Organic Pasture Ch2

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Animal Health

This chapter contains information on animal health and it covers a wide range of information from management to ensure good animal health followed by specific problems, their causes and characteristics, prevention measures, and treatment for acute cases. Material was gathered from many sources, and many people have given us information and treatments that has worked for them. It is collection of information to help you better understand aspects of animal health and some options you have. We do not claim to have found every treatment, and we do not claim to have used them all. They are guidelines only. Any treatment could be succesful depending on appropriate materials, knowledge and method of administration at the time.At all times, however, we must remember our obligations to provide the five freedoms under the Animal Welfare Act Code of Practice: 1. Proper and sufficient food and water 2. Adequate shelter 3. The opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour 4. Appropriate physical handling 5. Protection from, and rapid diagnosis of injury and disease

The selection process over the last 100 years has led to higher yielding animals within an environment that is modified from their natural habitat. A cow in the wild was designed to generally raise 1 calf to weaning per year, which equates to production of around 100kg milk solids. We are trying to now extract >400kgMS/cow, 4 times what it was designed to do. We make cows walk around farms to and from cowsheds. They are designed to roam and forage quietly and slowly. The rumen is typically designed to break down fibrous, bulky and starchy feeds through bacteria and microorganisms, and we are changing the diet radically to a more soluble carbohydrate/ protein base. Cows were not native to NZ. We now have animals modified through selection with greater demands put on them. The following section will give information on some of the things you need to do to create the healthiest possible environment for your animals. Because of the demands on animals today, there is a need for better management to enable the production levels expected to be achieved: management of pastures, ensuring the animals have adequate grass and water, and that they are well fed at all times. Good stockmanship is also important for the physical and mental well being of the animals. Observations are also important. Stand back and look at the whole picture. Ask yourself questions and find possible reasons and answers, then look for the solutions. Why did this happen and when? What has caused this? What options do I have to solve this problem? Which ones do I use or try? Who can I talk to? What can I do to prevent it happening again? Often a problem surfaces, and if you stand back for a while to see what happens and observe (instead of using first aid immediately) the problem sorts itself out. That does not mean, however, that you have right to let an animal suffer. Some animals do not have the natural ability to fit into an organic regime and this usually comes out as an animal health problem. The suggestion is that if that animal shows repeated weakness, cull or sell her, and question whether to keep her offspring. Preventative measures are the key to many outbreaks; and tonics, herbal remedies and some homoeopathic remedies are effective in this. Feeding your animals appropriately and ensuring they are healthy is still the number one strategy. For acute cases, homoeopathy and some herbal remedies can be effective. Stocking rates need also to be considered for healthy animals. Noone can tell you what the stocking rate for your farm should be, as each farm is different, but you are the best judge of what stocking rate ensures the animals are contented and have adequate feed to remain a good condition score and healthy. It is also really important to develop a good relationship with a vet sympathetic to alternative remedies, as there will be times when you need him/her, especially for diagnosis. A good homeopath or herbalist is another valuable contact person. The longer you spend working through building up an organic system, the more metabolic problems in stock disappear, and as a result you deal with less and less problems as time goes by.

Animal health and stock management Good stock management is essential Observe and evaluate Inform yourself of the range of remedies available Use professionals for advice, especially for diagnosis No animal must suffer Animals need time to adjust to organics. Good stock management combined with healthy soil, balanced pasture, shade, shelter and water, results in good animal health with few problems. The same good management principals used on conventional farms need to be applied in an organic system too. However, the organic farmer needs to take a step back and look at what he or she is doing with the animal within the whole farm system.



Organic Pastoral RESOURCE GUIDE


Stock management Have plan A and Plan B organised on how you are going to convert with the aim of having strong, healthy soil; strong, diverse pasture; and healthy well fed stock. Plan your fertiliser regime and include any nutrition shortfalls Consider the animal health problems you already have and how you are going to deal with them. Watch your grazing patterns. Feed your young stock well. Consider your stock numbers. Observe your grass and its growth patterns. Feed it with liquid fertiliser Avoid nitrogen problems by using fish fertiliser wisely Liquid seaweed is a good conditioner Test, measure and observe the mineral status of your herd, plants and soils. Allow for supplements or crops for times of feed pinches Source supplementary feed to fill shortfalls in nutrition. Work with your organic advisor or certifying agency on this. They are allowed but there are conditions. You can buy in 10% conventional stock each year. There are conditions, however. Animal health problems generally change from metabolic problems to environmental. When a problem occurs stand back, look and think about it. Evaluate the situation. Why has it arisen? What can be done now? What are the alternative remedies? What can be done in the future to prevent this reoccurring? Think laterally, be observant, talk to others, have strategies and plans. If you are not getting a response to therapy, conventional treatment can and must be used to ensure that the animal doesnt suffer. Check with your certifier about how to manage an animal that has had a prohibited or restricted treatment.Liver samples are current preferred indicators for:

can help the situation, although be aware of putting on no more than the recommended amount of fish fertiliser as it contains nitrogen and an excess can create an imbalance in the soil microorganisms. Seaweed fertilisers contain many other elements and it is a plant and soil conditioner, strengthening the plant. Biodynamic preparations enhance the balance of good soil and pasture and, in turn, nutrition. The use of compost, vermicast and compost teas also help. A refractometer will give you a reading of the energy levels of your grass. Watch your grazing patterns. Dont forget that calves and heifers need good constant feed. Also allow for grazing to avoid worm damage to calves. (Graze them on longer grass in front of cows.) Always watch and evaluate your stock. Think of the time of the year and the rate of growth. Observe your grass and its growth patterns. Biodynamic (Demeter) farmers do notice there is more growth during an ascending phase of their biodynamic calendar (see Biodynamics section) which occurs every two weeks each month, and not much growth during the descending phase. As you move from a conventional to organic system, there are times when the grass becomes less available due to the pastures adjusting to an organic regime. This can be alleviated or avoided depending on your level of dependence on chemicals. Many farmers try to go straight into a total organic strategy (also known as cold turkey). This can put you back, so it may be prudent for your particular situation to consider taking 2 or more extra years to reach a full organic system. This could minimise financial and production problems, as well as reducing animal health problems during the transition period. Use this time to get your soil in optimum balance. You can assist the transition process by planning a fertiliser strategy to change from superphosphate to RPR while at the same time keeping all other soil test elements in balance. Incorporate mixed herbage when renovating pasture remember you are trying to introduce variety into your pastures. Involve your fertiliser rep and your farm advisor with your planning. Talk to other organic farmers about their experiences and attend fielddays to gather information. Also see the Soil Chapter and plan a strategy to make this transition smoother. Allow for supplements in times of feed pinches, just as you would do on a conventional farm. If you are able to make your own, or can source organic feed, this will make it easier. Otherwise 10% brought in feed from conventional sources based on the annual dry matter requirements of your stock over the 12month period can be brought in to the farm, depending on your certifying agent. Please remember to get a letter stating any treatment that was had on the material and if there is any GE involved. If there was none, a letter is still required stating that. This feed can also only be fed as 10% to 25% of their daily requirements, depending on what your certifying agencys rules are. It is not allowed as a matter of course each year, but only for times of shortages. Therefore, you must plan to avoid these. If that is not possible, talk to your organic advisor or certifying

agency to see what you can do. If in doubt, check first. Crops are a good op