Calcium was likely deficient over the entire farm in those early years. Conventional farming practices and N-P-K fertilizer often produce deficiencies of calcium, carbon, and trace minerals. Applying manure and compost year after year will replenish these soil nutrients.
In addition to Sepia in post-estrus or following ovulation, dosing with Pulsatilla in proestrus and Ovarian in estrus was helpful for the herd during the 1991 breeding season. Regular herd health exams continued for two years with no major episodes. In 1993, Farmer S experienced a rash of illness in livestock. The cause was found to be mold in the corn silage. Afterward, the family began diligently seeking a feeding program that did not rely on corn silage.
Both of these family farms have enjoyed some measure of economic freedom since converting to grass-based organic dairying. Farmer S in 1998 recorded an income of $764 per cow per year. His cull rate was 18 percent. The national conventional average is 40 to 50 percent, and the organic cull rate average is 30 to 33 percent. These two farm families are examples of success in organic dairying. Using homeopathic medicines (and principles) lead to both success and sustainability. If questioned, I am sure that each family member would be enthusiastic about the progress of the past and are making plans for more sustainability in the future.
More Examples from On the Farm
Farmer A began farming in 1991, started using homeopathy in 1994 and initiated intensive grazing management in 1995. His careful rotation schedule and judicious use of the back fence has enabled his adult cattle to remain nearly parasite free. The entire herd, including weanings, yearlings and bred heifers, are treated spring and fall with homeopathically medicated water five days in a row. The homeopathic medications used are Santoninum, Chenopodium, Granatum and Abrotanum.
Farmer A has a very colorful herd of dairy cattle including Brown Swiss, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, Holstein and crosses of each. Monthly herd health exams from March to December are followed by dosing with the prescribed medication from his homeopathic first-aid farm kit. Each cow is internally examined when necessary, and a specific or constitutional medicine is prescribed. Most frequent prescriptions are Sepia, Phytolacca, Pulsatilla, Graphites, Phosphorus and Silicea. Occasionally, there is a need for Calc phos, Calc carb, Natrum mur and Ovarian.
When the somatic cell count (SCC) began to rise above 250,000 in 1998, milk samples were taken and cultured. A herd nosode was prepared from the milk and the cultures. Dosing the high cows with Calc phos and the nosode or Phytolacca and the nosode lowered the SCC to 220,000 in one month. Percent successful services from 3/98 to 1/99 averaged 71 percent. Lancaster Company DHIA averaged 37 percent for that same period.
As soil fertility, cow health and pasture quality simultaneously improves, Farmer A is reaping health and financial benefits for his family. By 1997, Farmer A had finished the transition period to become certified organic, and the farm was positioned for future success. Remember, he has accomplished this health level without the use of antibiotics, hormones (GRNH, BST, etc.), dry cow treatments or chemical wormers.
Farmer B has been using homeopathic medicines on his livestock for three and a half years. He and his family milk 40 to 44 purebred Holsteins year round. Using a balanced approach in a transition system, he has changed his treatments of the soil, the crops and the animals simultaneously. He was one of the first farmers in his county to use energy medicines to inhibit weeds in his pasture.
Percent successful services for the last 12 months averaged 54 percent. Both herds use a tie-stall barn, Intensive Grazing Management, free choice minerals, and both use a bull and artificial insemination (AI). Farmer A grazes year-round, while Farmer B grazes about ten months of the year.
Farmer A chose homeopathy to improve milk quality and conception rates, but Farmer B changed on the recommendation of his milk inspector. For whatever reasons the change was made, the transition has proven beneficial for the land, the animals and the farm families. Many farmers who become certified organic grazers find that herd health problems decrease in frequency. Free choice minerals are offered year round to balance the livestock as the land and soil are gradually being re-mineralized. Occasionally other nutritional supplements are offered to boost immunity during times of stress.
About the Author:
Dr. Sheaffer was one of the top veterinarians in North America practicing alternative care for ruminants. He lectured widely on innovative, low-cost, natural methods of maintaining herd health. He has consulted with operations small and large, and for many years has conducted herd checks for the Amish and Mennonite farmers of east-central Pennsylvania. He studied in Gettysburg College and Penn State, ultimately graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. His life changed when he attended a seminar by British veterinary homeopath George Macleod, who later became Dr. Sheaffer’s mentor in this specialized branch of veterinary medicine.