Doc’s Blog

Lactobacillus —the Sour-milk Bacteria

Lactobacilli are almost ubiquitous in our natural environment, being present in milk and on growing plants.  Considering that our use of yogurt and cheese goes back into antiquity, lactobacilli have benefited mankind for a long time. 

 My first recollection of lactobacilli use in animals goes back to the 1930s.  My Uncle Gustave was a seasonal grazer and dairyman in central Missouri.  During the summer months, he and his wife, Aunt Anna, milked 8 or 10 cows — twice a day — by hand.  They didn’t have a dairy barn or stanchions but milked their cows out in the cow lot. The only restraint was a few randomly placed feed boxes to keep the cows occupied while being milked — very bucolic. 


The milk was put through a hand-cranked cream separator.  When they had filled a 10 -gallon cream can they would take it to the railroad station in town where it was picked up and shipped to St. Louis. While at the station, he retrieved an empty can or two to take home for the next batch of cream.

The skim milk, loaded with natural occurring lactobacilli, soon turned sour, clabbered up, and eventually was fed to the chickens or pigs. Skim milk, corn, and wheat shorts, was a balance ration for swine.  Given the high protein content of the corn back then, soy-bean meal was not needed to balance the ration. This scenario, repeated thousands of times, was probably the start of feeding lacto to animals. While many folks observed the benefits of feeding sour milk, it was not commercialized as it is today.  

After Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, in 1927, the search for other antibiotics was on. A soil sample from Sanborn Field at the University of Missouri in Columbia, contained a bacterium that exuded a golden-yellow chemical. In tests, the compound killed a wide array of disease bacteria, and Aureomycin or Chlortetracycline, the first broad-spectrum antibiotic was patented in 1948 by Lederle Laboratories, a division of the American Cyanamid Company.  

At about the same time, a poultry nutritionist at Lederle laboratories added a couple of ounces of the left-over growth medium used in the production of aureomycin to a pen of chicks.  The increased growth rate and health of the birds was amazing. He shared the result with colleagues in the animal nutrition community. It didn’t take long for the idea of feeding antibiotics to animals to catch on.  The feed additive, “Aureomycin Crumbles” could soon be found in almost any livestock facility. 

You probably wonder what all this has to do with Lactobacilli! Consider this: the use of antibiotics in livestock started a tsunami of changes in agriculture that still affect us today.  

  • The ability of antibiotics to control bacterial infections, common when animals are crowded together in unsanitary conditions, opened the door for the rise of the common and controversial CAFO’s (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). 
  • In combination with antibiotic abuses by the Medical profession, feeding low-levels of antibiotics to livestock started the leap-frog contest between the resulting antibiotic resistant bacteria and new antibiotics. 

Lactobacilli and other related beneficial microorganisms have the ability to alleviate and to some extent repair the damage done by the antibiotics. It also has a beneficial effect on intestinal bacteria damaged by glyphosate.  There is also some evidence Lactobacilli and related microbes might take the place of antibiotics in the treatment of diseases.

I don’t remember when the commercialization of lactobacillus fermented products really started — it was a gradual thing. In the beginning it received a lot of negative feedback from university nutritionists as well as other people in the feed industry. 

 Nevertheless, innovative companies and individuals began to support the use of concentrated lacto products with varying results as the knowledge grew of how to best use these products. Soon there was a wide range of Lactobacillus products available for use in animals and humans alike.

 In my vet practice in the late 70s I used a condensed cultured whey product. It was a highly acidic liquid for oral use. Since it did not contain any live organisms, in today’s terminology it would be classified as a “pre-biotic.  It had the ability to normalize and promote the growth of beneficial intestinal microflora.  I used it in any of my patients with digestive problems.  It worked well whenever I used it. 

There are many new lactobacillus products available. It is gratifying to know many of the old tried and true formulae are still available — and still effective.   The product I referred to above is one such product that has stood the test of time. It is known as “Pro Bi” — available from Advanced Biological Concepts.

Check it out at:  

How Many Will Starve? 

In 1971, then US Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz1 uttered these unsympathetic words: “Before we go back to organic agriculture in this country, somebody must decide which 50 million Americans we are going to let starve or go hungry.”

 In almost 70 years, things have not changed much.  A new study from the UK’s Cranfield University repeats basically the same old tune when it says, “Organic practices can reduce climate pollution produced directly from farming – which would be fantastic if they didn’t also require more land to produce the same amount of food.”

  While the  study acknowledged the benefits of organic farmin their basic premise seem to be that because of the alleged lower yield of organic crops more land is needed to feed the world’s burgeoning population.

Here are some statements from the articles: 2,3

  • The switch to 100% organic practices would require 1.5 times more land to make up for the declines. 
  • Organic farming produces more climate pollution than conventional practices (ONLY) when the additional land required is taken into account. Note; I added the above ‘ONLY’ to clarify the meaning of the sentence. 
  • Organic farms tend to produce less food than non-organic ones. The big problem, for both crops and livestock, is that these practices end up requiring a lot more land to produce the same amount of food. 
  • Some earlier studies determined that organic farming yields are between 5% and 34% lower than those from conventional agriculture, depending on the specific crops and practices. A 2017 Nature Communications study estimated that switching to organic farming would increase land use by only 16%.
  • Some sources cite an average 20 per cent lower yield for organic crops compared to conventional crops.

The conclusion of this report is predicated on the assumption that conventional crown crops out yield organic crops and that conventional crops have the same nutrient density as organic.crops. 

There seems to be a lot of ambiguity about land needs and crop yields in the above statements. I believe the ‘so called’ difference in yield would disappear if nutritive value per acre were compared.

Earl Butz, the folks at UK, and many others, all make the same mistake.  They They apparently believe all crops, organic or conventional, have equal nutrition.   If yields were measured in nutritive value per acre rather than pounds, bushels or tons per acre it would be a more accurate picture of productivity.

For example, conventionally grown corn (maize) will frequently test  1 to 3 percent lower in protein than organic corn (a 20% reduction in nutrients). Chemically grown corn tends to retain moisture at harvest and needs to be artificially dried, further reducing its digestible protein — and burning a lot of fossil fuels to provide the heat.   In this example, allowing for a 20% reduction in yield, the organic corn still provides more nutrition per acre. I believe this same concept can be applied to many, but probably not all, of our crops. 

 I know of no research that havs addressed this issue so I don’t have any study to quote, but I do know this — animals know the difference between nutrient rich food and look-alike but not so nutritious food. Deer will walk past miles of convention corn to feast on organic corn.   The same is true of any domestic animal if it escapes confinement and seeks out nutritious sustenance.  I have seen hogs starve themselves for two or three days in protest to being switched from organic feeds to convention. 

We bemoan the fact of soil depletion but tend to overlook the fact that nutritive value of crops has also declined especially the mineral content.  This is apparent in animal feeding. Back in the day when we were still almost all organic, a basic mineral mix for animals was equal parts salt, ground limestone, and steamed bone meal.  It was adequate for most situations as the corps and soils were still highly mineralized.  Not so today, as livestock now need well-balanced mineral supplementation.  Many innovative livestock owners have opted to take advantage of their animal’s nutritional wisdom by providing self-select or cafeteria style mineral programs. 

1 I do not like the term organic..   It has so many different meanings and connotations it is almost useless.It is even more ridiculous  when used in terms such as,  “Certified Organic Hydroponically Grown Lettuce.”   Sheesh! Give me a break.



Get Bigger or Get Out?

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s remark at a town hall meeting at the recent World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI. did not go over well with the farming community and for good reason given the ongoing decline in family farms and especially dairy farms.  He said, "In America, the big get bigger and the small go out.”

 I believe he is correct in his assessment of the history nd current status of agriculture in our country today. but that does not mean it is acceptable in this time of environmental pollution and climate concerns. 

Secretary Purdue is obviously ignoring the fact that getting bigger in the livestock industry is always associated with greater environmental damage.  It’s one thing to build a bigger factory, or a bigger grocery store, but quite another to assemble thousands of cow into one small areae.    If you want to see what can happen when 13000 cows are assembled in one place, check out —     

Back in the day,  a family scale dairy farm —40 to 50 cows — was a financially viable, self-sustaining unit with very little impact on the environment. Beef, swine, and poultry raising operation were similarly small scale with minimal impact on nature.

The end of WWII brought many changes.   “Economy of scale”” was the byword of the times and the hue and cry from   bankers and university  economists was  to “get bigger or get out.”.   Several interlocking trends began to take place;

  • Wartime production of munitions changed to production of agriculture fertilizers and toxic herbicides and insecticides.  Instead of tanks, airplanes, and jeeps, tractors and farm machinery could now be buitl paving the way for larger and larger farming operations.  
  • Intensive farming resulted in soil depletion with a concurrent decline in the nutritional value of crops and ultimately in diminished animal health. 
  • The stress associated with confined animal feeding operations —CAFO’s — also had negative effects on animal health and productivity.
  • Feeding continuous antibiotic attenuated some of the disease problems in CAFO’s but resulted in the rise of  antibiotic resistant bacteria deadly to humans.   

These trends are still operational today and, unless dealt with, will continue to control how our food is grown and what we will have to eat. 

Consider this; small family farms have relatively little effects on the environment. Conversely large mega-dairies  and CAFO’s produce a tremendous amount of environtal pollution — but they do not have to pay for it.  There would be no profit in mega livestock operations if the owners had to pay the bill for environmental damage.

 Our environment and our small family farms would be better served if Sec. Purdue would enforce the Organic Standards Law and also take steps to limit the monstrous size of CAFO’s and mega-dairies. 

I don’t look for anything like that to happen until the politicians take their hands out of the pockets of the Ag-Industry.  Don’t hold your breath!

“I dunno, I guess there’s sumthin in it they need.”

In the early 1960s, shortly after I began a vet practice in Missouri, I was called to treat a sick animal on a hill country farm NW of town.  The owner, Glenn, had called me several times in the past, so I was somewhat familiar with Glenn and his operation.  This time, as I was getting ready to leave, he said, “If you have time, I’d like to show you something interesting.” I said “Sure”, and we climbed into his 4WD pickup and drove up into the hills on the back side of his farm.  We came to a ravine or coulee several yards wide, and with almost perpendicular walls, you could easily see the different layer that made up the soil profile. Several cows were in the gully and some were licking at one of the layers. Glenn pointed out that this layer had been stripped out to the depth of a cow’s tongue. 

Glenn said that every spring, when he first turned out his herd they would all congregate in this gully and lick on one narrow layer of the clay walls. They would occasionally visit the gully during the grazing season.  The exposed layer did not look much different than the rest or the walls but 0bviously had a great appeal to the cattle.

As this was several years before I encountered the concept of self select minerals, I was at a loss to understand what I was seeing. I asked Glenn, “Why do you suppose they do that?” He answered, “I dunno, I guess there’s sumthin in it they need.”  


Looking back, that’s a pretty good explanation and still valid today when someone asks, “Why do animals eat what they do?’. All our nutritional knowledge is no match for the nutritional wisdom of our animals. 

I never did find out the ingredient the cattle were after.  It could have been a layer with a high level of an essential mineral or more probably it was a particular type of clay similar to bentonite, attapulgite or montmorillonite clay. It is not uncommon for cattle or horses to eat plain dirt (probably for its clay content) to alleviate digestive problems.  Many different types of clay have a long history of use in humans and animals. Some of the effects and benefits follow: 

  • Clays physically bind to acids and toxic substances in the stomach and digestive tract. 
  • Clays provide a source of silica, essential to all body tissues. 
  • Clays absorb heavy metals. 
  • Clays detoxify by reducing mineral imbalances.  
  • Clays bind aflatoxins, mold and fungal toxins, de-wormers, and antibiotics.
  • Clays have antidiarrheal properties and may work by adsorbing the diarrheal pathogen. 

If you do not have a source of clay on your farm, I suggest you provide some clay products for your animals.  The health benefits may surprise you.   

For a natural, nutritional clay product,

check out  “MOP”  from 

Advanced Biological Concepts -

Hey, Doc!  Waddya got for worms? 

  “Hey, Doc!  Waddya got for worms?” — or something similar is often heard by large animal veterinarians.  It usually indicates they have a parasite problem in one of their animals or in the whole herd.   It is a simple question,  but one with a complex array of answers depending on host  species, parasite species, whether the animals are being managed by organic or conventional practices, and many other variables.

    This in not an exhaustive discourse on parasitism in large animals but rather a brief exploration of some natural principles  to help avoid parasite prob lems without resorting to toxic chemicals.    

     First of all, it is important to remember that parasites, bacteria, insects, and weeds are “censors of nature” whose function is to do away with sick or undernourished animals.  Check out:

     For example, insects will seek out  damaged or poor quality vegetation while animals will seek out and eat the most nutritious, highly mineralized,  grain or forage they can find.  In the same way, internal parasites are attracted to animals of sub-standard health.  Thus, a malnourished or unhealthy animal is the ideal host for any lurking parasites. The two main things to consider here are a healthy gut with a good population of beneficial organisms and a balance of internal, cellular mineral.   

     Don’t overlook the role of genetic immunity in controlling parasites. Genetic resistance can be improved over time by selective culling of animals showing the greatest susceptibility to worms.  It is interesting to note that healthy animals will often test positive for some intestinal worms.   Low level infestation seems to be Natures’s way to provide a reservoir of antigens that stimulate immunity in the host.

     Some environments are not conducive to raising livestock.    Avoid wet, marshes areas. They are prime location for exposure to worms  and flukes — difficult to control under most circumstances.  In any case it is advisable to correlate pasture occupancy with the life-cycle of the worm.

     There are natural alternatives to chemical wormers available.  These products do not kill parasites but act to make the intestinal environment unsuitable or uncomfortable for adult and juvenile parasites. Some items to look for:

  • A broad spectrum self-select individual mineral program.
  • Probiotic and prebiotic sources of lactobacillus cultures.
  • Chinese herbs -used as an aid to parasite control for over 2000 years.
  • Bentonite, proven to condition the digestive tract, creating an environment that is not accommodating to parasites/worms.
  • Diatomaceous Earth is a time-tested aid to parasite control. 

“For a natural parasite preventative product,”

 … check out NOMS/IPR Pellets from 

Advanced Biological Concepts.”


Right Under Your Nose.

   For months I had been bothered by strange noises coming from outside my upstairs office.   When it was windy out, I would hear  thump, thump, thump  of varying intensity. Listening with the window open gave no clue as to where the sound emanated. Could it be a tree limb banging on the rain barrel or a wire tapping on the roof or garage wall?  I would even stand for several minutes, outside on the deck or drive, hoping to triangulate the direction of the sounds source.  All to no avail.       

Finally, I called in our friendly handyman, Bruce.  He climbed out the window onto the porch roof and said, “Ah ha. Here’s the problem”.  It was a loose section of the eave trough.  He fastened it down with a screw and the problems was solved.  I could have reached out of the window and touched the offending noisemaker.  As my mother used to say, ‘’I don’t know why you couldn’t find it — it was right under your nose.”

     I wonder how many other situations we encounter where  the problem,  and possibly the solution, is right under our nose — if we would just look for them closer to home and not in some far-off more glamorous place. 

     We live in violent times, rightfully appalled by school shootings and other acts of public violence.  Violence is ingrained in our society.  Could it be because our children are subject to visual, graphic violence on TV and in the movies from the first day they are propped up in front of the TV.  A recent study calculated that children viewed about 8,000 murders while watching public media — before they leave elementary school! The report did not include the number of attempted rapes or other acts of personal violence available for viewing..

    When childe, grow up and act violently we look for causes in politically expedient places and ignore the commonplace TV programs and movies that are, figuratively speaking, right under our noses.  

    TV advertisers know how easily we can be influenced by the media, but we ignore the apathetic attitude toward violence it fosters in our society.. 

    Modern agriculture also has some “right under your nose” problems — or in this case, perhaps it would be more accurate to say “right under your toes”.  Much of our once fertile soils have been depleted and contaminated to the point that much of our land no longer produces healthy, life-sustaining crops. 

    “Science” proposes many seemingly innovative solutions — but as Albert Einstein so succinctly put it years ago, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”  Most soil scientists realize the main problem is a deficiency of highly carboniferous organic matter (OM) in the soil. Building back OM has many  benefits not the least of which is removal of Carbon from the atmosphere.  This pleased those fascinated with climate change and allows them to promote the process by using the catchy phrase ‘carbon sequestration.’

    In closing, here is another quote from Albert Einstein,  “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

Do Animals Eat Minerals Because They Need Them
or Because They Taste Good?

Animals eat minerals because they taste good, but they only taste good when they are needed.  I know that sounds like gibberish, but consider this:   Appetite for any given mineral is governed by a biological feedback loop that involves taste buds, the cellular tissue concentration of the mineral, and the solubility of that mineral in the feed.  When the taste buds are triggered by deficiencies of nutrients in the tissue they are able to recognize the needed nutrients.  In this case, solubility equates to palatability - it tastes good if you need it. When the animal reaches satiety for that mineral, it doesn’t “taste good” anymore and they quit eating it.

This is the innate physiological ability of animals that allows them to pick and choose the elements they need from a properly presented,  cafeteria-style mineral program.  It is this same trait that allows grazing herbivores to balance their ration for energy, protein, and minerals in one 6 to 8 hour grazing cycle — if the proper nutrients are available in the pasture.

When beginning a self regulated mineral program, it is not uncommon for some animals to consume considerable amounts of certain items. In addition to filling their immediate requirements, animals will also eat to compensate for previous deficiencies; e.g. to replace bone mineral loss or liver reserves.  It may take 3 to 6 months for this apparent over-consumption to taper off.  If it does not taper off, one needs to check other issues as described below. 

Animals will seldom over consume minerals unless forced to do so because of improperly formulated rations or  mineral supplements. For example, if there is too much Calcium in a TMR ration, animals will eat excess Phosphorus  from  a cafeteria-style mineral  program, to balance the Ca/P ratio.  Consumption of P will go down if some Ca is removed from the force-fed ration. If feeding a TMR along with a cafeteria-style mineral program, it is best to add only about 50 to 75% of the computed amounts of minerals. This allows the animals to fine tune their mineral balance with out overconsumption.

  • ADE consumption goes up if there are high nitrates, excess protein or basic deficiencies in the feeds or ration, e.g. consumption goes up as hay and forages age and deplete in vitamin content.
  • BVC and Vitamin C intake increases with stress. Stress can be caused by many situations; including bad weather, extreme high production or performance, relocation, bad water, stray electrical currents, and geo-thermal events. 
  • Iodine consumption increases if nitrates are high, if subjected to stray voltage or geo-magnetic fields, or if they are fed moldy feed.
  • Animals will often change their mineral consumption overnight in response to ration changes or anticipated weather changes. If consumption changes after stabilizing on the FC system the changes could be caused by changes in seasonal needs or ration changes. e.g animals frequently take more sulfur when the are building a new hair coat in spring and fall.
  • There is the possibility that some animals may possess or develop a taste for a particular ingredient. Little weight should be given to that opinion unless and until the other factors listed above are investigated and eliminated.  

A”Paleo Diet” for Livestock


The popular Paleo Diet, also known as the caveman or stone age diet, is an intriguing concept. It purports to mimic the diet of hunter/gatherers in the Paleolithic era. However, recent studies have revealed some of the same potential health problems associated with other similar high protein/low carb diets. 

I believe the diet would be more effective if it encompassed some other aspects of the paleo world.  For example, I doubt paleo-man always enjoyed three square meals every day — thus adding intermittent fasting to the regimen would be of benefit.  Likewise, paleo-man had to work harder than today’s office dwellers just to eat and survive — so adding a strenuous exercise program would be indicated.  Like a three-legged stool, a program involving diet, fasting, and exercise is more stable and would come closer to duplicating paleo-mans environment and ancestral lifestyle.

While they cannot always be controlled, there are other variables to consider. 

  • The nutritive value of paleo-foods has undoubtedly changed over 10 millennia since paleo times. Soil depletion over the centuries mandates some form of mineral supplementation for good health in any era.
  • Ethic groups evolving in different parts of the planet would develop specialized digestive abilities to match their different food choices. For example,  Inuit’s from close to the Arctic Circle as compared to a native living in an equatorial rain forest
  • Digestive efficiency has changed but not so much as to prevent the animal’s return to ancesteal diet if provided.

Pondering the ramifications of the cave man diet led me into some interesting byways of speculation about the applicability of this concept to how we manage our animals today.    I wonder;

  • Do animals have an inherent species-specific metabolism that thrived on a certain nutritional and lifestyle environment?       If so, are we meeting those needs? 
  • Have their nutritional needs and digestibility’s changed over the millennia? 
  • Would animals be benefited by a a return to an ancestral diet and lifestyle and, if so, how?.

According to scientists, there were clusters of animal domestication in different places about10,000 BCE, give or take a couple thousand years either way.  This generally correlates to the times when human were transitioning from a hunter-gatherer society to agrarian society or stay in place form of agriculture.

There is evidence dogs were tamed in Europe and Siberia 33,000 years ago. Being carnivores by nature, there is a lot of similarity in their ancestral diet and that of today.  There is controversy even now about including grain in a canine diet.  

Some finding show cats living in close proximity to man in Cyprus around 9500 BCE.  I doubt there is any confirmed evidence cats have ever actually been domesticated to the point of being subservient to humans. .

Pigs domesticated 15,000 years ago.  As omnivores, pigs are extremely adaptable as evidenced by the ease at which escaped pigs can revert to a feral lifestyle. 

The lifestyle of sheep and goats as grazers and browsers is not much different than when first tamed 1about 12,500 years ago.

One of the greatest lifestyle change occurs in some horses.  First domesticated in the Eurasian Steppesaround 3500 BCE, horses were prey animals and led a nomadic life, ranging over wide areas because of predator pressure and the quest for food and water. Their forage was low in moisture and low in nutritive density. 

Now our pleasure horses are fed a totally inappropriate diet of high-moisture, high nutritive density grain and forage. They spend most of their time in a small paddock or box stall and get little exercise —  a lifestyle totally different from their native environment and then we wonder why they have health and emotional problems.

Arouch 1

Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 10,500 BCE. Today some range cattle still enjoyt that environment, but many do not. In my opinion the huge mega dairies are not only an environmental disaster but also a blatant example of animal abuse.  The average dairy cow in the US rarely completes two lactations, never reaching adulthood.  At calving time, an astounding 50% of the cows suffer from either a metabolic disease or an infectious disease, and sometimes both. Many of the rations contain high amounts of grain which causes rumen dysfunction. Most of these poor beasts are raised, from birth, in total confinement and never even see grass — a sad commentary on animal welfare in this country.

A bright spot in the dairy industry is the grazing movement.  Animals are allowed to graze pastures when availabe. Forward thinking dairymen transitioning to this program see a multitude of benefits to animal health and productivity as they begin providing dietary and lifestyle condition compatible to the inherent needs of the animals. 

Bottom line: Even small steps to duplicate  a native diet and environment will be beneficial to the health and productivity of our animals. 

Do Cafeteria-Style Minerals Work Better in Organic or Conventional Dairy herds?

 I have often been asked to compare results of smorgasbord mineral feeding in different situations.  Since there is no clear meaning to either ‘organic’ or ‘conventional’ — my quick answer would be,  “That depends.”  

First of all, it is important to understand that feeding ‘ground-up rocks’ to supplement minerals is, at best, just a bandaid. The real problems is low mineralization of feedstuffs (from decreased soil fertility) and reduced nutritional diversity (from confinement).  


It helps me to envision a spectrum or range of mineralization levels in feedstuffs with highly nutritious feeds at one end and lower quality feeds at the other end.  On this continuum it is possible to plot and compare different response to cafeteria-style mineral feeding situations.

  Animals being fed nutritious, highly mineralized feeds from the top end of the range will generally have low mineral consumption or perhaps eat none at all.  Many, but not all,  ‘orgainic’ dairies fall into this category, as do rotational grazers.  Minerals consumed will probably be used to correct minor imbalances rather than gross deficiencies.  Many of these dairy farms will have a long record of soil building.  

On the other end of the spectrum, animals in large, intensive, high stress  dairy operations will normally consume more minerals to compensate for the lower mineral content of the feedstuffs.  Most to their rations will be composed of feeds of variable quality purchased from various sources. 

Then too, feeding a TMR often provides too much calcium and protein.  Excess protein (along with high nitrates in the water) increases the need for Vitamin A.  The excess Calcium forces the cows to eat more phosphorus to balance the important Ca/P ratio.  Stress of any kind, especially stray voltage, increases the need for Vitamin B.

When starting out, all animals will eat minerals to satisfy their daily requirements and enough extra to begin to replenish previous long term deficiencies.   Excess mineral consumption in any herd may be a sign of other  problems such as stray voltage, geophysical influences, bad water m weather changes or the environment influences.

If any of these problems are present, it would benefit the dairyman to at least partially correct them before starting to feed cafeteria-style minerals.

So where does it work the best?  I thinks it is a toss-up!  The farm with fewer problems and less mineral consumption benefits from the superb animal health achieved.  On the other hand, ‘conventional’ herds have more room for improvement and will be greatly rewarded as many of their problems are reduced.  

1200px-Dairy cows on pasture in Ireland

Looking for “Tells” 

I am not a poker player but I do enjoy reading about people playing poker and watching some of the famous poker games in old movies.  I am amazed at the professional poker player, after a few beginning hands, can predict which of the other players have a good or bad hands-on subsequent deals. They do this by observing slight, almost subliminal, gestures, eye movements, posture, and other body language clues  that "tell" the condition of his opponent’s poker hands. These "tells" allowed poker player have a better idea what's going on at the poker table.


This reminded me of my old friend Dr. Bob Scott who often said “The most productive time a dairyman spends, is leaning on the fence watching his cow.”   I think it’s another way of saying he is looking for “tells” in his cows.  There are many  ways for an astute dairyman to be on the lookout for "tells" of his cows in the same way poker player reads the cards held by his opponents. They both benefit emmensly from the knowledge thus gained.

There are many obvious “tells” known to most dairymen — body condition, eating habits, breeding efficiency. Lameness, and others.  I would like to suggest another procedure that will give valuable ‘tells” into other often overlooked areas. 

The procedure is to probide a full array of self-select cafeteria-style minerals to your cattle and observe what they eat.  Here are some “tells’ other dairymen have noticed.

  • Sudden changes in the eating pattern of the mineral can be an early warning problems and a safety net  for problems that can creep into a herd — faulty nutrition being a common one. Animals will change their eating habit over night when nutritional value of their ration changes. 
  • An unusual appetite for eating dirts and chewing on wood is common.  Animals eating dirt, especially clay, can indicated a problem with rumen acidosis  If available, they will consume a lot of buffer.  They will also benefit from free choice access to old hay with low protein and high fiber. Chewing on wood is thought to associated with a phosphorus deficiency. 
  • Animals forced to eat moldy feed will often eat a lot of I-Mix.
  • While we usually think of mineral consumption in terms of deficiency, excesses also influence consumption.  
  • Animals under any kind of stress will usually  more BVC Mix.
  • High nitrates in the water, coupled with high protein in the ration can result in nitrate toxicity and increase the need and consumption os A-Mix 
  • Most TMR’s use dicalcium phosphate as a mineral source.  The higher calcium level will usually result in high  of P-Mix (Phosphorus) to balance the Ca/P ratio.  Watery eyes and dairy cattle it Is a" tell" indicating either a toxic condition where in there shedding some of the tuxes out in their tears are it could be a vitamin A deficiency.
  • When starting on a self-select mineral program, animals will not only consume minerals for their dairy needs, but all to replenish the mineral reserved in bone and tissue deficient in previous rations.  It may appear for awhile they are eating excess minerals, but they only eat what they need.

Change the Way We  Look at Things.

   The noted Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  The ever unfolding science of ep1genetics has certainly changed the way we look at many aspects of genetics and health is both humans and animals. 

A good example of this is a recent internet item entitled, “Growing Up Poor Not Only Affects Your Health, It Changes as Many as 1 in 13 Genes.”  1    This article provides new insights into the already known problem of ‘growing up ‘poor’.  Poverty not only effects physical and mental health but has the potential to alter the expression of your genetic makeup.  

Epigenetics involves chemical changes to DNA that prevent or enhance the the effect of a gene sequence.The study revealed nearly eight percent of our genome can be affected by chemical edits that could stick with you for life.  These changes have the potential to be passed to future generations. 

The World Health Organisation estimates some 1.2 billion people across the globe are making their way through life on less than a dollar per day.The persistence of the by genetic changes passed down through the generations does not bode well for a quick fix to worldwide poverty

I think most of the principles illustrated here apply to our animals as well as humans. I don’t know how to describe what  ‘growing up poor’ means to our domestic animals.  I suspect it has mostly to do with poor nutrition along with some environmental or emotional stress. Young animals suffer from malnutrition or severe illness during her early years never to reach their full potential for health and production. As in humans these  traits are passed to succeeding generations.  

In times past it was not uncommon for some dairies to have fiver of six generations of animals in the herds.  I attribute this to the beneficial epigenetic effect of stable nutrition and environment over the generations.   Obviously this does not happen much today.  The average dairy cow in this country dies at about 54 months of age without reaching adulthood.  This is a sad commentary on our dairy industry.

Years ago a study was done on groups of Iowa pigs.  Young pregnant gilts (Gen 1) were fed a diet deficient in nutrients and minerals. The offspring of these animals (Gen 2) were evaluated for any adverse effects from the poor diet.  Amazingly these pigs performed as well as their dams and showed no obvious bad effects.

Then, gilts from the Gen 2 group were fed the same deficient diet and their offspring (Gen 3) were evaluated.   These animals showed a multitude of effects, including  low weight gain and unthriftiness.   Many of them seem to revert back to an almost primitive ‘razer-back appearance and did not show typical appearance of there breed. 

Gilts from this group (Gen 4) were then fed an adequate diet to see if they would reverse the previous damage.  They did not.

Gilts from this group were also fed a good ration and their offspring (Gen 5) again exhibited characteristics of the breed with good production and health. 

The above study provides a good example of the epigenetic effect of good nutrition or bad nutrition in several generation of swine.  


Providing our animals with good nutrition and balanced minerals has no d0wnside


A Tribute to Mules

Missouri has been famous as a producer of quality mules for many decades. The mule has been designated as the official state animal of Missouri. Having been born and raised as a Missourian, I have always been fond of mules.  The sight of a splendid, matched team of mules all decked out in their parade regalia  moving out at a fast trot is as inspiring to me as the Anheuser-Busch  Clydesdale’s.


Surveys both here and in the UK indicate that most people, even those in  equestrian circles, do not know very much about mules.  Here are some nuggets of information about these unusual and fascinating creatures. 

  • A mule is the  offspring of a male donkey or jack,  and a female horse. Horses have 64 chromosomes, donkeys have 62, and mules and hinnies have 63.  Because of this odd number of chromosomes, mules are 99.9 percent sterile. 
  • The size of a mule depends largely on the breeding of the mule's female parent.
  • Mules can live up to 50 years, with an average lifespan of 30-40 years. 
  • A male mule is called a john or horse mule. A female mule is called a molly or mare.  
  • A group of mules is called a ‘barren’, probably because of their reproductive sterility.
  • A female donkey is called a jennet and can be bred with a male horse to create a hinny.  
  • Throughout history mules have played major roles as beasts of burden during wars. Mules were used to carry artillery, food, supplies and even wounded soldiers on the battlefield in WWL , and subsequent conflicts up to and including Afghanistan,
  • There are just under 10 million mules in the world, and the majority of these are working in agriculture or as pack animals in isolate areas. 
  • Legend has it that George Washington is “The Father of the American Mule.” In 1785, King Charles III of Spain  presented Washington with a large Spanish jack. Another gift of a Maltese jack and two jennets from French General Lafayette was received in 1786. These animals provided the genetic base for the American mule. 
  • Mules are prized for their hybrid vigor, strength, endurance, and resilience.  Mules are reputed to be more intelligent, patient, hardy and long-lived than horses. Mules have a reputation of being stubborn.  I believe this is unwarranted and stems from the fact a mule is too smart to work itself beyond the bounds of healthy behavior. 
  • The expression ‘kick like a mule’ stems from the fact that, unlike horses, mules have no accessory ligament that limits lateral movement in the hip joint.  This allows them to kick sideways or as some say ‘cow-kick.’  Horses can only kick backwards. 
  • Famous Americans —including Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill Cody, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan — have ridden mules.  Ken Curtis in his  “Gunsmoke” role as Festus rode a male mule named Ruth. 
  • Finally, for those concerned about climate change,  mule farts contain less methane than horse farts.

It has been said that the mule is an animal with no pride of ancestry and no hope for posterity — Nevertheless, these noble animals seem to go through life with a regal equanimity that belies their humble beginnings.

Epigenetics;  “… the ‘blood’ is still there.”

     In the early and mid years of the last century it was not uncommon for folks with lots of money to spend to buy a ranch and stock it with pure-bred cattle.  Many of these enterprises were successful and many were not.  Novice ranchers were prone to make mistakes in managing the care, breeding, and nutrition of their cattle. This usually led to a degradation of the appearance and productivity of the once fine looking breeding stock.  The end result was frequently a dispersal sale — selling the cattle at auction.

     My good friend and client, Evan, was a prominent  and successful    breeder of pure-bred polled-Hereford cattle in Missouri.  His knowledge of the bloodlines and families of Hereford cattle was unsurpassed.  Moreover, Evan was an innovative herdsman.  He fed his cattle well and was innovative in his approach to animal nutrition.  He was adding Wheat Germ Oil to the ration of his breeding a long time before livestock nutritionist recognized the value of Vitamin E. 

     If the dispersal sales mentioned above involved Hereford cattle with bloodlines compatible with those in his herd, and was located within a reasonable driving distance, Evan would attend the sale.  He rarely came home empty handed.

Evan would keep his new purchases separate from his main herd for a week or two just a precaution.  During the quarantine period he would call me to do a health evaluation.  The first time I did this, I was somewhat taken aback, as the new animals were not good specimen of the breed.  Evan noticed my dismay and said, “Yeah, I know they look like Hell, but they didn’t cost much and the blood is still there.”  He explained that by ‘blood’ he meant the bloodlines or genetics were intact and opined that good nutrition could build them back up.  I was not convinced.

     After some years, though, whenever I made a farm visit, Evan would p  oint out individuals in his herd that would have graced any Hereford show-ring.  With a grin on his face he would remind me, “Those are all direct 2nd or 3rd generation descendants of the animals you ridiculed years ago.” 

    Evan may not have understood the fine points of epigenetic as we now understand it, but he intuitively employed the basic concept of epigenetics decades before it appeared in the scientific press.  

   In simple terms, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression that occur without changes in the genetic code itself — genes are not set in stone as previously thought, but are like switches that can be turned off or on by various factors such as nutrition, stress, drugs, and sundry environmental factors — “and the ‘blood’ is still there.”

  The resulting change in genetic expression may persist for generations.  As one researcher noted, “If you are of reproductive age, whatever you take into your body— food, drink, drugs, air — may affect the health of your great grandchildren.”    These alterations can be good or bad — going down hill in the aforementioned mismanaged herds or climbing back uphill in Evan’s herd.  

Why D0 Nutritionists’ Reject Animal Wisdom?

 I have often wondered why more main–stream livestock nuritionists do not embrace the concept of animal nutritional wisdom and shun the use of cafeteria-style mineral feeding. 

      When questioned about this, many will opine, “Well, animals in the wild may have done this, but domestic animals have been bred-up to the point they have lost this ability.”

    Some will  point out our domestic animals often overeat grain or protein supplements. This is true because these feeds are not inherently natural to ruminants.  They rarely, if ever, overeat pasture or minerals. 

      Others nutritionists and dairymen give lip service to the need for a better way to quickly adjust for the ever changing mineral needs of animals but continue to reject self-select, cafeteria-style mineral feeding — possibly because of peer group pressure to conform to conve±ntional industry standards.

    I do not deny nutritionists are able to wring out a lot of milk from  a herd of cows – but at a huge cost when one considers the average dairy cow in our country is ‘burned-out’ at an early age and rarely completes even two lactations. 

      Modern nutritionists rely heavily on computer generated Total Mixed Rations (TMR). Using data from feed testing is entered into the ration balancing program. These figures may indicate chemical composotion bu not necessarily bio-availability.  A ration is then generated that conforms to the nutrient requirement tables published by the NRC (National Research Council). These recommendations may or may not be applicable to the situation at hand.  The computer ‘crunches the numbers’ and  spits out a recommended ration that purports to meet the nutritional needs of all the cows in the group. 

      Upon receipt of the print-out, the dairyman or his workers still must assemble the feed stuffs, properly measure and mix the ingredient, deliver the final ration to a feed bunk adequate to accommodate all the cows.  This series of steps is fraught with opportunities for mistakes.  What the cows actually get into their metabolism may bear little resemblance to the computer print-out,    Check out:

     The problem is that a TMR fails to allow for variagion in individual nutritional needs. There is no such thing as an “average” cow.  With a TMR only a few cows may get precisely what they need – but some get too much of one thing or another and others get too little.   When thinking about averages consider this:  “If you have one foot in boiling boiling water and one foot in freeezing water—on the average your feet are comfortable.”

     The bottom line is there is no way to ascertain and correct the nutritional state of the animals unless and until obvious signs of malnutrition occur.  If I were a dairyman or a dairy nutrtionist I would insist on the presence of a full array of separate self-select minerals. 

    A properly installed and managed cafeteria-style mineral feeding system provides many benefits.

  • It is an excellent method to insue precise balanced mineral intake for each individual animals. It immediately adjusts for changes in the daily and seasonal needs of the individuals in the herd.  
  • It is a safety net and diagnostic tool that hi-lights problems associated with mineral imbalances caused by changing feed or environmental conditions.

    I think we should continue to use our accumulated scientific knowledge when compounding rations for animals, and also letting our animals exhibit  their nutritional wisdom to fine-tune the computer generated ration — thus combining the best of the two concepts.   

What Goes Around, Comes Around

  What goes around, comes around has a couple of meanings. One is that there are consequences to everything we do – we reap what we sow.  Another connotation has to do with the cyclic repetition of events, thoughts, or activities.  The length of time for the cycles to occur is variable.  

     When you are 85 a lot of things that ‘come around’ have alrealdy ‘gone around’ – maybe  than once  When you’re younger, many significant cycles have not had time to ‘go around’ and they are not readily apparent to the casual observer.

     The periodic changes in clothing stylesm especially the length of women’s skirts.  is one example. Changes is scientific perception is another.– “the scientific ‘truth’ of today becomes the discarded error of tomorrow.”  

     There are also cycles in agricultural practices. As an example, there is a commentary in EcoWatch entitled  “Soil Health: The Next Agricultural Revolution”.  It is a good article and well worth reading. (Check it out at

     The opening paragraph reads, “By adopting three practices—no-till farming, cover crops and diverse crop rotations—farmers worldwide can help preserve the world's soils, feed a growing global population, mitigate climate change and protect the environment.”   This may sound revolutionary to the current generation but for me it harkens back to the beginning of the organic movement.

     Sir Albert Howard’s book An Agricultural Testament was published in the US in 1943.  It described his research on composting in India.  He stated, “The health of soil, plant, animal, and man is one, and indivisible.”  Sir Albert is now known at the Father of Modern Orgainic Agriculture.

     Howard’s book inspired J. I. Rodale to begin publishing the innovative magazine “Organic Gardending and Farming” which popularized the organic concept nationwide.   Also in the 1040s, Louis Bromfield wrote many books about how he rejuvenated several farms in his native Ohio. His tales not only explained his methods but also romanticized the results.  Dr. William Albrecht, at the University of Missouri,  was one of the first scientist to promulgate the idea that healthy animals and man depended on healthy soil and plants.

     The common thread here is that all these pioneers from 70 or so years   ago advocated similar agricultural practices almost identical to those cited in the above article – build organic matter, minimum tillage, cover crops, crop rotations, and eschewing the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. 

     Hopefully, we will be able to break out of the stranglehold government now has on true organic agriculture and allow the new “revolution” to succeed.  What goes around, comes aroung!

 Why Isn’t There more  Research on 
Self Select Minerals for Livestock?

     Our current scientific culture is almost totally enamored with reductionist  research.  Typical investigators try to divide everything into smaller and smaller portions and then research the tiny remaining part.  As one pundit put it, “They seek to find out more and more about less and less until they finally know everything about nothing.”  

     Another side of reductionist thinking is it allows short term, small sample evaluation of new drugs or agricultural chemicals.  This enables Big Pharma to quickly get government approval for toxic products before the appearance of the almost inevitable side-effects.  Monsanto’s originaly safety test to gain approval for  Glyphosate — two small groups of rats compared for three months — is the epitome of  reductionist research.

     I believe it is impossible to research the effect of holistic practices using reductionist thinking.  The very term “holistic” indicates the concept must be taken as a whole.   

     The mineral wheel is a simple way to illustrate the complicated  interrelationships of  holistic model,  Each mineral has a relationship with most of the others. Any change in one mineral  changes at least two others, those two each affect two more, and so on.

For example, investigating the single relationship of Calcium to Phosphorus is meaningless if the other minerals are not also considered.  A change in one element of a holistic system causes a ripple of changes in all the rest.

     The same is true in any milieu , whether it be the  health of one animal or of the entire farming operation and human community.  As Barry Commoner once stated, “Everything is related to everything else.”

     I believe the only way to assess the value  of holistic principles is common-sense observation  of the results of using those methods over a long period of time.   All one needs to do is to take a look at  the health benefits to crops, animals, humans, and the environment resulting from the practice of holistic, sustainable agriculture. 

     There are many good researchers today.  One of the best is Fred  Provenza, Ph.D. He is professor emeritus of behavioral  ecology in  the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University.  He is the author or co-author of  230 publications in peer reviewed journals and books. He does not specifically address the value of self select minerals, but his work gives considerable insight into the ability of animals, and humans, to self regulate their nutritional needs.  Fred’s newest book,  “Nourishment - What Animals can Teach Us About Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom” ,  was recently published.  It contains the essence of his life’s work and contains much valuable information for anyone that eats food or feeds animals.  

Research - Reading Between the Lines.

We rely on university research in many of our management decisionUnfortunately, often the conclusions or summary statement in a research report does not match the actual data or results.   Here is an example of erroneous conclusion drawn by some researchers. 

    In 1977 a study was done at South Dakota State University entitled       “Cafeteria Style Free-Choice Mineral Feeder for Lactating Dairy Cows” by L. D. Miller, L. V. Schaffer, L. C. Ham, and M. J. Owens.    1977 J Dairy Sci 60:1574-1582

    The authors stated - “Little evidence was found that dairy cows offered minerals and vitamins free choice consumed to a specific appetite or need under the two nutritional regimes.”

    Let’s take a closer look of some of the excerpts from that study along with some comments (comments in red).

“Trial 1 was 16 weeks in which two groups of cows in mid-lactation (10 cows / group) were group-fed rations with either corn silage or alfalfa hay as the sole forage, and all supplemental minerals and vitamins were provided free choice.”  This is too small a group and too short a time to really evaluate the nutritional wisdom of animals. A full 12 months would be better as that would encompass the gamut of lactation, dry period, parturition, and back to lactation.  Even better would be a multi-year experiment that examines the health and productivity of the calves born to the two research groups, thus evaluating the multi-generational effect.

    “Minerals and vitamins were provided in a “cafeteria style” mineral feeder, one feeder per group. The feeder was sheltered and afforded protection from wind and rain. Mineral and vitamin mixes were: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and sulfur trace mineral, bicarbonate of soda, sodium bentonite, sodium chloride, iodine mix and vitamins A, D, and E Intake of each individual mineral was determined weekly for each group.”

    “Intake of phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins differed between rations. A higher free choice intake of phosphorus by cows fed alfalfa was not expected.” It should have been expected as it is well known that cattle need to balance their Ca/P ratio. “Cows could possibly have been consuming more P to narrow the wide Ca:P ratio due to high Ca intake from alfalfa.” Of course they ate more P to balance the high Ca in alfalfa. That’s what free choice is all about – giving them the opportunity to self regulate their needs.

    “Cows fed corn silage consumed more potassium free-choice, but additional intake still was needed to meet requirements.” Whose requirement are they trying to meet NRC standards or what the cow actually needs? The authors could not explain why this gåçroup’s milk production exceeded the alfalfa group even with their assumed K deficiency.

    “Little evidence was found in these two short trials that lactating dairy cows have a specific appetite for individual minerals. Where corn silage and alfalfa, forages that differ in mineral content, were fed as the sole forages to two groups of cows, only in the cases of potassium and vitamins did cows fed corn silage consume large amounts free-choice possibly to compensate for a dietary deficiency.” Actually the main mineral ratios were balanced by the cow’s mineral preferences. They balanced the critical Ca/P ratio by eating more P to compensate for the high Ca in alfalfa. The cows in the alfalfa group took almost no K while the corn silage group consumed 36 times more K than the alfalfa group.

    Given the above perspective, it’s difficult to understand how the authors concluded that cattle could not balance their own mineral needs. 

    It pays to “read between the lines” when evaluating research reports.  It is also helpful to know who paid for the research, who did the research and where did the researcher worked before and after he did the research.  A good dose of common sense is also indicated. 

Drying-Off Dairy Cows

I recently read an article entitled “5 common mistakes farmers make when drying off cows. The author discussed many items of concern to insure a healthy dry-off. It is a good, informative discussion that is well worth the time to read.  It can be viewed at

While drying-off dairy cattle can be a daunting task, it is also an opportunity to prepare the cow for the next lactation. If done right it can affect the health and productive of the cow as well as her calf and future generations.  Done wrong it can have devastation results.

Here is my prescription for drying-off a dairy cow.  I know some of the steps may not be acceptable to some dairy professionals but it does conform to the innate physiology of the cow.    Give it a try,  I think you will be pleased at the results. 

At Dry-Off

  1. Milk out a 4 quarters, then quit milking  (After cessation of milking, it takes 5 or 6 days for the hormonal system of a cow to get the message to actually quit producing milk.  During that time, if the cow is milked to relieve the tight udder, the clock starts again - and it takes another 5 or 6 days.  The only valid reason to milk a cow during this critical period is if she shows signs of an udder infection.) 
  2. Administer a natural immune stimulant.  After 5 - 6 days, when the swelling in the udder begins to recede, check the milk and milk out completely. 
  3. If milk is normal, dip the teats.  The transition from a lactating cow to a dry cow was successful.
  4. If milk is of questionable appearance, repeat steps 1 to 3 above until the milk appears normal.
  5. Moderately restricting feed and water at this time will hasten the dry-off process. 

2 Weeks Before Freshening

  1. Administer a natural immune stimulant.
  2. Pre-Partum Milking.  Check the milk in  each quarter. If pre-fresh secretion is of questionable appearance, start milking all 4 quarters, twice a day.  At first, the secretion will look like honey gradually changing to look like skim milk and they regular milk. 
  3. The colostrum is produced when the cow starts to calve.  Save the milk right before and right after calving and give it to the calf.

Fresh Cows

  1. If indicated, for extra support, administer a natural immune stimulant.
  2. Avoid letting the fresh cow eat the placenta.
  3. Seven days after calving, infuse the uterus with a natural uterine flush.
  4. Check for elevated temperature daily for 10 to 14 days to get a head start on any problems that may be developing.
  5. Check for sub-clinical milk fever.

Am I a Luddite? 

I was recently accused of being a Luddite.  I looked it up  and found that the original Luddites were a group of radical English textile workers. During the early 1800’s they protested by destroying new weaving machinery that was replacing them as weavers. After five years, the region-wide rebellion was quelled by military force in 1816.  Today the term Luddite has come to mean anyone opposed to industrialization, automation, computerization,  , or new technologies in general.

 I guess I have to admit it, I am a Luddite in some ways at least — but not in all areas. 

  For example, I am not a Luddite in the areas of electronics and communications.  To be able to have a real-time video conference with friends and family almost anyplace in the world is a boon to mankind that overshadows many of the negatives. The ability to have the knowledge of the world at our fingertips via the internet is akin to a miracle.  

I am not a Luddite when it comes to the advances in travel—automobile engines operate cleaner—tires are safer and last longer.  While it took the the pioneers months to travel in  wagon-trains from St. Joseph, Missouri to Oregon in the mid 1800’s, we can now make the journey in an automobile in a few days or mere hours in a jetliner.  

I am definitely a Luddite when encountering many of the facets of today’s so-called conventional  agricultural technology.  I am encouraged by the revival of holistic farming but alarmed by the pervasiveness of GMO technology and the associated herbicides. I believe the keyword here is ‘irreversibility’. It is a slippery slope like a ski-slope with a swamp full of alligators at the bottom.  Once you are on it there’s no turning back.  

Today, it is almost impossible to buy food that is not contaminated with GMO’s, glyphosage, and myriads of other toxic agricultural chemical.  These substances do not just go away. Even if we stopped using them today, it would be decades, and probably generations,, before they are completely cleansed from our soils and crops.   

 Consider this quote from Dr. Don M. Huber, Professor Emeritus, Purdue University.  "Future historians may well look back and write about our time, not about how many pounds of pesticide we did or did not apply; but about how willing we are to sacrifice our children and jeopardize future generations with this massive experiment we call genetic engineering that is based on false promises and flawed science, just to benefit the 'bottom line’ of a commercial enterprise.” 



I read a recent report from the Adam Smith Institute, a think tank in the Uk, that opined if we did not switch to lab-grown meat the world would face a massive food crisis. It seemed to me, many of the claims were questionable — perhaps even frivolous. 

Here are some of the claims along with my comments:

  • Lab-grown meat (LGM) would needs less land for farming. If lab-grown meat became the norm,  99 per cent less land could be used thus releasing millions of acres of pasture land for other uses.  The source of this figure is not given.  
  • LGM would give the world access to a low cost, high protein diet, the cost of a lab-grown burger pegged at about $10.50.  Undoubtedly, it will continue to get cheaper but is still out of reach for people in many countries. 
  • LGM could help solve the housing crisis by freeing up land currently used by farmers!   I don’t know where this came from.  I can[t imagine how removing some grazing cattle from marginal pastures could free up land someplace for a person to build a house?!?!
  • Beef takes a hectare (2.47 acres) to feed one person whereas nineteen people are fed per hectare of rice produced.   They did not specify the origin of these figures , nor did they indicate how many people could be fed on a hectare of LGM’s.  
  • As much as 96 per cent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by switching to LGM- taking a further step towards tackling climate change.  It sounds good but in reality most of the gas emissions are associated with mega-farms - CAFO’s - and not from pastured, grass-fed beef.
  • The looming antibiotic resistance crisis could be prevented by cultured meats which do not use antibiotics.   Antibiotic resistance started way before livestock were routinely fed antibiotics.  Fleming  discovered penicillin in 1928—he predicted bacteria would develop resistance if the antibiotic was not used at high enough levels or for too short a time. There was an outbreak of penicillin resistant staph in London in 1947. It spread to Australia in 1953.  In 1955 it crossed to the US, affecting over 5000 mothers and childern in a birthing hospital in Seattle.  The new broad- spectrum antibiotic - aureomycin - was first fed to a tiny group of chickens in 1948, which practice gradually escalated into today’s wide-spread feedin Ending the feeding of antibiotics to livestock may alleviate, but will not eliminate, the problem of antibiotic resistance. 
Lab groen burger

All these claims predict great environmental f damage from the rearing and slaughter of animals.f but do not address the environmental impact from lab-grown meat — surely the is some.  I wonder what is the downside of LGM’s?

Learn more:

An Environmental Disaster

   A recent report from Wisconsin indicates 54 Wisconsin dairy farms sold out in June (2018), bringing the yearly total to 338. Although the report did not specify, it seems safe to believe it is small, family-farm type daries being dispersed.

    It’s sad to see the demise of the small dairy farms.  Back in the day, small dairies of 40 to 60 cows were the backbone of the industry.  One family could grow and harvest crops,  tend the cattle, and do the milking. They were an al;most perfect example of a cycle of nature, wherein crops were fed to animals and the manure recycled to the land to grow more crops. Those small farms had little environmentyl impact.

    After World War II everything changed. That’s when war-time munition plants began switching to agricultural products—NPK fertilizers, and other highly toxic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides..  Feeding antibiotics allowed the assembly of large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s)  to gain “efficiency of scale”.  To keep up with the post-war boom economy, dairy farmers were advised to,  “Get big, or get out” — starting a trend that has resulted in the rise of huge mega-dairy operations containing thousands of cows. 

    As an example of the ill effects of mega dairies, consider the    plight of Lost Valley Farm, the second largest  fairy in Oregon.   Started in the spring of 2017, it is owned by Greg te Velde, and funded by Rabobank, a Dutch agriculture lender.  

Manure Lagoon

   From the start, te Velde failed to conform to regulations and was cited for improper waste management practices resulting in contamination of adjacent groundwater and nearby wells. His waste management permit was revoked and he was given 60 days to remove 13,000 cows and 75-acre feet (approximately 24.4 million gallons), of manure and wastewater from his lagoons.  Earlier, te Velde agreed to disperse his cattle, but one day befoe the sale he filed for bankruptcy effectively putting everything on hold.  The dairy is now for sale priced at $95 million.

Mega Dairy

    Te Velde owns two other failing dairies in California, and is facing foreclosure from Rabobank.  Te Velde is currently receiving treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab clinic. It was not specified if he entered the clinic before or after this disaster. 

Bottom line:  Any assembly of a mega-number of animals in one area is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.  The profitability of mega-livestock operations depends on raping the environment.  When forced to pay the damages, bankruptcy results. 

For more information, check out these links:

Bumble Bees Can’t Fly

     When I was a youngster  there was some research making the rounds that said; “Bumble-bees can’t fly.”  I guess some budding aerodynamic scientists had tried to compute the weight/lift ratios for these big bees and come to the conclusion that, mathematically, “bumble-bees can’t fly.”

     While the report was probably issued, ‘tongue-in-cheek’, it was good for some chuckles as it was obvious that bumble-bees were still flying.  The phrase has stuck with me  over the years. and even today, when I see some research that defies common sense, I say to myself; “Yeah, right! and Bumble-bees can’t fly either.”

    Our society seems really enamored with science.  If we read “Laboratory tests show…”  or “University research proves … “ or “Scientists claim…” — most people believe it.   I don’t!  

    For any research to have credibility with me, I have to know, at a minimum, the credentials of the researcher and, most important, who paid the bill.  It is also interesting to know where the person worked before and after the research was published. A lot of  research today reflects the bias of the author and some is down-right fraudulent.  Proof of impartiality is hard to find. 

    Consider the the ongoing controversy over the safety of Glyphosate.  There is a multitude of peer reviewed studies on both sides of the issue.  Which is righr?  How does one decide?  Finding out who funded the studies would give us some clues.

    At some point  we need to invoke common sense or, better yet, the Precautionary  Principle which implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. 

    In conclusion, when you encounter outlandish statements from BigAg or BigPharma, join me in saying; “Yeah, right! and Bumble-bees can’t fly either.”

Trouble Shooting Mineral Deficiencies

     I occasionally get phone calls something like this, “Hey, Doc.  My horses have XYZ , what mineral should I be feeding for that?”   Further conversation usually reveals  they are being fed a bunch of different supplements - some force fed in the ration and some fed free-choice.

     It is not usually possible to prescribe appropriate minerals just on the basis of symptoms, but there are situations  when symptoms or signs do point to a certain mineral deficiency.  For example, if the normally black hair coat of a cow is tinged with red it almost always signifies a copper deficiency.  Hoof and hair problems may be associated  with deficiencies of zinc and copper. Then too, certain environmental conditions influence consumption of certain minerals — some animals take more sulfur in the spring and fall when building new hair.  Cattle on lush spring growth pasture usually need more magnesium.

     When encountering questions similar to the one above—and knowing that an accurate diagnosis is based on good information—I immediately start asking questions. 

Elim-a-Net in use high res
  1. What are you currently feeding?    I am often amazed at the number of supplements some folks give their animals.  I suspect sometime  a bunch of different supplements can cause problems with mineral interference.   What I am looking for here, is any obvious imcompatibilities or gross over feeding, Resulting in metabolic deficiencies even with adequate minerals.
  2. Have you tested the water for livestock suitability and especially for nitrates? 
  3. Do you provide separate sources of calcium and phosphorus?
  4. Do you have a separate source of plain white salt available?
  5. I usually ask the owner or caretaker, “What do you think is the problem?”   Since I am sitting at a desk hundreds of miles away and they are right next to the animals, I believe their observation and impressions should be factored into the decision mix. 

     Answers to the above questions will usually identify some things to be changed or improved.   Many times that involves removing some of the duplicated supplements and I always recommend providing a full-array, free choice mineral feeding program.

Imprint Training of Foals

     In a conversation with an equestrienne friend, I asked if she had ever read any books written by Robert M. Miller, DVM - she had not. She also was not familiar with the concept of imprint training of foals.  I guess she  was mostly focused on her horse’ performance rather than early training of foals. 


     Dr. Miller  wears many hats — veterinarian, equine behaviorist, author, and cartoonist.  My first exposure to his work was his whimsical cartoons on veterinary life published in Vet magazines.  One of which is displayed below.

     He is best known for his pioneer work in the concept of imprinting foals.    Early in his practice, Dr. Miller observed how dangerous it was-to vets and horses alike-when adult unbroken horses were first handled for treatment.  He developed a protocol of handling foals at birth to imprint an acceptance of human contact in the newborn foals. The lessons learned in the first few days of life persists to adult and makes the grown horses comfortable around humans and safer to train and treat if necessary.

      The process is relatively simple. The newborn is touched everyplace from ears to including feet and legs.  The foal may be haltered and taught to lead.  Feet may be picked up and examined, mimicking future activities.  The goal is to get the youngsters used to all the handling they will experience as adults.  Horses have exceptional memories and will remember early lessons for life. 

     Imprinting occurs in most species.  Ducklings hatched by a chicken will imprint on the hen as their Mom and follow her around. — a strange sight to see a line of ducklings following a chicken.  

     I don’t know of anyone deliberately  imprinting dairy caves but raising calves in individual hutches is a close second as it allows the animals to bond with their human caretakers .  It does, however, lack the actual physical touching associated with imprinting.  

Dr. Miller has written several books on this subject and there is a lot of information available on the internet. 

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Cattle Massacre in New Zealand


     I see where New Zealand is planning to kill 150,000 cows in an attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.  This bacteria can cause cows to develop mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis— all of which result in production losses. Of the 39  herds known to be infected, they plan to slaughter some of the cows for human consumption and exterminate the rest and bury them on the farm. The estimated cost is  over 600 million USD.  

     I think this is a bad idea for several reasons.  If there is a possibility of other domestic or feral animals also harboring the disease, there is always the possibility of reinfection from these sources.  Here in the US. Brucellosis and Tuberculosis have been eradicated in most domestic herds but are still endemic in feral bison, elk and deer.

     I also wonder if it is a good idea to arbitrarily kill the exposed, unaffected animals in the infected herds.  It seems to me, the fact some animals in the herd are not affected indicates a degree of natural immunity to the disease that would be beneficial to preserve.

     In the last analysis, it often is not a bacteria that causes a problem but an impaired immune system.  If New Zealand cows are not managed any better than US cows they, too, are probably under a lot of stress, force fed too much protein and suffer from grossly unbalanced minerals in their diet.  An animal with an impaired immune system is more susceptible to any germ that comes along — if you eradicate one germ another will often take its place.  

     In 1961 the USDA mandated a Hog Cholera eradication program which successfully resulted in the US being declared free of Hog Cholera in 1978.  This was hailed as a great success.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before other, heretofore almost unknown, virus diseases of swine such as pseudo-rabies began to cost the swine industry almost as many dollars as had Hog Cholera before eradication.  This is a good example of the way nature uses germs as ‘censors of nature’ to eliminate substandard individuals.   

Iodine Deficiency in Goats?

 A goat owner said to me:  “This kidding season, the newborn buck kids were unusually large while the doe kids were unusually small.   I have  heard that this could be caused by a deficiency of iodine.  Have youl ever heard of anything like that?"  I had not.  

     But, I did some internet browsing and checked a couple of books on goat medicine, and could find nothing on sex related birth size disparity in newborn kids. 

     Ater reporting this to the goat keeper, she sent me a reprint entitled, “RECORDS OF NUTRITIONAL FACTORS IN FERTILITY OF GOATS” — posted to my blog site as

     This paper summarized over a decade of fertility records in  an Australian goat herd from the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  The herd experienced the same size disparity in newborn buck and doe kids as stated in the original question. 

     The problems were apparently associated with feeding clover or alfalfa hay along with a mineral supplement containing a generous limestone base.    It was thought the phyto-estrogens in the legume hay (containing goitrogens which depress the production of the hormone thyroxin)  along with the high calcium content of the hay and mineral limited the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland.

      The elimination of clover hay and ground limestone from the diet resulted in a remarkable improvement in fertility but the sex ratios still favored males 1.4 to 1. This ratio was improved when iodized salt and copper-cobalt licks were offered.  

      Classic signs of Iodine deficiency in newborn goats are being born dead, abnormal hair coat, and enlarged thyroid glands, located in the throat area — goiter.  Since this lady’s goats showed none of these signs, I doubt if an iodine deficiency was involved. 

     Some folks recommend giving oral doses of Lugol’s iodine as a  supplement.  I think this is a bad idea.  It is difficult to know the exact amount needed by individual animals.  Force feeding could lead to an excess of iodine, which can also cause thyroid gland problems. 


     If you suspect your animals are low on iodine and need a supplement,  you could provide a free  - choice source of iodized salt AND a free-choice source of regular white salt.  This allows animals to match their individual needs without  over-loading them.

     In the last analysis, the best plan is to provide a full-course, cafeteria-style  mineral feeding program. 

Another Week-end Quote

Animal Intelligence

There currently seems to be a lot of interest in animal intelligence or consciousness.  Recently, a friend asked me which animal I thought was the smartest.  My first thought was primates and then possibly elephants —  but, since my only experience was with domestic animals, I opined that the pig was the smartest.

     I am not an expert on animal behavior nor to I know to scientifically rate their intelligence.  I’m sure there are many ways to do this. I suppose one could compare their activities  and reactions to humans. But, if we did that it would only be fair to examine   our 0wn ability  to function in a pig’s world

    Then too, we could rate animal intelligence on how well they integrated with their environment and society — finding food, reproduction, social structure etc.   But that has would be highly subjective.

    Their ability to communicate within their species, as well as with other species (including humans) would be an important factor. 

    Having said all that, I don’t know why I chose pigs.  Pigs have an undeserved reputation as being a dirty animal (mostly when raised in close confinement). Pigs do not sweat and a cool mud-bath on a warm day protects them from dehydration and sunburn. Pigs are cute, alert and exhibit many  many different personalities. I believe that a face-to-face, look-me-in-the-eye  involvement  with any animal will provide insights into an animal’s basic persona. Try it sometime.

    Going back to my choice of the pig as the most intelligent domestic animal, consider this. 

     Given the choice, most animals will select feedstuffs and minerals conducive to good health — but, given a choice, many humans will choose to eat junk food or Franken-food.

    Given the opportunity, a pig will usually not soil its sleeping or eating areas with feces — but, given the opportunity, humans poison their fields and food with toxic chemicals - all for the profit of BigPharma. 

It begs the question;  “Are humans as smart as pigs?.”


Minerals for Multiple Species

A fellow who grazes several species together,— cattle, horses, sheep, goats, llama, and swine — recently asked me if a cafeteria-style mineral feeding program was feasible for that many different species.  I told him  as far a the minerals themselves were concerned, there was no problem.  All those species do well on a full array, self-select mineral program. 

That being said, I told him I wasn’t  sure how the delivery system would work.  Some things to consider.

  • Species compatibility.  Animals tend to congregate at mineral feeders. More aggressive species (or individual animals) may interfere with other animals having full access to the minerals. 
  • A basic feeder may not be easily accessible to all species, thus requiring other feeders of different design. 
  • Hogs tend to be messy eaters. Other species may not wish to eat at the same table. 
  • I would appreciate feed back from anyone who tries this or who already does this. 

The Population Bomb


    I had to chuckle when I recently read about Paul Ehrlich’s new  book - “The Population BombRevisited”- in which he predicts pretty much the same doomsday message he espoused in his original 1969 book, “The Population Bomb.”   Both books forsee a shattering collapse of civilization to be a near certaint in the next few decades.  

    For me, his reputation is somewhat tarnished by the fact that most of what  he predicted 50 years ago has not come to pass — but some of it has.  Back then he predicted mass starvation caused by rampant population growth. That hasn’t happened — yet — but is is happening.  There has been a tremendous population  increas in the last 50 years and there are parts of the world suffering from famine - mostly caused by faulty global distribution systems and not so much by failure to produce enough food.  

    His new book adds the problems of our continuing destruction of natural resources and the toxification of the planet’s farm land by products of Big-Pharma. Ehrlich wrote that the poisoning of our food may be more damaging that climate change.  He also pointed out that chemical contamination has caused sperm counts to plument world wide — which may contribute to population decline in the long run. 

    I started out to write this as a criticism of Ehrlich’s lack of accuracy in his predictions — but I was wrong.   Stick to your guns, Paul, the only mistake you made was in estimating the length of the time-line.  

Antibiotics: good or bad?

I had a phone call from a fellow with a question about injecting his horse with antibiotics. His Vet had diagnosed a case of Strangles (Streptococcus equi) and recommended a course of antibiotic teatment.  The owner wanted to know if that would upset his plans to be organic. I think he was concerned that using antibiotics would violate some basic precept of holistic thought. I assured him it would be a prudent thing to do.   

I think antibiotics are a good and useful technology/ Since Alexander Fleming’s discoverey of penicillin in 1927 it has saved many thousands, perhaps millions, of lives. Antibiotics, in and off themselves, are not bad. The probles we have with them is misuse.  Fleming  warned, early on, that if penicillin was used at too low a dose or for too short of a time it would lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria.  We ignored his advice.

In 1947, a hospital in London experienced an outbreak of staph infections that did not respond to penicillin. By 1953, the same resistant bug sparked an epidemic in Australia.  In 1955 it crossed to the United States, infecting more than 5,000 mothers who had given birth in hospitals near Seattle and their newborns too.

In 1948 Thomas Jukes, a poultry nutritionist at Lederly Laboratories, fed a few ounces of the left over growth medium from the production of the newly discovered broad-spectrum antibiotic  tetracycline or aureomycin to a group of chicks.  The results in increased growth rates were amazing as were the short-term health benefits.  

Jukes shared his results with some colleagues and the practice of  feeding low levels of antibiotics to livestock spread like wildfire.  This enabled the start ot the CAFO industry and was the beginning of the lethal game of leapfrog that organisms and antibiotics have engaged in ever since.

Walk the Farm

    A presentation at a recent Dairy Conference was entitled, “Walk The Farm If You Want to Know the Truth.”  The speaker cited his experiences as manager of a large, up-scale, 14 floor hotel.  Starting early each  morning he would walk all of the halls, checking rooms, lounge areas, kitchen, restaurant, and even bookkeeping entries. He would then confer with the responsible staff and remedy any problems.  He did this three times every day.  He said as he did this there were less and less problems. 

    His point was, whether managing a hotel or a dairy, if you want to know what’s really going on, you need to have an eyes-on presence  in every key area — several times a day. The information he gets from personal observation is more valuable than verbal or written reports from subordinates. 

    For a dairyman, I think eye-balling the cows is a must.  My friend and former colleague, Dr. Bob Scott, often said, “The most valuable time a dairyman spends on his farm is when he is leaning on a fence looking at his cows.”   I agree.  

    It's not only about being on-site and looking around — the very presence and subliminal mental input of the manager adds another element to the equation of success that makes the whole operation more cohesive, more productive, and more profitable.   As Dr. Marvin Cain, DVM, so succinctly put it, “Thoughts Are Things”.

    In 160 BC an old Roman, Cato the Elder, wrote a treatise on agriculure titled 'De Re Agri Cola.”  He wrote: “The master’s eye doth fat the ox, his foot doth fat the ground”.   I interpret this to mean that in order to have healthy and productive soils, crops, and animals, the Master must be personally involved in caring for both.   Walk the Farm!

A Quote to Ponder This Weekend

“I do not know what I may appear |
to the world; but to myself I seem
 to have been only like a boy playing
 on the seashore, and diverting
myself in now and then finding a
smoother pebble or a prettier shell
 than ordinary, whilst the great
ocean of truth lay all
undiscovered before me.”

Sir Isaac Newton. , 1642-1727  

Sir Issac Newton

English physicist and mathematician, who was the culminating figure of thescientific revolution of the 17th century.

Minerals & Spark Plugs  Team Players

I have often been accused of having a one-track mind with regard to feeding minerals, since I usually recommend feeding cafeteria-style minerals as a vital element in the treatment of most herd health or nutrition problems. 

There are several reasons for this:

  • Feeds are less mineralized today because of soil depletion and the adverse effects of commonly used herbicides. 
  • Confinement of livestock in CAFO’s restricts the exercise of an animal’s inate nutritional wisdom to pick what it needs — if given the choice.
  • It is easy to dump excess minerals into a ration or a TMR, but extremely difficult to attain a suitable balance for each individual animal.

Cafeteria-style mineral feeding adjusts for all three of these situations.

Consider this: trace minerals are an intrinsic part of the  enzymes   that modulate most metabolic processes.   Thus, trace minerals can be likened to spark plugs that modulate the function of gasoline motors.  If some spark plugs are missing or out of time  the engine will not operate efficienty or not run at all.  

Trace minerals, like spark plugs, are team players — they all must be working together to be effective.  

Mineralization of Baby Calves

    I recently viewed a research paper entitled:  “Mineralization in newborn calves contributes to health, improves the antioxidant system and reduces bacterial infections.”  The abstract is available at

    This study evaluated the benefits of an intramuscular mineral supplementation on  the health of dairy calves. Ten calves were divided into two groups — a control group and a test group.    On days 2 and 14 post-birth, the 5 animals in the test group were injected with 3 ml of a solution containing selenium, copper, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.  Blood was collected from all animals on days 2, 10, 20 and 30 of life in order to analyze the antioxidant enzymes that affect the immune system.

   According to the researchers, mineral supplementation presented many beneficial effects including: an increase in the activity of antioxidant enzymes, improvement of immunity, lowered mortality, less incidence of diarrhea and anemia, and less need for the use of antibiotics,

    I thought this was an interesting study,  especially since it confirms what I have seen over the years in calves born to properly mineralized  dams. The study would have been better if it had compared blood levels of calves from highly mineralized dams to those on a less than adequate diet.  I hope no one uses this study to begin marketing trace mineral injection as a treatment for mineral deficiencies.   .

     As Dr. Wm Albrecht pointed out decades ago, it takes healthy soil to grow the healthy plants necessary for healthy animals and humans. It would be accurate to replace the word “healthy” with the words “highly mineralized.”  

     Unfortunately, confinement of animals and soil depletion necessitate some sort of supplementation of minerals.  Thus, feeding “ground up rocks” is a standard practice until soils and plants can become more mineralized.  Some livestock  owners feed a ‘one-bag-fits-all’ mineral mix. The smarter ones provide a variety of minerals so the animals can use their innate nutritional wisdom to balance their indicidual mineral needs.

Individual Cow Care

     A couple of recent items in the ag-press caught my interest. One was entitled  “How Many Times Do You Touch Your Cows?”  (   This infographic contrasted ten touches in a given period on a conventional dairy with only three on a hypothetical technically advanced dairy — at vaccination, breeding and when  pregnancy checked. There was no explanation of how he arrive at these numbers.

     I was a little disappointed in the other one,  “Individual Animal Care on the Dairy”   ( individual-animal-care-dairy?  Individual Animal Care on the Dairy)..)  I would liked to have seen something  on the comprehensive individual care of each cow. But, the article basically dealt with culturing and treating mastitic cows individually rather than blanket treating the whole group — a good thing to do, but not the information  I had hoped for. 

     For me, these two views were interesting, but basically useless. However, they did raise the question,  “Is individual cow care just something to placate the do-gooder animal welfare people or is it beneficial to the animals and to the animal caretakers?”

     An early Roman quote states, “The master’s eye doth fat the ox, his foot doth fat the ground.”  I interpret this to indicate there are beneficial  interactions betwixt a herdaman and his animals and between a farmer and the crops on his farm.  

     Over the years, I have known dairymen who were considered     somewhat backward in their dairy operation. Many of them did not have the latest innovations in facilities or equipment.  Most of them built their rations on the basis of what seemed to be best for the cows rather than least cost formulas generated by feed salesman and later on by computers. 

     The odd thing was most of them were more profitable than their up-scale neighbors.  Some did produce more milk  but the main advantages came from other sources — cow were healthier, they bred back sooner, and they stayed in the herd longer.  Many of them had four or five generations of the same bloodlines in the herd. Profitability is not always linked to milk production. 

     I particularly remember Shorty.  He milked and cared for about 30 Brown Swiss cows - all by himself. He catered to the needs of those cows  in a manner befitting the fine ladies they were  If one of his gals was off-feed Shorty would cut fresh grass from the meadow and bring it to the ailing cow in an effort to entice her to eat more. When he was in the barn he talked to them almost constantly.  He alway kept the bedding clean and deep, He groomed and brushed his cow regularly. 

     He loved his cows and they loved him.  Given the chance, they would reach out to nuzzle him in an affectionate manner.  Some would try to lick him as he walked by.  Needles to say, his herd was extremely productive. 

     Yes, I know you cannot duplicate this in large herds —and that’s a shame.  But, here is a tip from the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture that is useful in some herds.  There are acupuncture points at various place on the body of any animal.  Most of the useful one are located along either side of the backbone and down a ways on the sides. When stimulated, these  “visceral-cutaneous reflex points” have a beneficial effect on internal organs. Here’s the tip:  vigorous brushing with a stiff grooming brush stimulates well being in the cow and she enjoys it.  If you try this, no doubt some cows will follow you about, begging - in cow language - “Oh, pease, do it again.” 

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Seasonal Mineral Needs

   I am occasionally asked what minerals for livestock are required at different times of the year — for example, “Going into winter, what minerals should I make sure are available for my livestock?”

   It is true that mineral consumption may vary with the season, under different circumstances, and even in different areas of the country. You may see other consumption patterns on your own farm, but here are some examples. 

  • When cattle are grazing on lush, fast growing spring grass   they will generally eat more Magnesium. 
  • Young stock seem to eat more Copper as do animals having to eat  moldy feed.  
  • Sulfur is involved in hair and hoof growth, When animals shed their winter coat and grow a summer coat they will eat more sulfur.  The same is true in the fall when they are growing a winter hair coat. 
  • Calcium consumption may go down in summer and up in winter.  I have no explanation for this, but I suspect it has to do with a seasonal variation in phosphorus availability.  
  • Animals will often drastically alter their mineral consumption within one day of ration changes.
  • Animals will sometimes take more minerals in advance of imminent weather changes.  It seems they anticipate feed may be limited during a storm and stock up on minerals to tide them over.   Bison appear to be especially canny in this regard.
  • If the water is high in nitrates, animals will need more need more Vitamin A. They will take more Vitamin A and B when forage quality in stored feed declines. 
  • Animals under stress for any reason will eat more Vitamin B..
  • If well nourished animals are are changed to a mineral deficient ration it may take several months for them to deplete their body reserves and begin to show deficiency symptoms.  When they are again supplied with adequate minerals, it may take several months for them to eat what is required to replenish these  reserves — refilling the tank.

   I don’t think it’s possible to accurately predict what minerals animals will need under varying circumstances.  Thus, it is important to provide a full array of minerals at all times and let the animal’s innate nutritional wisdom make that decision. 

   In the last analysis, there is only one answer to the question, “What is the most important mineral to have available for your animals?” — and the answer is, “The one that’s most deficient.” 

Apple Wisdom

     We use the word “apple” in a variety of contexts in our language. 

     We designate New York City as the “Big Apple.”    We speak of an  “apple for the teacher” as a way to curry favor in the classroom.   We “polish the apple” to enhance the appearance of an object or a situation.

     To illustrate that certain traits persist from one generation to another,  we opine, “An apple never falls far from the tree.”  It’s another way of saying  “like father, like son.”

     Even health advice is covered, —  “An apple a day  keeps the Doctor away.”   The original phrase, from Wales in the 1860s, read, ‘‘Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”  Apples are a tasty snack and do contain vitamin C and other good things to maintain health.

     On a slightly negative note, if you put a good apple into a   barrel  of rotten apples the good one does not make the bad ones any better and will probably be corrupted by the rotten ones.   Conversely, one rotten apple added to a barrel of good one can infect the whole bunch.

     I think there is a lesson here about peer group pressure.  It is not uncommon for some young women to date a “bad Apple” because it is dangerously thrilling and exciting.  These gullible girls, being good apples,  think they can make the bad one better, which is not impossible but usually not probably.   The broader lesson here is we become like those we associate with.  

     I really like this one. “You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed.”   The ultimate potential in apple seeds, and people, is vast and unknown.  We do not know how many apples could  result from planting a few apple seeds.  Nor do we know the ultimate beneficial effect of planting a few seeds of love, gratitude,  appreciation, or encouragement in the people with whom we associate..  

     One final thought,  as apples age some just get rotten while the good ones grow sweeter even if they have a few more wrinkles.   Ruth, my wife of 63 years, is a good apple. Like all  good apples she has a few more wrinkles,  but has become sweeter as she ages.  She is a joy and a comfort to all those around her.   I love her dearly — she is a pearl of great price and the “Apple of my eye.  

Carbon Sequestration


     I recently had a phone  conversation with my Idaho daughter — a Master Gardener with a BS in Horticulture from BYU.  She was telling me about her current gardening project. She and her husband had mowed down some heavy vegetation on one of her garden plot and were now planning to till the residue into the soil.  She said she was “building soil organic matter”, and I agreed.  Jokingly though, I told her it wasn’t called that anymore and was now known as “engaging in carbon sequestration.” She was impressed. 

     Years ago, when I first encountered what  we now call organic production the emphasis was on building the OM in the soil  so you would not need the chemical amendments.  This is a far cry from the emphasis today where the regulations are based on ‘don’ts’  rather than ‘do’s’.  My concern has always been that we do not spend enough time and effort building soil organic matter.

     Thus, I was gratified to see an item about soil organic matter in the recent MOSES online newsletter.  Researchers at Northeastern University and The Organic Center analyzed over a thousand soil samples from across the country. They found soils on organic farms had larger amounts of soil organic matter (SOM) and carbon than conventionally farmed soils. The research also found that organic soil has 44% higher levels of humic acids than conventional soil. 

     To me, high SOM is more important than some slight infraction of NOSB standards.  After all, the NOSB appears to be more interested in the continued certification of hydroponically grown (without soil) vegetables than they are about levels of SOM in organic fields.

Rising Dairy Cow Mortality

    A recent article in a national dairy magazine bemoaned the fact that dairy cow mortality is on a steady rise.   Death losses in the 1970s ranged from 1% to 5 %.  It now average from  6% to 8% —  with a high of 15% in some dairies. 

    The author opined that this industry wide increase  suggests  veterinarians and producers do not have the information needed to manage the problem.  Most dairymen do not necropsy  dead cows.  They may have a reasonably accurate total death count but not accurate records of the cause of death.  

    To remedy this lack, two veterinarians from Colorado and Washington State Universities have put together a protocol to help dairymen accurately record and codify all deaths — they even have a nifty Cow Death Certificate upon which to record the pertinent information. I think this is a great idea — information is needed to make a diagnosis.  

    However, I am concerned it may be too easy to make a casual diagnosis and not delve deeply into underlying causes  of death — we need to look deeper that the obvious and not record the “straw that broke the camels back” as the cause of death rather than the weight and content of the full load being carried. 

    Since about half of dairy cows calve with either a metabolic or an infectious disease, I’m betting a lot of the causes will be listed as mastitis, pneumonia, metritis, hypocalcemia, ketosis, or other common “diseases” that are actually symptoms of stress or an impaired immune system.

    Is it really any wonder dairy cows average only two lactations?  We have taken an animal that evolved as a forage grazer that had a multitude of plants to chose from as it roamed ove, wide areas.  We have genetically modified this animal to produce an inordinate amount of milk — we feed it a ration composed or only four or five ingredients, mostly legume hay and grain.  As a final insult we confine her to small, cement floored spaces with little opportunity for exercise.  

dead cow

    She can accommodata  such adverse conditions for a while, but soon is overwhelmed and stressed out,  She gives up and checks out.   It will probably be recorded she died because of a bacterial infection.  Go figure! 

Happy Cows Give More Milk

     In the early 1990s I was employed  as a Technical Service Veterinarian by the Impro Company of Waukon, Iowa.   A big part of my job was to provide education meetings on holistic dairy management for clients and potential customers.  The title of one of my talks was “Happy cows give more milk.“ 

      The basic premise was that stress free cows were happy cows and could turn their energy to milk production rather that fighting stress. The presentation centered around standard holistic management strategies to reduce stress.   I still think this concept has much merit.

     On a whim, I submitted a post on the “Happy Cows“ concept to a dairy discussion group I followed on the internet. The response from the list owner, a University professor,  was a strong request for me to never again send such unscientific and frivolous posts to the list.  I was appalled at this example of a closed-off, educated scientific mind. 

     A few weeks ago I reviewed an article entitled  Researchers say happiness turns dairy cows into cash cows   (    The author clearly stated that Happy Cows give more milk.  I was vindicated.  At last someone in academia had stumbled onto the Happy Cows idea. 

     I was so thrilled I looked up my old notes on Happy cows from 1992, and with only a little revision and polishing they are presented below.

Top 10 Steps  for Happier Cows 
and  More profitable Dairying

Genetics Choose genetics for production capacity and not ‘show ring” conformation.  Too straight legs predispose to lameness problems.  Cow have better reproduction if the pin bones are lower than the hip bones. The rumen is about the same size in any size cow.  Larger cows have more abdominal space than the rumen needs and are more prone to displaced abomasums.

Nutrition Beware of excess protein.  Do not feed unnatural feedstuffs such as urea, NPN, fat, or dried manure.  Check for moldy feed, aflatoxins or mycotoxins.  Support the rumen with prebiotics, probiotics, lactobacillus and enzymes. Manage feeding interval and bunk space.  Self feed a variety of individual minerals so animals can balance their mineral needs. 

Water: Check water for nitrates and livestock suitability and culture for Aerobacter and Pseudomonas bacteria. Clean drinking water cups and troughs frequently.  Install water meter to measure consumption.

Stray voltage: Check regularly for stray voltage in all areas of cow contact.

Milking equipment: Check frequently for vacuum levels at the inflations. High vacuum levels at the teat ends or too harsh teat dips can predispose to staph mastitis.

Milking Procedures:  Insure a good let-down and timely milker attachment.

Ventilation Especially important for calves. A calf should never have to breathe air that has been in a cows lungs. 

Care of the udder:  At dry off time, just quit milking, after 5 or 6 days,  when the swelling begins to recede, check the milk in the udder and milk out completely.  Normal looking milk indicates successful dry-off.  If milk appears abnormal begin treatment of choice.

When the cow begins bagging - usually a couple weeks pre calving, check the condition of the milk.  If the milk is abnormal begin milking twice a day and begin treatment.  Pre-partum milking in good for all cow’s udder health.
Culturing flare-ups may indicate patterns of infection.  Staph infection is frequently caused by high teat-end vacuum and strep infection by not getting a proper letdown. 

Reproduction:  Avoid infusing anything into the uterus that you would not squirt into your own eye.

Give calves the best start you can:  If a calf gets sick in the first few months it will never reach its full potential.  At birth, saturate the navel with iodine — milk out the colostrum and feed it to the calf — Dose the calf with a good lactobacillus product.  Raise the calf in a hutch to benefit from limited isolation.

How Hot Is It?

     A recently published report  may blow the lid off the climate change controversy. The peer reviewed analysis is authored by a group of scientists and statisticians who took a closer look at the data used by NASA, NOAA and the Met Office in the UK in their assessment of global average surface temperature. They found  “nearly all” of the alleged ‘warming’ effect was the result of changes made to the data after the temperatures were recorded. The data had been changed to account for other heat sources such as the heat generated by big cities.  

     The question is:  “How much of the data manipulation is real science and how much is political fantasy."  Many folks think the changes were designed to incriminate humans as the cause of global warming.  After examining other historical data, cyclical patterns, and satellite data, the researchers concluded the three data sets mentioned above, “are not a valid representation of reality.”  
(Check out the full report at:

     The city of Phoenix recently reported a high temperature of 117 degrees, breaking a record set in 1905.  — over a century ago.   My wife’s mother was born in 1898 and lived in central Missouri all her life.  I remember her telling us  she remembered one year when she was a young girl that it snowed in every month of that year — again, over a century ago.   These two events confirm to me, even thought we may be in a cyclical warming trend at present, there are widely variable weather patterns going back for  centuries.  Whether the climate change is man-made is, in my opinion, still a matter of conjecture.  

     Some people are, by nature, short sighted, gullible, and easily swayed by so-called scientific data. Individuals relate mostly to their life experience.  Anything that happened before they were born is ancient history.  Maybe this is why older people are less apt to be taken in by the faddish ‘hula-hoop’ predictions of the global warming crowd.  It’s scary to think the median age of the US population is only 38 years old. 

      I suggest we should be  worrying about the present pesticide poisoning of our planet rather than some nebulous event that may or may not occur in the future.     

"Pink Slime" Lawsuit Settled

     I see ABC and BPI have settled the ‘pink slime’ lawsuit.  The suit alleged that back in 2012 ABC made derogatory remarks about BPI’s product,  ‘lean, finely textured beef’ causing it to be nicknamed ‘pink slime'.  The resulting public backlash at the product eroded BPI sales enough to cause the closure of three plants and the layoff of 700 workers.  ’The terms of the settlement   were not revealed but I’m betting the lawyers on both sides made out like bandits.

     I wonder, though, if those folks who balked at eating anything containing ’pink slime’ have ever eaten a hot-dog or a bologna sausage sandwich?    As Mark Twain so aptly put it;  “Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.”  

     I’ve never watched the legislative process but I have seem bologna sausage being mede — and it is not pretty.

      Bologna is mostly made of pork  and contains a lot of lard, so its appearance is similar to pink slime only lighter in color.  Hot-dogs are about the same.  Years ago I saw the allowed ingredient list for both products — among other items it contained lips, gums, mammary tissue, soybean meal, and the Lord only knows what else. .  It’s all finely ground together, spices are added, and then it is extruded into the sausage casings.

 Given an informed choice, I think most folks would prefer the BPI’s 'lean, finely textured beef’ over the bologna or hot-dogs  

     I am more concerned about the coming influx of artificial meat looming on the horizon. I wonder what their labels will look like. They will probably contain GMO grains, MSG, glyphosate and who knows what else.

Stray Voltage

    Sam Milham, an 85 year old physician and an epidemiologist, has authored a book entitled "Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization.”  He claims many diseases of civilization (ranging from from cancer through many chronic diseased to early death) are related to electromagnetic interference (EMI) — dirty electricity.

    He is probably right.  Stray voltage, a common name for EMI exposure, is common in dairy cattle.  Over the years, I have seen many herds with EMI exposure.   Stray voltage can be easily measured with a standard volt meter by measuring the voltage from “cow contact” to ground.  Fluorescent light fixtures and electric fly-zappers were often the culprits.  Old or damaged wiring with poor grounding is frequently at fault.  Premises located between  a power substation and a heavy user of electrical power are subjected damaging electrical ground currents.

   Common symptoms include lower milk production, lower reproductive performance,  and foot and hoof problems.  Other symptoms indicative of a damaged immune system may be present. Animals are about 10 times more sensitive to EMI than humans. Animals are often hesitant to enter an area with high levels of exposure.  

   Correction of stray voltage almost always involves major revisions to the electrical system.  It can be expensive and sometimes not even possible. 

   EMI can obviously affect any species — animals as well as humans.  I have occasionally seen EMI problems in confinement swine facilities.  Given the chance, most animals will avoid areas with high levels of EMI.  Any animal - including horses - confined to an area of stray voltage will be affected.  



Given the pervasive presence of electricity in our environment  —from cell phones to overhead power lines — it is impossible to avoid the effects. 

    If you, or any of your animals, are showing symptoms of immune depletion unresponsive to treatment I would recommend you have the premise checked for stray voltage or EMI.


Does Anybody Remember Posilac?

     A recent article in a major dairy publication bemoaned the fact that very few dairymen still used rBST.  To refresh your memory, rBST  was a controversial hormonal product sold by Monsanto in the 1990s.  Marketed under the brand name Posilac, the product was alleged to increase milk production in dairy cattle' 

     The author stated  the product was driven from the commercial market by consumer … “ignorance, misinformation and fear.”.

     Let’s examine the facts!

     It was known as early as 1937 that a pituitary hormone known as bovine somatotropin (BST) or bovine  growth hormone (BGH) increased milk production of lactating dairy cows.

     In the late 1970s the biotech company, Genentech was able to clone the gene for BST, now known as recombinant BST or rBST.  This opened the door for the production of marketable amounts of the hormone —


     Monsanto teamed with Genentech for commercial development of the product. Their first trial results were published in in 1981. The FDA reviewed the product in 1986 and deemed it safe for human consumption.  In 1994 Monsanto received approval and  began marketing rBST under the brand name Posilac.

     Despite industry hype that Posilac would mean cheaper milk, there were many concerns.  The dairy industry was thought the expected flood of milk might depress milk prices. Consumers worried about the effects on human health. Dairymen worried about health side-effects in their cattle. Critics called for more investigations.  Some Milk companies forbade the use of the product.  In the US, public opinion led some manufacturers and retailers to market only milk that is rBST-free.  Court battle were fought over such labelling. It was a mess. 

     The FDA, WHO, and NIH all claimed diary products and meat from [BST-treated cows are safe for human consumption.  However,  a European Union report on the animal welfare effects of rBST states that its use often results in "severe and unnecessary pain, suffering and distress" for cows, "associated with serious mastitis, foot disorders and some reproductive problems”  

     I believe these effects on animal health were  the actual reason producers began to shun the product — the negative effects on animal health wiped out any elusive profit from increased production.   It was not a great loss to the industry.  It is estimated only about one fourth of US dairies ever used Posilac.  Former Posilac using dairymen soon made up the slight decrease in production by paying more attention to basic good management. Within a year or two, they were producing just as much milk per cow as before — without the side effects.

      This whole episode is a good example of  companies trying to foist off technology on us that we do not need, that does not work, and may be deleterious to human and animals health and to the environment in the long run.  Think glyphosate here.  When these products are rejected by the consumers, they blame consumer ignornce. 

I think it’s time for some technocrats to come down from their industry sponsored ivory tower  and realize that not all technological advances result in something we need — most have no benefits, only risks.  They accuse us natural minded folks of rejecting science while they, in turn, reject the possibility they could be wrong and their science may be fraught with unintended consequences.

Oops, wait a minute, I guess I was wrong — Monsanto shareholders do benefit from their toxic technology.     

Artificial Food

       As if GMO’s and genetically engineered crops were not enough, we are also being inundated with fake food being foisted upon us by commercial scientists. We have hydroponically grown vegetables, grown without soil but still approved as certified organic.  Soy milk and coconut milk is sold as a substitute for real milk.  To top it all off, we have laboratory grown chicken.

     The  latest addition to the list is “Perfect Day”, said to be “a cow milk made without cows.”  Two young biomedical engineering scientists claim to have perfected a process to create a synthetic milk that didn’t come from cows but tasted just like it and had all its nutrients.  I wonder who says it tastes just like cows milk?

     In the process, a 3D printer uses a cow’s DNA blueprint to create a DNA sequence which is inserted into a specific location in the regular yeast. When fermented, the genetically engineered yeast produces what the company refers to as “real milk proteins (casein and whey).”  These proteins are then combinesd with other plant based substances to create the lactose-free milk, which is claimed to be the same as cow’s milk in every meaningful way,” and tastes almost exactly the same.   I question the meaning of the phrases ‘in every meaningful way’ and ‘almost exactly.’ 

     The Perfect Day website states. “Our products are made from real milk proteins combined with plant-based (lactose-free) sugar, healthy plant fats, vitamins, and minerals, they have the same taste and texture as cow’s milk, but pack in more nutrition with no food safety or contamination concerns.”   I believe the statement “…made from real milk. …” is misleading when referring to laboratory modified yeast.

     Seems to me there are a lot of ambiguities in these claims. I doubt it’s the same exact thing found in cow’s milk

     I wonder what’s next?

God save us from running amok scientists!

Learn more:

A Quantum Leap?

     On our recent trip to Missouri, we stopped to look at some friend’s ‘new’ 1936 Buick sedan — a beautiful automobile.  It has an inline 8 cylinder reciprocating engine, using gasoline as fuel. It rides on pneumatic, air inflated rubber tires. It is stylishly aerodynamic. The doors have a solid thunk when closing.  All in all, it truly a classic car. 

     As I stood there admiring the vintage Buick, I glanced over at   my 2015 Toyota Sienna. I realized even with a technological span of 80 years. there were more similarities than differences between the two.

     My Toyota has a V-6 reciprocating engine with gasoline as fuel. It has air-inflated rubber tires.  The brakes, suspension, and steering mechanism are similar.  There have been many improvements and innovation over the 80 years— but no quantum leap in automotive technology.


     In contrast, I call your attention to the Dick Tracy comic strip — written by Chester Gould and first published in 1931.  In 1946, the author added  some innovative technology to the detective’s armamentarium — the 2-Way Wrist Radio.   This fictional device became the defining icon of the comic strip and may have inspired the smart watches and smart phones in common use today.  Truly a quantum leap in electronic technology.

     Some folks claim GMO and GE technology is a quantum leap in agricultural science and I guess they are right.  Seems to me, though, it’s a quantum leap in reverse. The false technology does nothing to  relieve world hunger — as it was touted to do —  and has added million of pounds of toxic pesticides to the environment. It has replaced good healthy food with toxic ‘frankenfood’ that looks like food but has lower nutritive value.  

Colostrum Revisited

     Most cow-calf producers are aware of the importance of colostrum to the immediate health and immunity of newborn calves.  

     Colostrum does more than just help prevent disease in young calves.  There is now evidence colostrum has a long-term impact on health—and the effects persist well into the productive years.  Colostrum transfer is one of the best indicators of how your calves will perform as they reach maturity.

     In addition to the immune factors in colostrum, research indicates there are also concentrated hormones present which influence feed and reproductive efficiency, gain, appetite and how the animal perceives stress long-term.


      Calves that experience scours or respiratory disease at a young age rarely reach their full genetic potential and do not do well as calves or adults. When calves are treated for early respiratory disease before three months of age, they are more likely to die at an early age and to have more calving problems later in life.  As adult’s both males and females exhibit lower reproductive performance. Then too, the use of antibiotics has deleterious long-term effects on feed efficiency. 

Bottom line:  Savvy herdsman know that calves sick at an early age —even if they respond well to treatment—never catch up and should be culled from the herd as soon as feasible and not considered as prospective future replacement. 

Learn more:

Epigenetics: Tracing the health
 of embryos through the generations

     Many livestock experts are prone to pontificate on the importance of  the first 60 days of a calf’s life.  They claim a calf’s highest genomic potential is the day it is born  and it has 60 days to reach its full genetic potential.  They are right, of course, but it is also helpful to take a look backward in time and examine previous generational factors influencing a calf’s health at birth.   

     Epigenetics is the study of changes produced in genetic expression without changes in the underlying genes or DNA sequence.  The genes are like switches that can be turned on or off by diet, toxins, stress, behavior, and other factors. These changes — both good and bad —  can be inherited by future generations.  If you think of a computer as a collection of genes (hardware), then epigenetics would be the computer program (software) that runs the computer.

     In light of the above, the health of a calf at birth is the end result of a series of events beginning at least a generation ago —and possibly as far  back as three or four generation. 

     Simply put,  this newborn calf was a dormant ovum in its mother’s immature ovary when its mother was an unborn calf in its mothers uterus, who was, in turn, a calf in its dam’s uterus, and so on back through several generations.  (See chart)   Anything you do or don’t do for the mother cow will affect future generations of her offspring.  

     One real-life example of epigenetics is the better health and production seen in dairy cattle a generation or two after switching to organic. Nutritious, toxin free organic crops affects genetic expression in a positive way.

     Applied to humans, “. . . if you are of reproductive age, what you eat, drink, breathe or experience can affect the health of your great-grandchildren in the same ay that  as you may be experiencing the effects — good or bad — of your great-grandparents experiences and environment.”

     You can’t change the past but you can use epigenetic principles to manage the diet and environment of your animals  to insure optimum genetic expression. 

     Providing adequate, balanced minerals to all breeding animals, at all times, is the keystone to good nutrition and to the preservation and improvement of genetic expression for future generations. 

525,000 Dead Calves

     On March 23, 2015 I posted a blog entry entitled “Inbreeding” in which I pointed out 49% of today’s Holstein genetic lineage go back to a famous bull known as Chief (Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief).  I commented one of the pitfalls of inbreeding was  diminished reproductive efficiency.

     Now, a recent article in Progressive Dairyman reports genomic research has found a genetic defect in Chief and some of his sons.  This defect has been linked to decreased conception rates and increased stillbirths. It is estimated to be the cause of 525,000 stillborn calf deaths worldwide.  One of the researchers opined the reason it took so many decades to find the problem was because most abortions are blamed on the cow rather than the bull. 

     The PD article states Chief is responsible for 14 percent of the current Holstein genome in the U.S.  The difference between this figure and the 49% quoted above is due to differences in the time period and the degree of relationship sampled.


     Chief’s offspring include more than 16,000 daughters, 500,000 granddaughters, and 2 million great-granddaughters, as well as several sons that became popular sires. Mark, one of Chief’s sons is pictured above.

     This discovery confirms my belief in a more restrained approach to meddling with genetics.  Chief’s problem arose from the relatively benign selective breeding techniques practiced for centuries.  I fear the current craze to indiscriminately mix genetics from different species will someday come back to bite us in the butt. 

     Hopefully, one day soon, we will collectively experience a moment of lucidity, slap ourselves on the forehead and say; “Maybe we ought to be more careful fooling around with Mother Nature”. . . .  but I’m not holding my breath while waiting for it to happen. 

Learn more about Chief at:

Milk Fever

     Each incident of milk fever in dairy cows is estimated to cost the dairyman about $335.00. This figure does not include the cost of subclinical hypocalcemia, or  other often associated conditions such as dystocia, retained placenta, metritis, and displaced abomasum.  Milk Fever or peri-parturient hypocalcemia is caused by failure to maintain adequate levels of blood calcium at calving time.


      Several recent internet articles dealt with strategies to lower the incidence of  milk fever in dairy cows.  All were written by University folks and all contained pertinent information. They all recommended the same old standard fixes: feed pre-fresh cows low calcium and low phosphorus rations and forages (limit pre-fresh cows to no more than 20 g/day of calcium and 80 g/day of phosphorus), feed anionic salts for 21 days before calving, and  treat affected cows as soon as any symptoms are noticed. 

     The common thread seems to be  to  micro-manage the mineral consumption of all animals to conform to commonly accepted parameters.  Given the variability of forages and feeds this may be difficult to implement on many farms.  One writer warned against allowing cows “selective consumption” of forages and advised to discontinue free-choice mineral feeding and to force feed all minerals.  This mind set disregards individual variation of needs. If all minerals are force fed in a TMR, some cows get too much, some get too little, and only a few get what they need.

     One author did point out that high levels of calcium and potassium in the blood caused the  'bone to blood pathways' of calcium mobilization to shut down.  After calving, it takes about 72 hours to reestablish this process—during which time the fresh cow is prone to milk fever. 

      I was disappointed no one mentioned the role of maintaining a proper dietary calcium/phosphorus ratio in the last three weeks of pregnancy.  Mineral balance is oft times more important than absolute amounts.


      The ‘keystone concept’ they all missed is this. If dairy cows have free-choice access to separate calcium and phosphorus sources, they will self-adjust their individual Ca/P ratios and not disrupt the calcium mobilization pathway mentioned above.  When they calve they are less susceptible to milk fever.  

     I guess until dairymen, and nutritionists, discover the nutritional wisdom of cows  they will have to accept the current incidence of  milk fever—estimated to be 25 percent calving with clinical milk fever and another 25 percent calving with sub-clinical milk fever.

You might want to check out my article, “Addressing Milk Fever in Your Organic Dairy Herd.” —originally published in  Holistic Veterinary Practice  Dairy Herd Network   July 30, 2009.    

It can be viewed at:

Earthworms - Nature’s Soil Builders

Other than for fishing, I first became aware of the value of earthworms back in the 1960s.  Many farmers were then  beginning to transition from harsh NPK fertilizers to more natural soil amendments—lime, gypsum, rock phosphate, and manure. With the renewal of health in the soil, great numbers of the dormant earthworm eggs hatched.  I recall one incident where the migration of newly hatched earthworms onto the roads bordering the fields resulted in slick roads as the worms were crushed by the traffic.

Some points to ponder about earthworms:

  • Earthworms are damaged by deep cultivation, drought, toxic fertilizers, heavy metals, and most agricultural chemicals. 
  • Populations of earthworms may vary from 30/m2 in intensively farmed fields to 450/m in organic soils.  250 per square meter equals about a million per acre. A thriving earthworm population is an indication of healthy soil.  Healthy soil contains more life under the surface than can be grown above the surface.
  • Earthworms replenish the soil with their excrement.  Earthworm castings—the little piles of poop on the soil surface—are estimated to be tons per acre. These castings contain 3 times more available Calcium; 2 times more available Magnesium, 5 times more available nitrogen, 7 times more available phosphorus, and 11 times more available potassium than the soil they inhabit.
  • Earthworms burrow through the top layers of soil to reach a stable, damp depth.   These burrows aerate the soil  and allow deeper penetration by  plant roots.
  • A healthy soil full of earthworms can absorb up to 150 liters of water per  square meter per hour thus helping to prevent soil erosion.
  • The common earthworm feasts on rotting, bacteria-rich plant matter it finds on the soil’s surface.  To encourage earthworm populations farmers  should leave some plant residue after harvest and use a cover crop such as grass during winter to provide food for the worms.   
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Nature’s soil builders and rejuvenators—earthworms—are under threat.  Their population continues to dwindle because of industrial agricultural practices. 


Protecting these unsung  heroes of the soil as they work unseen and underground   should be an agricultural goal.

A Timely Quote 

0923 WVgovt

do not contribute, skeptics
do not create, doubters
do not achieve."
Bryant S. Hinckley

Chewing On Wood

   A recent article in a popular equine magazine addressed a question about horses chewing wood.  A subscriber had written in wondering why her mare would chew on wood, and eat shavings and poop when her access to pasture was restricted.

  The author opined the problem was most likely low dietary fiber, because of  the low forage intake when not on pasture.  It was recommended to provide extra hay to compensate for the lack of pasture forage.

  Confinement, boredom, and lack of activity were also mentioned as possibly contributing to the problem. .  I have no doubt these factors—and probably others—are implicated in abnormal appetites for non-food items.

 I was dismayed that a lack of minerals was not considered as a possible cause.  Mineral imbalances are often associates with aberrant appetites if not the primary cause of many,  With today’s twin problems of low-mineralized feeds and limited access to pasture, most domestic animals need some extra mineral supplements. 

Stewart Jackie kw 1- edited 2-2-17 wk

In an earlier time, a phosphorus deficiency was thought to be the cause of chewing wood.  but with the decline in soil fertility  other deficiencies can also cause pica.  

   It is prudent for all horse owners to provide a supplemental source of minerals.  Given the choice of a variety of mineral formulas, horse will balance their mineral needs  and avoid at least one cause of chewing wood or eating dirt. As shown in the image, the feeder need not be elaborate. 

Too Many Horses

   A formerly satisfied user of the cafeteria-style mineral program told me he could no longer use it because he now has too many horses. He explained; it was easy to provide individual access to minerals on a daily basis when he only had a few horses, but with almost 50 head it was impossible. Many have this problem because they do not understand that animals do not need continuous access to minerals. 

    In the wild, horses, cattle, bison, and other grazers did not have a steady daily exposure to all minerals.  

    They would graze over wide areas, giving them  access to  a multitude of plants—each with a different array of nutrients and minerals. When available, they utilized natural occurring minerals licks to augment the plant sources.  

   During good grazing seasons, they could more than meet their immediate mineral needs. Any excess was put into a “storage pool” in the liver as a reserve for use during the seasonal lean times.  

   I suggested the herd owner install a feeder set-up in one central location, perhaps an exercise paddock or any area to which all his animals had occasional access. 

Animals can meet their mineral needs if they can get to a cafeteria-style mineral feeder once or twice a week. 

It Costs Too Much

    People occasionally tell me that they like the  concept of the cafeteria style mineral program but it costs too much.  This automatically triggers my mental  rebuttal - “Compared to what?”   

   When I have the chance to actually engage them in a conversation about price their responses range from a forceful - “I, (or someone they know) tried, it but the animals  ate so much of a couple of items that it was more than I could afford”--- to a timorous - “Well, … well … well, it just does cost too much!”  Rarely have I encountered anyone who knew the approximate cost per head per day of any mineral program. 

   It is difficult to arrive at an average cost as there are   many variables that influence both need and consumption of minerals.  In my experience, when properly presented under normal conditions, the cafeteria style self-select mineral program  is no more expensive than conventional feeding practices - and probably a lot more economical in the long run.  Being fixated on cost alone overlooks the more pertinent question; “Is it cost effective?” - a much better gauge of value than price. 

   Animals will eat minerals and vitamins to meet their needs.  If they are eating what appears to be excessive amounts it is almost always the result of poor nutritional management, environmental variations, or both.  For example, high protein rations, feeding urea or other non-protein nitrogen, water or feed that is high in nitrates, all tie-up Vitamin A. Feeding old hay, usually deficient in Vitamin A, contributes to the problem.  The resulting Vitamin A deficiency also causes stress which increases the need for B Vitamins. The end result is that the animals will need and eat larger amounts of Vitamins A and B.     It can become expensive — but not as expensive as ignoring the problem.  Attention to the underlying nitrate problem will lower consumption

   The real issue is not what it costs to use it, but what it costs if you don’t use it.

The Stable

 I wrote this little essay in the early 1970’s. It was published in the local newspaper - The Chillicothe Missouri Constitution Tribune - around Christmas time of that year.

     In the summertime my stable hibernates. Its life-floe is at low ebb. Seemingly dead, it is kept barely alive by the flutter of swallows swift wings, the scurry of mice, and the occasional intrusion of a stray cat. Except for these interruptions, its sleep is sound. The horses won’t come in, for to them the summer stable means saddles, sweat and separation from their beloved shade tree next to the pond in the upper pasture. The cattle stay away because…well, cows are beyond comprehension…they are very independent when their bellies are full of good green grass and their udders are full of sweet, rich milk to nourish the fat little darlings at their side.

     Nature can change all this in only a few hours. Her tools are snow sleet, blizzard winds, and temperatures that drop as quickly as a skier on a steep, snowy slope. Science tells us that activities slow down as the temperature falls, but then they may never have visited a stable on the magic night of the first cold snap of winter.

     Tonight was such a night. My stable was suddenly alive and I knew it even before I opened the door. I hesitated as I groped for the light-switch and stood in the dark for a moment or two to savor the scents and sounds of a stable returning to life. I listened to the soft whicker of remembrance as the horses acknowledged my entrance - my nose sensed the acid-sweet aroma of cattle’s breath. Even the penetrating odor of fresh manure was a refreshing signal that life had returned. 

    I turned on the light! The suspicious calves kept darting in and out, as if unable to decide if their dam provided security enough to protect them from the unfamiliar glare of lights. The older cattle were arrogant in their unspoken demands for something to eat besides the bitter, frosted grass in the now snow-covered meadow. The soft, brown, blinking eyes of the horses were almost apologetic as they begged for sugar, or oats, or anything to show that they were forgiven for a summer of rebellion.

     It was good to have them back.  After a pat for some, a soothing word for others, and a handout of feed for all, I started back to the warmth of my living room fireplace. The northwest wind was bitter cold. Even the normally boisterous Collies were well behaved as they pranced at my side. I think they sensed, as I did: “What a perfect place a stable is for the Son of God to enter his Kingdom!”


Minerals Are Team Players

A fellow approached me with a question about one of ABC’s products. His nutritionist had recommended he add some B vitamins to his rations.  He was wondering if the BVC-Mix would be suitable. I think I shocked him  when I told him that there were probably other and better choices. I went on to explain the BVC-Mix was not designed to be a stand-alone ration additive.  It was formulated to be one part of a specialized group of minerals and vitamins to be separately self fed to livestock in a cafeteria setting. The BVC-Mix was specifically designed not only to provide a source of B vitamins but also to provide other ingredients that support the production of essential vitamins in the gastrointestinal tract of the target animals.  It is part of the team - a team with up to 15 other players.  The players on the team, work together, to supply balanced vitamins and minerals to the animals.   

   Consider Mulder’s Wheel. This mineral wheel shows interactions of of some 21  minerals - out of a total of 118 that have been identified.  Any change to one element affects at least 2 more and each of those affects two more etc. Deficiencies or excesses of some elements alter the availability of other elements. These are individualized with regard to what the animals eat on a daily basis and further modified by individual variations in daily requirements of each separate mineral.  I doubt even a modern computer could sort it out but an animal, with the help of a team of minerals and vitamins can make the adjustment to its daily requirements.  

                                         Go Team !

   What would happen if you pulled a couple of members from a baseball or basketball team?

  What would it sound like if you silenced every 12th instrument of a concert orchestra or every 12th singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

   What would happen if you disconnected the wires from 2 or 3 of the spark plugs in the motor of a  @1930’s V16 Cadillac?

   What happens to animals when they do not have the 12 or 16 member mineral and vitamin team available to them?    

Why Organic?

   Kudo’s to the staff of Acres, USA for another great conference held at Omaha Nebraska from November 30 to December 2. It was gratifying to see and visit with old friends and acquaintances we have known and worked with for many years.  It was inspiring to feel the positive energy of the group. It is enlightening to visit with folks who have been involved in the organic movement as well as those just getting started.. 

   When meeting new folks at these meetings I like to find out what prompted them to join the organic crusade —- what was the turning point or the catalyst that influenced their decision.

   As you could imagine, the answers to my questioning are varied, fascinating, and covered a wide spectrum. Many of the younger set grew up on an organic farm.  Some folks made the switch because of bad experiences with toxic farm chemicals. A common thread is the concern about the quality and purity of our food supply.  Most are committed to the concept, originally promulgated by Dr. Wm Albrecht, that it takes healthy soil to have healthy crops, and healthy crops to have healthy animals and people. 

   Unfortunately, some admit to being in the organic market just for the extra money.  I believe that is the least desirable reason.  Without a strong dedication to basic natural principles it is easy to ‘fall out of the boat’ when financial tides get a little rough. 

   I can remember back in the early 1970’s when I first encountered what we now call “organic” production.  Some of these old-timers were ‘organic’ because they had never bought into the NPK fiasco and its related rescue chemicals. Some tried chemical farming for a while and then quit early on as they saw the deleterious effects on soil, crop, and animal health. The lower inputs and increased animal health experienced by these early natural farmers resulted in profitable enterprises even though they competed, without premiums, in the same market as conventional farmers.

 Magazines such as Acres, USA, Organic Gardening and Farming, and The Mother Earth News were a great help to those transitioning to a better way.

   Why are you organic?

Personality-Plus Pigs 

Researchers in the  U.K. claim to have demonstrated that the outlook of pigs is influenced by their mood and personality.

The test pigs had access to two different feeding bowls — one with sweet feed (representing a positive outcome) and one with bitter feed (a negative outcome). The reactions of these pigs were observed when a third "ambiguous" bowl of feed was introduced and then classified as proactive/ optimistic or reactive/pessimistic.

One of the researcher’s opined that:  “Pigs living in a worse environment were more pessimistic, and those in a better environment were much more optimistic”. The details of how these assessment were made seemed vague and did not specify  what constituted a “worse” or “better” environment. 


It is an intriguing concept.  I know pigs are smart - maybe the smartest of all our domestic animals. The idea that pigs have personalities and moods and experience optimism and pessimism is a little bit of a stretch.  But, them I believe most animals are smarter than we give them credit for. 

If research like this continues and becomes part of the animal rights movement it might open up many new avenues for the practice of veterinary medicine.  

I can see it now - large pig farms and perhaps even dairies and feedlots would be required to have veterinary psychiatrists on staff to identify and alleviate  the physiological stresses of domestic animals.  Pig Shrinks?  Cow Shrinks? It boggles the mind. 

Many years ago I explored the possibility of starting a canine psychiatry practice — but, then I realized that most dogs aren’t allowed on the couch. <VBG> 

To read more about this fascinating report, check out:

Laboratory Testing for Trace Minerals

    An article in a recent issue of a prominent dairy magazine dealt with the problems of trace mineral deficiency diagnosis. One of the problems associated with testing for trace minerals is that some are found in the ‘transport pool’ in the blood and other are in a ‘storage pool” in the liver.   

    Unfortunately, serum concentration of most trace minerals can vary for many reasons, including; pregnancy, lactation, inflammation, weather, etc, etc   Bioavailability can also be affected by the presence of mineral antagonists.

    The author pointed out there are new testing techniques available that are sensitive and accurate. Samples of blood, serum, liver tissue, milk and urine can be tested, but databases of ‘normal’ parameters are lacking.

   With so many variables involved, I am skeptical of blood testing for mineral content.  It may be extremely accurate, but is, at best, only a ‘snapshot’ of what is happening at that particular instant in time.   Hair analysis would provide a broad panorama of mineral metabolism.

    As I read the article, it seemed that laboratory diagnosis of trace mineral imbalances was a daunting task and not all that accurate.  Applying the results of individual or small group testing to large groups negates any allowance for individual variation of mineral needs.  Force feeding a computer-generated mineral ration has a very good chance of adding to the problems rather than reducing them.

    There is, of course, a better way.  Take advantage of the animal’s innate nutritional wisdom, and provide a broad array of individual minerals for their individual evaluation.  It’s the natural way and it works. 

Selective Dry-Cow Therapy

   Many folks in the dairy industry are beginning to question the almost universal practice of dry-cow treating all their cows with intra-mammary antibiotics.  This is done in the hope that it will cure existing cases of subclinical mastitis and to prevent new cases from occurring at calving. 


    Probably the main reason for this change in thinking is the growing evidence that antibiotics used in livestock can result in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that are difficult to treat in humans.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that one way to reduce antibiotic exposure is to only treat the animals that need treatment. Duh!    Research has indicated that as many as 70% to 80% of quarters are not infected at dry-off, and thus may not require dry cow therapy.

   The key to selective dry cow therapy is to identify the the cows and quarters that need treatment.  There are several options recommended to accomplish this, including: The California Mastitis Test (CMT). somatic cell count (SCC) tests, veterinary lab culturing of milk samples, and using on the farm culturing labs. The sensitivity rate of these procedures varies from 50% to (90% accuracy. 

   All of this costs time and money.  The University of Minnesota has estimated that the payback for selective dry-cow therapy is $2.62 per cow.  

    For dairymen who are unable or unwilling to do this, there is a tried and true, low tech way to identify the infected cows.  When it’s dry-off time quit milking the cow. It takes five or six days for the cow’s hormonal system to switch from milk production to no milk production.  After this five or six days, sanitize the udder and milk out some secretion.  It should look like regular milk.   Any abnormal signs in this secretion - watery, clotting, bloody, snotty, off color, bad odor - is an indication of infection and that quarter should be treated.  Whether the milk if normal or not, a good practice is to milk out all quarters at this time to aid in the involution of udder tissue. 

    Conventional dairymen will probably treat affected quarters with antibiotics.  It is also recommended to infuse teat sealants into all quarters. That procedure can introduce infection into the unprotected mammary gland. 

   Holistic or organic dairymen have more choices;  colostrum-whey products, herbs, homeopathy and others.  If using these products. it is best to check the milk every four or five days and treat again if indicated.  This methods supports and enhances immune response and works with the innate physiology of the animal.  These treatments generally work well in animals whose immune system is not already greatly compromised by stress, malnutrition, or exposure to toxic ag chemical in their environment.

Feedstuffs Analysis

The Feedstuffs magazine I received  recently contained the Feedstuffs Ingredient Analysis Table: 2017 Edition.  This summary is published every year and contains basic nutritional data on most commonly available feedstuffs. I knew I had the 1977 Edition in my files and surmised that a comparison of some of the data would be interesting.   Little did I realize that it would raise more questions than it answers.

Here is a comparison chart of three common feedstuffs.  

I anticipating that there would be some changes in nutritive value  but found only four is this admittedly small sample.

  • There was a 10 percent increase in phosphorus levels in corn.
  • There was a 16 percent decline in crude protein in corn.
  • There was a 19 percent decline in crude protein in wheat.
  • There was a 27  percent decline in ash or mineral content in corn.

The most astounding thing to me was the absence of change.  In 40 years, the analysis of dehydrated alfalfa meal was exactly the same - ditto for all the rest of the data in the chart. 

Specifically, I am curious to know how crude protein in corn and wheat  can decline 16 to 19 percent respectively and  the ruminant digestible protein not vary at all?.   

I know there could be some difference because of changes in analysis techniques and I know they are averages - but almost everything being identical after 40 years makes me suspicious of the validity of this data.  If at all possible, we should rely on individual testing of any feedstuffs included in out livestock rations.

A Case Study 

One of our ABC consultants called me the other day with a problem. One of his client’s buffalos had died. The Vet did some blood work and reported low iron, copper and selenium levels. 

The entire herd - over 100 head - was on the cafeteria style mineral program . The customer wanted to know which of our products to add to overcome these deficiencies. 

Whoa! Back up the truck. Blood analysis from one animal that died of unknown causes is not a good reason to change the mineral program.


Many disease conditions, not necessarily related to mineral consumption, can cause aberrations in​ blood mineral levels. I’m skeptical of the value of a single blood analysis to gauge mineral levels.  A blood test is like a ‘snapshot picture’; it shows only the immediate, transient situation. Hair analysis gives a better  indication of mineral balance over  a period of time. 

The first priority in this case would be do get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of death.  I doubt the animal died of a mineral deficiency, as the rest of the herd appeared healthy. Iron deficiency is rare in animals.  In fact, many minerals contain an excess of iron, which ties up copper. cobalt, manganese and zinc.  High iron in the water can also be a problem.

 There appears to be some issues with their water.  The owner reported the animals preferred rainwater out of puddles to the well water.  Excesses of some minerals in the water could tie up other minerals. 

It would be interesting to know if they were feeding other mineral products and if the minerals were always available to all animals or if some were consumed and not replenished in a timely manner - especially Copper and Selenium.

I don’t know how all this will evolve until all the facts are assembled, which may not ever happen.  However, the situation does point out that  we should not only “see everything we look at,” (previous blog post), but we need to look beyond the obvious for solutions.

An Apolitical Political  Observation

You cannot get the water 

to clear up until you get 

the pigs out of the creek!

pigs wallowing in mud

The Semmelweis Reflex

My friend and former colleague  Robert "Dr Bob" Scott,DVM would often lecture students and scholars alike  about the importance of seeing everything you look at. This is a corollary to the  scriptural admonition found in Matthew 11:15;  “,,, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

 Laying aside any spiritual (or political) aspects of that concept, what are some things that we commonly look at but do not see.

One example; in spite of a broad array of research revealing evidences of animal intelligence, most livestock owners  still scoff at the notion that our domestic animals have nutritional wisdom.  Perhaps, they equate the eating behavior of animals  in a CAFO with that of relatively unconfined animals allowed at least a modicum of choice to satisfy their individual needs for energy, protein, fiber, and minerals. 

When promoting the benefits of cafeteria-style mineral feeding, I am often reminded of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, a mid-nineteenth century Hungarian physician who practiced in a birthing clinic in Vienna.  Appalled by the high incidence of, the often fatal, childbed or puerperal fever in his  patients, Dr. Semmelweis developed techniques that lowered the incidence from over 30% to less than 5%. When he strongly suggested that his colleagues at the clinic use the same technique, they ridiculed  the idea. Dr. Semmelweis accused them of being murderers if they did not implement his procedures.  The strife escalated. A preconceived concept of reality coupled with professional arrogance did not allow the other doctors to see what they looked at.  Dr. Semmelweis was eventually committed to an insane asylum and was beaten to death by the guards.

Oh, I almost forgot!  The earth-shaking sin that Semmelweis advocated was that doctors should wash their hands between examinations of obstetrical patients in the clinic.

In spite of all this, Dr, Semmelweis’  legacy it to be remembered as  the Savior of Mothers and for  the Semmelweis Reflex, a metaphor for the tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs for paradigms. 

When does your Semmelweis Reflex kick in?

Adaptation Curve

On one of our recent trips, we drove past a large confinement dairy.  My wife, Ruth, opined that those poor cows probably never had the chance to eat grass in a pasture.  She was correct. Organic dairies require some access to pasture but others do not.  Some dairy cattle can spent their entire short lives eating only the ration prepared for them. 

It’s a funny thing, though, if cows that have never grazed are suddenly turned out on pasture, they generally do not do well — at least for a while.  The cows have to go through what Dr. Provenza calls an “adaptation curve” —  a variable time period of higher stress and lowered productivity  while they adjust to the new situation.  In other words, it take a while for them to learn how to eat grass. 

I believe recognizing adaptation curves is an essential part of a holistic outlook. Here are a couple of examples. 

Feed flavors derived from what Mom eats are present in the amnionic fluid surrounding unborn calves and in the colostrum milk consumed by newborn calves.  Newborn calves are slow to eat feeds that do not match these previously encountered flavors.  If a dairyman wants to get his baby calves off to a good start, he should make sure the mother cow’s ration in late pregnancy contains some of the ingredients - feed flavors - that will be present in the ration first offered to the calves. This avoids the unwanted effects of the adaption curve.

Individual cows and groups of cattle that are moved from one farm to another experience an adaptation curve. The stress of moving can exacerbate dormant health  and production problems.  Anticipation of these effects and timely remedial action can be of great benefit.

Grazing cattle

Professional Evolution

Over the last 60 years, in my progression from conventional veterinarian to holistic veterinarian,  I have advanced through three ascending levels.

While in conventional veterinary practice, I was oft engaged in ripping ovaries out of dogs and cats, relieving horses, cattle, and pigs of their testicles, and dehorning cattle.  When I was called to treat sick animals, I used convention drugs — which hopefully alleviated the symptoms but did not attack the cause. After about 15 years, as my awareness of holistic principles grew, I realized that I was more of a drug pusher than a doctor. I was using pharmaceuticals to cover up symptoms caused by mismanagement or gross ignorance. 

When I began working for the Impro Company, it was a step up. I had more opportunity to teach natural principles of animal health. But, I was still recommending products that treated the symptoms — now with natural products instead of drugs. 

My affiliation with Advanced Biological Concepts gave me the opportunity to teach and to recommend products and management strategies that support animal health on the most basic level — balanced cellular mineral nutrition.  

Working with the folks associated wth ABC has been the high point of my veterinary experience.. I am thankful to have had this opportunity and will be forever grateful to Jim and Gwen Helfter for providing it. 

Linus Pauling was the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes. He said; “You can trace every disease and every infection  to a mineral deficiency from unequally yoked energy fields.”

New Monsanto Technology 

Monsanto says their people and Harvard University scientists have come up with yet  another way to kill pesticide resistant pests. They claim that they can use something called PACE (phage-assisted continuous evolution) technology, to quickly identify proteins that have superior properties to kill pests.  Since this new method is 100 times faster, they hope to subdue the resistant pests before the culprits develop even more resistance.  Good Luck, Monsanto. The bugs and weeds have outfoxed you at every turn so far. I bet they will do it again. 


Their press release did not address the probability that newly identified “killer” proteins could and would probably have deleterious effects on other organisms besides the targeted species.  Biological overkill has happened before.  Will these new toxins be any different?

One of their spokesperson said they wanted to help the farmer get the most out of every acre.  Why don’t they do research to try to grow toxin-free food on every acre and bring safe, healthy food to the consumer?

I guess you have to give Monsanto credit, though.  They are persistent. They keep trying to fleece the public even while their empire is in a tailspin, with sales down over 25 percent, and most of Europe trying to kick them out. 

Yogurt for Livestock: Deja Vu, all over again!


It is well documented that antibiotics in livestock feed lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria—a severe threat to human health. A researcher at Iowa State University is investigating the use of Lactobacillus acidophilus as an aid to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock feed. L. acidophilous is found in yogurt. 


When I just a kid, I spent a lot of time on my Uncle Gustav’s farm in Missouri. That was 75 years ago. He and Aunt Anna seasonally milked eight or ten cows - by hand.  The milk was ‘separated’ and the cream was sold to a company in St. Louis.  The skim milk quickly went “sour” as a result of the naturally occurring Lactobacillus acidophilus.  He fed the clabbered milk to his pigs and chickens.  They were all productive and healthy. 

In the 1960’s I started using and recommending lactobacillus products in my veterinary practice.  I used a product called Kulactic - from a company in Mason City, Iowa. I prescribed it for diarrhea and other intestinal problems in animals and sometimes even in humans.  Some folks ridiculed the idea, but, those that used it liked the results. 

Commercial Lactobacillus products have been available for at least 50 years. I wonder why the universities waited so long to research a natural product. I’m guessing they were caught up in the antibiotic craze and totally enthralled by the lavish amounts of grant-money available for antibiotic research.

It is gratifying to see university scientists finally taking a look at the empirical technology of a bygone era.
Kudos to these researchers. 

Learn more:

Tools of the Trade.

The other day when I had my van in for service, I noticed the fine array of wrenches and other tools available for use by the mechanic.  Since I am a guy who feels fully equipped if I have more than one adjustable crescent wrench, I was impressed not only by the sheer numbers of the different tools but also by the specific applications for some of them.  Given the necessary skills, the mechanic had all the tools he needed to take apart and put back together the complex engines that power today’s vehicles

I remembered then some things I learned years ago from my good friend and veterinary colleague, Dr. Bob Scott.  Bob had a unique way of looking at things and could translate complicated subjects into an easy to understand broad overview using simple analogies.  Here is his view of the role of minerals in plants and animals.

Plants are made up of air and water.  If you combine carbon, as from carbon dioxide with oxygen and hydrogen (also from air or water), you have the basic building block of starch, sugar or carbohydrates.   Add nitrogen to this basic formula and you have an amino acid or a basic building block for protein. 

If you burn a plant thus reducing it to ash you are left with that part of the plant that came from the soil -- usually around 5 %.   Therefore, 95% of the makeup of plants comes from air and water, combined by the sunshine generated miracle of photosynthesis. 

Minerals are nature’s “tools” that enables this process to proceed.   They are basic to the enzyme systems that catalyze the storage of the sun’s energy into the chemical bonds within the plant itself.  The major elements are the big wrenches, and the smaller wrenches are the trace minerals.  All are essential. Any deficiency or imbalance limits the production and the quality of the crops grown.  If some elements are lacking in the soil, they will be lacking in the crop.  If they are lacking in the crop, they will be lacking in the animal that eats the crop.

When an animal consumes plants the same tools used by the plant to combine the CHO & N to store energy are needed to break down chemical bonds and release energy to power the metabolic processes of life and production.    If the plant doesn’t have enough built-in tools (minerals), extra tools must be provided.  Most of our soils are so depleted in minerals that it is almost a given that some mineral supplementation is necessary, especially to arrive at the high levels of productivity that we strive for today.  Without the mineral tools, proper digestion and assimilation of the energy in the feeds simply does not take place.

Even without computers, animals are smarter than man when it comes to balancing their individual needs for the elements of nutrition, especially the major, minor and trace minerals. Providing a choice in mineral supplementation allows the animals to pick the tools they need without being totally locked-in to only the tools recommended by the computer.

Most farmers probably wouldn’t think much of a mechanic that tried to overhaul a tractor with a screwdriver, a pair of pliers and a couple of crescent wrenches.  Unfortunately, in their role as animal caretakers, some livestock men seem to think that a cheap sack of high calcium minerals and a trace mineral salt block are all the tools needed by our livestock to utilize fully the energy stored in our feeds.  They are wrong!


Accidental GMOs ?

A couple of scientists -- one from Rutgers here in the U.S. and one from the Max Plank Institute in Germany -- have extensively studied plant grafting.  They found that some grafted plants could exchange chloroplasts, organelles that carry out photosynthesis and also mitochondria,  energy-generating organelles – across the grafts.


They point out that farmers have been altering plants for thousands of years by grafting branches that bear delicious fruit into disease-resistant roots. They conclude that, since graåfting has been widely used for millennia, it is an unintentional form of genetic engineering and we have accidentally been eating GMO’s for centuries.

I think this is really a thinly-veiled attempt to legitimize the flawed “science’ of genetic modification.  Grafting fruiting branches of an apple tree to resistant roots is a far cry from irresponsibly mixing genetics from vastly different species.

I don’t know what these guys are ‘smokin’ but they are now trying to use grafting to create new species, such as a tomato-chilli mix - which would undoubtedly be a great boon for mankind by making it easier to make salsa. 

Who pays for this stuff?

For all the sordid details go to:

NOTE:  The first one of my children or grand-children who lets me know that they have read this blog post will receive one troy ounce of pure silver. Offer expires 28 March 2016.   <VBG>


            Ring - Ring

            The receptionist answers the phone,  "XYZ Enterprises."

            Caller: "Hi, this is Sam Hill".

            "Good morning, Mr. Hill.  How can I help you today?

            "I bought some of your BAC-X product a while ago.  I feed it to a
            lot of poultry and I was wondering if you could take out the BAC
            and sell me just the premix?” 

            "Mr. Hill, we can't do that.  The BAC is the active ingredient in

            "I know, but it isn't working like I thought is should and it's very

            "Mr. Hill, are you feeding it according to directions?  Looking at
             your order history, I see you should be out of the product by now.
             Do you need to    reorder?”

            "No.  I still have plenty left. We only use it when we have a

The edited dialogue above typifies a general misunderstanding that many folks have about holistic products for livestock nutrition.

The BAC-X product mentioned above is actually a biologically active product designed to support a healthy digestive tract in poultry, ruminants, horses and swine.  While it does help in problem cases, its most economical use is to stabilize and support a healthy gut on a continuous basis.

It is obvious that Mr. Hill does not understand organic principles and does not realize that prevention costs less than treatment.  He was using the product to solve a problem rather than to enhance health.

Mr. Hill also seems unaware that changing a tried-and-true feed formula is seldom warranted and may result in increased expense in the cost of tags, labels, registration, and inventory. 

Expensive is a relative term.  It is better to think in terms of “cost-effectiveness”.  A product can be expensive if it doesn't cost much but fails to do the job.     Conversely, a product could cost a lot of money but its beneficial effects could return greater production and profit.   There are two ways to evaluate cost: what does it cost to use a product and what does it cost if you don’t use it.

Bottom Line.   Select a good product from a good company and use it as directed,

Organic vs Conventional: A Perennial Debate

An article in the journal Nature Plants says that organic foods contain less (or no) pesticide residues, compared to conventionally grown crops.    On the other hand, a USDA report says 40 different synthetic pesticide residues were detected in organic food samples at levels similar to those seen in comparable conventional food samples.   It’s hard to know whom to believe. 

7352143706 38ea8f0744 z

Pesticide contamination in organic crops is often attributed to accidental spray drift or cross-contamination in harvesting and storage bins.  That may be true, but almost a quarter of the chemicals detected were insecticides that have been banned for decades. 

It helps to consider these 2 points.  

  • The term “organic” only designates food produced in soils without chemical exposure for a minimum of 3 years.  There is a great variation in the amount of previous contamination.
  • It takes years - maybe decades, or maybe even centuries - for some of these chemical to degrade or to leach from the soil. During that time the residues continue to contaminate crops.

Given the choice, I would prefer produce from a long-term organic farm to that from one that barely meets the 3 years requirement.

A last word of comfort: the USDA stated that in either case the residue amounts are too small to be a health or safety concern. 
If you believe that, well . . .  ?

A Better Dry-Cow Treatment

At a recent meeting of the National Mastitis Council (NMC) one of the discussion groups zeroed in on dry cow treatment. It was pointed out that although blanket dry cow antibiotic therapy was still recommended by NMC, and still allowed in the US, it was no longer acceptable in some countries because of ever more restrictive regulations.

Among the alternate strategies discussed were: taking a more whole-farm approach to prevention and restricting treatment to only the infected quarters as revealed by culturing.

Here is a better idea - a four-step program that relies on the physiology of the bovine beast.

·      When it’s time to dry off a cow just quit milking her.  A cow must have a tight udder for five or six days for her hormonal system to get the message to quit producing milk. Milking her out to relieve the pressure and discomfort before this time is up only prolongs the process

·      After the five or six days, when the udder swelling begins to recede, sanitize the teats and milk out some milk. Normal appearing milk indicates a healthy udder.  If this is the case, completely milk-out the udder, sanitize the teats and rejoice in the knowledge that for now at least the udder is healthy. 

·      Occasionally at this time the milk will show abnormalities such as chunks, clots, watery, slimy, bloody streaks or anything that does not look like normal milk. In that event, milk out the udder, begin your treatment of choice and rejoice that you have discovered the problem before it gets worse. 

·      Continue the treatment, check the milk and strip out the udder every few days for as long as necessary to clear up the problem. If you let her go completely dry while she has an infection, she will almost certainly have the same problem when she freshens. 

I realize these procedures go against the grain of most dairy advisors.  I am under no illusions that many will try this method.  I do know that the cows owned by the brave souls who do try it will greatly benefit. 

For more about the NMC meeting visits:

An Apolitical Political Statement


As the Iowa caucus draws near, I am reminded that Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time.  

It appears to me that this applies to our political process. Every election cycle we seem to fall for the same old political promises and rhetoric. We vote for the same old political hacks - from either party.  Once elected they immediately begin fund raising for the next election.  Honoring the Constitution and serving the folks that elected them is way down on their to-do list.  I think it’s time to break the strangle-hold these 500 politicians have on our country. 


We have the chance to vote for a successful businessman who is untainted by previous political involvement and who is not beholden financially to campaign contributors
 — not taking this opportunity to save
our country may be a form of insanity. 


Do what you've always done; get what you've always got!

What say Ye?


Glucosamine and Equine Joint Health

Notwithstanding that here is conflicting evidence regarding the use of glucosamine for the management of osteoarthritis in any species; glucosamine is a common ingredient in oral joint health supplements that are widely administered to horses with osteoarthritis. Their continued and successful use is a testimony to their effectiveness.

In a recent Canadian study by Laverty and colleagues, researchers compared the pharmacologic properties of two different forms of glucosamine--hydrochloride and sulfate. Test horses were administered clinically relevant doses of glucosamine hydrochloride or glucosamine sulfate (20 mg/kg) via nasogastric intubation.

At one and six hours after administration, they found significantly higher levels of glucosamine in synovial fluid samples from horses receiving the oral glucosamine sulfate than in those receiving glucosamine hydrochloride.

Laverty pointed out that it is not clear whether these differences in synovial fluid levels will have a real, clinical impact on horses with osteoarthritis.  Further research is required.

Learn more:

Equine Dehydration

Dehydration in horses may be caused by an imbalance of the primary electrolyte ions: sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium.  Heavy training, hot weather and decreased consumption or availability of water may also contribute to the problem.

Signs of dehydration may include tying-up, muscle cramping, anhidrosis, Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutter (thumps) or diarrhea.

Here is a quick and simple way to check for dehydration.  Do a "pinch test" on the skin of the neck. Gently pinch, between thumb and forefinger, skin on the horse’s neck and pull away from the body. When released, the skin should immediately return to its original position. Failure to do so is an indication of dehydration.

IONS™ Organic, produced by Advanced Biological Concepts, is an excellent source of the ions needed to avoid dehydration.

Check it out at:

A Unique Oral Vaccine

       In the wake of a devastating epidemic of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) a couple of years ago, swine producers are now successfully using a not so new technique to build immunity in their herds.  They are deliberately exposing swine to the virus by adding the remains of infected baby pigs to the feed. 


      While distasteful to some, this mild exposure of the healthy animals results in a specific, long lasting immunity and is actually a pretty good way to stimulate immunity and lower the risk of future outbreaks.

       Many view this practice as new and innovative but the concept is based on the principle that exposure builds immunity - an idea originally promulgated in the 1800’s by early scientists such as Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch and Rudolf Virchow.

Cattle Calls

I read where a couple of scientists at the University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University of London have recorded proof that cows and calves actually ‘talk’ to each other, thus exploding the myth that they are "dumb" animals lacking consciousness or feelings.

Using highly-sensitive audio equipment, extensive recordings were made of the vocalizations of cows and calves. Analysis of the data took a year to complete.

Dr. Monica Padilla de la Torre, who led the research, summarized the findings thusly; ”The research shows for the first time that mother-offspring cattle 'calls' are individualized -- each calf and cow have a characteristic and exclusive call of their own.  Calves calling out to their mothers had three types of calls that were individualized, enabling mother cows to identify which calf was calling.”

I’m all for valid research that sheds light on the world we live in, but, in this instance, I take exception to the statement — research shows for the first time that mother-offspring cattle 'calls' are individualized

cow calf

In the late 1930’s. My Uncle Gustave taught me that same basic concept by pointing out how each calf would easily pair up with its dam.  I’m guessing that this knowledge was also available to ancient herdsman soon after cattle were first domesticated over 8000 years ago.  Any observant person that works with animals - livestock, horses, pets - will soon realize they are sentient beings.

I’m also curios to know how much this research cost.

Flaxseed for Horses

The other day I was searching the internet for information about cyanide poisoning in horses.  I googled ‘cyanide poisoning equine’ and got 3,490,000 hits.  It’s safe to say that one could find a wide variety of research to support any point of view on the relative toxicity, if any, of cyanide to horses.  It brings to mind the old adage that even the Devil can quote scripture to his advantage.

Actually, I was trying to find information about any problems with feeding soaked flaxseed or linseed to horses.  Freshly ground flaxseed is commonly fed to horses as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Uncooked seeds do contain a small amounts of cyanogenetic glycosides and enzymes that allow the glycosides to release cyanide. It’s not a problem, though, because any glycosidase enzymes thus produced are rapidly destroyed in the stomach and small intestine before they can trigger cyanide release. So, horse owners wanting to take advantage of flaxseed's omega-3 fatty acid content can rest easy when horses are fed raw flaxseed.

Some horses experience digestive problems from the accumulation of sand in the large intestines. (Yes, his really happens - Veterinarians have reported cases where up to 50-60 pounds of sand were found in the right dorsal colon.)  Soaked flaxseed is often used to treat this condition as it releases a viscous gelatinous substance traps the sands so it can be eliminated from the body.

If a person still has concerns about feeding flaxseed they can replace it with soaked psyllium seeds, which also aid in removing sand but has a different omega-3 content.

Politician’s Unspoken Rule

All politicians have an unspoken rule: “The truth, while preferable, always takes second place to getting what you want.”

Aberrant Animal Behavior

     Laying hens (especially the common Leghorn breed) raised in confinement (housed but not caged) had the reputation of being nervous and flighty.  It was common practice to knock on the door before entering the poultry-house. Suddenly entering the facility without this advance warning would alarm the birds and the flock would rush to the opposite end of the building.  They would often pile up and some birds would die of suffocation.  It would affect egg production for several days.  Funny though: some canny poultrymen would add ground up coal or humates to the ration and the birds would settle right down and become calmer and more content, obviating the need to knock before entering. 

foto home 35523

     Groups of pigs raised in confinement often begin chewing on one another’s tail - tail biting.  It’s not known why they do this but some speculate boredom or some sort of nutritional deficiency - probably a combination.  Conventional remedy goes something like this — “Let’s cut off their tail when they are young so they have no tails to bite.”   Funny though: pigs raised with adequate protein and balanced minerals seldom engage in tail biting.  Unfortunately, once they start this habit they will usually continue the vice even after conditions or nutrition improves. 


      Chickens in confinement have a similar problem - head pecking- also thought to be caused by confinement boredom or poor nutrition. Conventional remedy; “If you cut off the top beak they can’t peck on each other.”  Funny though: if you feed them well and give them a little space they rarely pick up this vice.

    The common thread to all of this is that malnutrition, dietary mineral imbalances and close confinement leads to all sorts of strange social behavior in animals. I believe this holds true for us humans as well.  With much of our population crowded into stifling cities and subsisting on food with low nutritive value and high levels of toxic chemicals - is it any wonder that crime and aberrant social behavior are rampant in our society? 

    Taking away our guns, the equivalent of debeaking; or enforcing political correctness, commensurate to tail amputation. will not fix the problem.

    Perhaps we need to add some coal dust or its mineral equivalent to our human diet.  

So say I, what say ye?

A Global Dung Shortage?

A study by a team of scientists, Dr. Joe Roman at the University of Vermont and Christopher Doughty an ecologist at the University of Oxford, was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  These scientists  claims that, since the last Ice Age, there has been a massive decline in the capacity of animals to recycle nutrients in the ecosystem through their droppings.

They postulate that the demise of wooly mammoths and other large mammals including whales has resulted in a decline in the movement of key nutrients like phosphorus around the environment thus leaving our planet's soil infertile - with dire consequences for ecosystem health, fisheries and agriculture.

They suggest that restoration of animal populations, such as herds of bison, would help abate the dung crisis and reestablish these nutrient distribution pathways.

I don’t know what these guys were smokin’, but I believe they overlooked several key factors. 

  1. The global daily dung droppings of over 270 million dairy cows would certainly go a long way to compensate for the lack of prehistoric mammoths and whales.  And don’t forget chicken shit, pig poop and beef cow pasture plops - they also adds to the daily dose of dung.   If that’s not enough, consider the mammoth volume of bull shit emanating from our politicos in Washington D.C. and the wannabe’s on the campaign trail. 
  2. Yes, phosphorus is an essential mineral and one whose availability to plants is enhanced by passing through a herbivore.  However, most of the phosphorus used in agriculture is now mined and mechanically spread where needed. 
  3. I am curious why it took 12000 years for these effects to become evident.
  4. I wonder who paid for this research.
Wooly Mammoths

You can read more about this astounding discovery at:



   During my annual physical checkup yesterday I was admonished by a young Nurse Practitioner that my cholesterol was a little on the high side and that I should avoid foods such as red meat and egg yolk. I told her that egg yolk and animals tissues also contained good levels of lecithin which compensated for the cholesterol   She allowed that she had never heard of anything like that; which is consistent with the abysmal state of nutritional education in our med schools today.

   I explained to her that when individual fractions were separated out of a natural product they could have adverse effects because they lacked the protective factors inherent in the whole product.  “Nature’ designed foods to be eaten as grown; and as fresh as possible. It can be troublesome to our health when we deviate from this principle.

   A good example of this principle is the compounding of traditional Chinese Herbal formulas.  Each formula has at least 3 herbs;  a Master herb that contains the main activity, a helper herb that enhances the activity of the Master herb and another helper herb that counteracts any adverse effects of the Master herb. We could probably take a lesson from this as we plan our dietary menus. 

   Cholesterol is not all bad.  It is, after all, a necessary component for life.  For example, there is a strain of Holstein dairy cattle that have a genetic defect called Haplotype for Cholesterol Deficiency (HCD). Calves that are homozygous for this gene have no cholesterol and live only a few months.  

   I think I’ll continue having my usual breakfast of 2 or 3 scrambled egg with Tabasco hot sauce.

Incongruity of the Day

According to the U. S. Food &

Drug Administration, there

is no distinction between

GMO and non-GMO.

- but -

According to the U. S. Patent

Office, GMOs are awarded patents

because GMOs aresubstantially 

different than non-GMOs. 

Go Figure!

Politically Correct Cattle ?

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.20.30 AM

Cure for Insomnia

I have often said, in jest, that my book is a good cure for insomnia.   

Kevin with my book

Here is proof!  <VBG>

What are you really feeding?

For a valid assessment of any ration one must consider that you are actually dealing with 5 different rations. This is especially true of TMR’s (total mixed rations) for dairy cattle but also applies to other livestock including horses.   The 5 different rations are:

$ 35
  1. The ration printed out by the computer is the “Holy Grail” of many nutritionist and is considered to contain the final output of our accumulated nutritional knowledge coupled with the latest chemical analysis of the feedstuffs involved. 
  2. This second ration is what actually goes into the mixer.  It rarely matches the print-out as accurate measurement of ingredients  amounts becomes more difficult as the size of the mix increases. 
  3. Number 3 is what is actually delivered to the feed bunk.  If the ingredients are not properly mixed there will be different feeds delivered to different parts of the feed bunk.
  4. What the cow actually eats depends on many factors. The ‘pecking order’ in a group of cattle interferes with uniform consumption. Many cows will ‘sort’ feeds, eating only the more desirable fractions. 
  5. The final ration is what the cow actually digests and assimilates into her system.  This one may bear little resemblance to the computer print out but in reality is the only one that counts.

Formulating Equine Rations.

Elim-a-Net in use high res

The other day I was asked about a basic ration for an average horse using average ingredients, a task not as simple as it would appear at first glance.

It’s not too difficult to formulate rations for swine or poultry. Their nutritional needs are relatively simple and there is little variation in their environment.  Then too, they have a relatively short lifespan.

Dairy cattle rations are a little more complex. There is a wide variation in forages used.  Dairy nutritionists are successful in wringing out exceedingly high milk production. The downside being that the average dairy cow lives less that 4 years and 50% of those calving do so with an infectious or metabolic disease.  

The horse, however, is a complex and often enigmatic creature with a markedly different set of parameters associated with balancing a ration.  Even so, it isn’t all that difficult to formulate a basic ration for an individual horse - on paper.  

Don’t overlook the fact that horses evolved in a desert environment and needs high density - low moisture forages for ultimate health.    Kept in a stall for 23 hours a day and fed a fancy high protein ration with alfalfa hay as the only forage and soy as the main protein supplement is not conducive to optimal health.

The following 3 links will take you to equine ration calculators. These programs will enable you to input pertinent information about the horse as well as nutritional data about the feedstuffs you plan to use.

You can use numbers from a laboratory feed analysis of your own feeds or input averages for many different feeds available on a chart from Feedstuffs Magazine (Go to, scroll down to and click on Feedstuffs Reference Issue 2015. Download the file “Feedstuffs_RIBG_Ingredient Analysis Table 2015.pdf”) .  Once you have entered the basics, you can fine-tune the ration by adding appropriate sources of minerals, protein or energy.

That’s the easy part.  Managing the day-to-day vagaries of your horses nutritional needs is an art more than a science and cannot be made by a computer.   It requires a personal touch or a personal involvement - sort of like described over 2000 years ago by Cato the Elder in his treatise entitled "De Re Agricola";  “The master’s eye doth fat the ox, his foot doth fat the ground”.   I interpret this to mean that in order to have healthy and productive animals or crops the master must be personally involved in caring for both.

Two Thought Provokeing Quotes

"The commercial purpose of GMOs is not to feed the world or improve farming. Rather, they exist to gain intellectual property (i.e. patent rights) over seeds and plant breeding and to drive agriculture in directions that benefit agribusiness. This drive is occurring at the expense of farmers, consumers and the natural world.”

                                   Jonathan Latham, Executive Director
                                   The Bioscience Resource Project
                                    Ithaca, NY. 

"Future historians may well look back and write about our time, not about how many pounds of pesticide we did or did not apply; but about how willing we are to sacrifice our children and jeopardize future generations with this massive experiment we call genetic engineering that is based on false promises and flawed science, just to benefit the “bottom line” of a commercial enterprise.” 

                                               Dr. Don M. Huber,
                                               Professor Emeritus,
                                               Purdue University 

Shark Deaths vs Iatrogenic Deaths

The recent spate of shark attacks on the East coast attracted lots of attention by the press even though the average number of people killed by sharks is only about one a year.  The press also noted one death by alligator in Texas  - also about average.  Other reports indicate that bears kill about 1 person per year - Venomous snakes and lizards: 6 people per year - Spiders: 7-  Cows: 20 - Dogs: 28- Other mammals: 52 - Bees, wasps and hornets: 58. If you add all this up, you're left with a grand total of 174 animal-related deaths - a not indsignificant number.

But, consider this; there have been statistics published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that ‘iatrogenic’  (Doctor caused) deaths account for more that 225,000 fatalities per year.  This makes the medical/pharmaceutical profession he third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer. This astounding fact was not reported in the main-stream press. 

To put that into perspective - if one 747 Jetliner with 600 passengers aboard crashed and burned every day for a year that would also result in about 219,000 deaths.

The question is:  If that happened would the same number of people continue to make airline reservations as they now make appointments to see a Doctor ? 

What say ye ?

Mint Jelly or Jellyfish?

The recent episode in France where meat from a transgenic lamb was sold to the public as food illustrates some of the pitfalls of unbridled bioscience.  So much so-called scientific research today seems  frivolous and, although maybe not harmful, is not useful.  In this case, the genes of the dam were combined with genes from a jellyfish of all things!  ( I thought mint jelly was to be served with lamb, but ….?).    The jellyfish genes contained a green fluorescent protein (GFP), which made the ewe’s skin transparent, and bright in color.  WOW! how useful is that.  This sale was against the law but, obviously, the controls were not effective in preventing this transgenic meat from entering the food chain. 

Bioscience today has an even darker side and in many ways is like a whore to be pimped out to the highest bidder as an aid to foist off a duplicitous product to the general pubic or to influence political thought and propaganda, neither of which  benefits humankind.  

What say Ye?

Turkey Farm back in production!

jaindl-tour turkey-barns

I see where the first Minnesota turkey farm affected by the H5N2 avian virus in now back in production producing hatching eggs for the next batch of grower turkeys.  The virus was first diagnosed there in March and this guy lost 44,000 birds from death and depopulation.  According to the USDA, total lost in the US was 47 million birds. 

One of the leaders of a Minnesota poultry group says they are now looking for new ways to possibly retrofit existing poultry buildings with new ventilation and filtration systems to keep out viruses. This fellow said. "Ultimately, one of the key criteria is, what does that barn need to look like to keep birds healthy?" 

I think he is looking in the wrong place.   Poultry health depends on what you do to the birds in the building and not on how the building looks from the outside.  As long as the inmates are closely confined in a stressful, poorly ventilated space and fed antibiotics and glyphosate contaminated feed they will be easy prey to H5N2 or any other virus that comes along.    

  What say ye ?

Barry Commoner - The Paul Revere of Ecology

Barry Commoner was an American biologist, college professor, politician. and a leading ecologist among the founders of the modern environmental movement. 

In 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, Time magazine put Dr. Commoner on its cover and called him the Paul Revere of Ecology.

His 1971 bestselling book ‘The Closing Circle’, was one of the first to bring the idea of sustainability to a mass audience. His book listed 4 laws of nature.

    Everything is connected to everything else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.

    Everything must go somewhere. There is no "waste" in nature and there is no "away" to which things can be thrown.

    Nature knows best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is "likely to be detrimental to that system"

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

These laws have never been repealed and are still in effect even thought mostly ignored by our modern, so called, scientific community.  As a society, it would behoove us to pay more attention to these laws of nature.

Everything has to go someplace

I see where Des Moines, Iowa is experiencing its normal springtime bout with nitrates in the Raccoon River from whence it obtains its water.  This is a decades old problem beginning after WW II when highly concentrated nitrogen fertilizer first became available.  The immediate problem is caused by drainage of nitrate laden ground water from over-fertilized farm fields into the field tiles, ditches and tributaries that feed the river. 

The city is required to lower the nitrate level in drinking water to 10 milligrams per liter.  This is an expensive process and will cost an estimated $1 million or more for the year 2015.

It probably costs the farmers even more as nitrogen fertilizers are expensive to buy and apply only to have them leach away and become unavailable for plant growth.  Their appearance in the water supply exemplifies one of Barry Commoner’s Four Laws of Nature - “Everything has to go someplace”.

The water works board has filed a lawsuit against drainage ditches in three northern Iowa counties demanding mandatory nitrate reductions rather than voluntary actions.   Farm leaders argue that more time is needed.  

My view (and I know it’s utopian) is that implementing a system of alternative or organic agriculture would go a long way to resolving this problem as well as providing a myriad of other benefits to farmers, consumers and cities alike. 

More Technology Not A Fix                                   For Flawed Technology

The USDA recently approved new GM soybean and crops that are resistant to the effect of the Bayer’s Cambria herbicide.  This follows the previou s approval of GM soybeans and corn that are tolerant of the old 2,4-D herbicide.  Also up for EPA approval is Monsanto’s newest herbicide containing both dicamba and glyphosate. (This is, in itself, a step backwards as glyphosate was originally said to replace the old, more toxic herbicides. Remember Agent Orance from the Viet Nam era.)

While these latest examples of USDA’s allegiance to the biotechnology industry are touted as the next generation of herbicide-tolerant crops the truth is that these steps were taken to address the problem of herbicide resistant weeds which highlights the abysmal failure of GMO and glyphosate technology.

This is only one of the many examples of the failure of any bio- technology that ignores natural principles. The answer to the breakdown is not to add on more of the same but to return to systems that did work and look for more appropriate and common sense answers.

Check the labels!  I am always suspicious of any product that requires a Health Emergency telephone number on the label.

Mineral Recommendations For One Cow

I was recently asked to recommend a mineral feeding program for one cow.  Not as easy at it sounds. There are many variables to consider and some of those variables change from day to day. 

While the optimum mineral program would be to provide the full array of Advanced Biological Products cafeteria style mineral program, that is not always feasible for one cow.

Here is a basic starter program.  

First of all, provide a way for the animal to self adjust the critical Calcium:Phosphorus ratio.  ABC’s Dairy 2:1 Mineral is a good source of Calcium and some other minerals and can be fed free choice.  Adding a self fed source of Phosphorus such as ABC’s P-Mix provides the opportunity to adjust the Ca:P ratio.  

Always have plain white salt available.

 Free choice kelp should also be fed as it is an excellent source for all trace minerals.  Feeding kelp free choice is sort of a diagnostic ploy, in that, excess consumption of kelp for over 4 to 6 weeks indicates a deficiency of one or more trace minerals. 

Eating dirt or chewing on wood are also indications of a mineral imbalance. The occurrence either of these two signs and/or excess kelp consumption would be a good indication to provide ABC’s 15 item Diagnostic Kit. 

For more background information on feeding minerals, check out these two sites:

Sir Albert Howard - A Pioneer

 Sir Albert Howard, an Englishman,  is known as The Founder of Modern Organic Agriculture.  In 1940 he published a book entitled “An Agricultural Testament” detailing his research on composting as a method of increasing soil fertility. 

On the research farm, in Indore, India, his work animals were fed with fresh green fodder, silage, and grain, all produced from fertile land.   None  were segregated and none were vaccinated.    His oxen ofter came in contact with diseased stock suffering from diseases such as rinderpest, septicaemia, and foot-and-mouth disease.   

He wrote:  “I have several times seen my oxen rubbing noses with foot-and-mouth cases.  Nothing happened.  The healthy well-fed animals reacted to this disease exactly as suitable properly grown varieties of crops did to insect and fungus pests -- no infection took place.”

A favorite quote that typifies his findings:  ”The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.” 

Sir Albert’s book inspired J. I. Rodale to begin publishing the magazine Organic Gardening and Farming which was a powerful influence in the early organic movement in this country.  

Wormy Beef?

Chinese researchers claim to have produced calves with higher than normal levels of healthy Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

They accomplished this by “constructed a plasmid containing the codon-optimized gene known as “mfat 1,” derived from Caenorhabditis elegans, a type of non-parasitic nematode”. Then, using “somatic cell nuclear transfer” they transferred the gene into “ the primary fetal fibroblasts”.

I don’t understand all that scientific jargon but I think it’s safe to say that they genetically mixed worm tissue into the beef.  

I don;t care if it’s non-parasitic worms or not, I’d still rather get my extra omega-3’s from grass fed beef.

The report was published in Biotechnology Letters and is available online at:

Censors of Nature

In the 1830’s a devastating disease of swine called Hog Cholera or Swine fever apparently arose spontaneously on a hog farm in Ohio. For over a century this was one of the leading causes of disease in swine and as late as the 1960’s was costing the swine industry in excess of $50 million a year. 

In 1907 a vaccine had been developed that involved injecting a little dose of the virus along with some hyper-immune serum from hogs that had been previously vaccinated for the disease.   In 1951 the virulent live virus component was replaced with a modified live virus vaccine that still required the use of the serum. Improper use of these live vaccines contributed to many iatrogenic outbreaks of the disease.

For many years, the income derived from vaccinating swine for Hog Cholera was the financial mainstay of most veterinary practices in areas with large swine populations.  In 1961 the USDA mandated a Hog Cholera eradication program and all live or modified live vaccines were banned in 1969.  The nation was declared free of Hog Cholera in 1978.  This was hailed as a great success, but unfortunately, it wasn’t long before other, heretofore almost unknown, virus diseases of swine such as pseudo-rabies began to cost the swine industry almost as many dollars as had Hog Cholera before eradication.

Even if successful, vaccinations only protect against that particular organism and if the immune system is already compromised - malnutrition, stress, mineral deficiency, etc - the animals are easy prey for any other virus or germ lurking out there.    As illustrated above; when one virus is removed either by vaccination or eradication (Hog Cholera) the next virus in line (Pseudo-rabies) stepped up and functioned as a “Censor of Nature”.

Nature tends to eliminate or censor anything that does not meet her standards of excellence.    Weeds are attracted to a sick soil in an attempt to remedy the imbalances of minerals and organic matter in the soil.   Insects are attracted to sick crops as one of natures methods to eliminate sub-standard plants.  Germs and viruses are attracted to sick animals (and humans), to recycle inferior products.

The key to good health is not in a bottle of vaccine or antibiotic but in good nutrition and common sense holistic management of the environment. 

Bird Flu

The other day a fellow asked me what I thought about the bird flu epidemic in the central states.  I had to admit that poultry had never been part of my vet practice and my main poultry experience has been with grilled chicken breasts. 

However, upon reflecting on the problem a couple of things came to mind.   First question:  “What is the genetic diversity level of the affected flocks".  When a genetically diverse population is exposed to a disease not all get sick or die and some survive to carry on the species. This is the same mechanism that allows bugs to become immune to the effects of insecticides and weeds to become resistant to glyphosate.   I’m guessing that in the current situation the genetic diversity is quite low and the morbidity is very high.  Obviously, the mortality is 100% as all sick and exposed birds are depopulated to avoid spread to other vulnerable flocks. 

I also wonder about the vaccines used on these birds. There’s a lot of controversy about vaccines these days and like the old saying - “there are three sides to that story; yours, mine and the truth”.  I don’t think I’m the only one who is very skeptical of scientists playing around with mutated live viruses in the laboratory.  I have read that the incidence of disease is higher is some human population groups that have been vaccinated for that specific disease than in the unvaccinated population. 

What could happen if a highly susceptible population was exposed to a rogue laboratory virus … it sure makes one wonder!

Conventional vs Holistic

I am perplexed when I contemplate how to reconcile conventional allopathic veterinary medicine and livestock management with alternative or holistic veterinary medicine and livestock management.  There are many aspects to this problem and I would like to comment on a couple of basic concepts that might foster a more agreeable discourse not offensive to either side.

First of all, I believe that, if properly done, holistic or alternative management manages the health of animals in a "proactive" way to avoid common problems by attention to basic nutrition and immune support as the primary goal.   On the other hand, allopathic medicine kicks in when the animals show symptoms of illness or production decline. This is not necessarily a bad thing but ‘it is what it is’ - a “reactive" procedure to remedy a situation brought about by a breakdown in management. I am sure there is middle ground somewhere between the two sides. 

Another factor to be considered is the ultimate purpose of the animals being treated.  For example, some allopathic drugs might be totally acceptable to administer to a gelding and totally unacceptable for use in a breeding age mare destined to hopefully produce a health foal.   The same precept comes into play when we consider what is appropriate treatment for food producing animals as opposed to companion animals.  

The same concept applies to crop farming and poses the question - is the harvested grain destined for conversion to gasohol or synthetic plastics or is to slated to be eaten by us and our children or fed to food producing animals. It is my personal opinion that too many farmers strive for quantity instead of quality and overlook or ignore the fact that they are producing food for people to eat.

What do you think!


I see where the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering cost share programs to replant windbreaks on agricultural land. Once a hallmark of good farming practices, many windbreaks have been removed possibly to accommodate larger farming equipment and/or the mistaken idea that windbreaks lower crop yields.

Windbreaks have multiple benefits in most areas where windbreaks were previously planted.  While yields were somewhat hampered out to 1 to 1-1/2 times the height of the trees, that loss was more than offset by increased yields in the remainder of the field.  The study found that, within the protected zone of the windbreak, spring wheat yields increased an average of 8%, corn by 12%, soybeans by 13%, and winter wheat by 23%. 

For more information on this topic check out:   or

Organic Standards

While recently visiting with a neighbor he related a story of an incident when he was a youngster - back when herbicides first were available to farmers.  His dad, who farmed 400+ acres,   was mixing herbicide in a spray tank sitting in his yard.  The tank ran over and large amount of the herbicide mix inundated part of the yard.  He said that it was at least 15 years before anything would grow on that plot.  

This illustrates one of the pitfalls of organic certification - which only requires 3 years of freedom from herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizer to be certified. Organic products are not guaranteed to be free of all biocides but only guaranteed to have been grown or processed in accordance with USDA/NOP regulations.  

The integrity of organic products is only as good as the integrity of the members of the National Organic Standards Board.

Copper Toxicosis in Sheep

  I had a question come up today about copper toxicity in sheep.  Of all our domestic animals sheep are the most susceptible to copper toxicosis.  

  Copper is a required mineral in all species, but sheep have a narrow range between how much copper is adequate and how much is toxic. Most cases of copper poisoning in sheep occur when they are fed rations or minerals designed for other species that are more tolerant of copper.  

  When sheep are fed such diets over a period of time copper builds up in the liver because sheep do not excrete copper as efficiently as other animals. When the liver becomes saturated with copper, massive amounts of copper are released into the bloodstream resulting in tissue damage. This sudden onset is often triggered by some stressful event, 

  Note on the Mineral Wheel, that both molybdenum and sulfur act as antagonists to copper and have a protective effect if there is excess copper, The presence of these compounds bind with copper and prevent gut absorption and increase excretion of copper.

  Sheep do well on ABC’’s cafeteria-style mineral program and I have never encountered copper toxicosis in sheep on this program even though it does provide a free-choice source of copper.  Animals will balance their own mineral needs if given the choice.

An  Imponderable

Along with robins and greening up trees, another harbinger of spring in many rural areas is the appearance of anhydrous ammonia (AA) tanks being pulled by pick-ups on the roads and by tractors in the fields. AA is a source of nitrogen necessary for plant growth, as is phosphorus and potassium - the big 3 in Von Liebig’s NPK concept of agricultural fertilization. Prior to its common use as a fertilizer beginning in the 1940’s and 50’s it was used during World War II in the construction of airport runways in war zones. AA burns the organic matter out of soils thus hardening them up enough to support landing aircraft without the need for cement runways. Today as we use it on prime agricultural soils we wonder why our soils are becoming more compacted as years go by.

We live at the bottom of an ocean of air that is composed of approximately  78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, water vapor at an average of 0.4% plus small amounts of other gases. At sea level the weight of all these gases over each 1 square inch of the earth’s surface is 14.7 lbs. known as Atmospheric or Barometric pressure. Doing a little math here gives us a little over a ton of air over every square foot of the earth’s surface and of that ton 78% or 1650 lbs. is nitrogen.  There are 43560 square feet per acres times 1650 equals over 70 million pounds of nitrogen over every acre. I don’t know the capacity of the AA tanks that deliver nitrogen to the fields but I do know it is infinitesimal when compared to the amount available in the air above us.

Rain and snow carry some atmospheric nitrogen to earth. High organic matter soil absorbs and preserves this water and nitrogen for future plant growth. Legumes, with suitable inoculates, grown in a good crop rotation fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil.

Ponder this: Why do we pay big bucks for a little bit of nitrogen when that use destroys the natural fixation of free nitrogen in the soil?

Way to go, Rick Brattin

Having been born, raised and educated in the great state of Missouri, I am pleased - and often surprised - when I see Missouri lawmakers reacting positively to current problems.  Case in point. I am pleased to see that  Representative Rick Brattin has introduced a bill in the Missouri House that will go a long way to restore the health, self-respect and productivity of the 930,000 food stamp recipients residing in the state. This law (which has yet to be voted on) would bar these folks from using redistributed taxpayer money to buy expensive food items like seafood and steak, as well as junk foods like energy drinks, soda pop, cookies and chips.
Way to go, Rick!

EPA promotes crop rotation ? ? ? 

I see that the EPA’s new proposal to curtail the spread of resistant corn root worms would stipulate that GMO bT corn could only be planted for 2 years in a row and then the field would have to be planted to a different crop for a year. 

Hey, wait a minute!   Isn’t that what Grandpa did years ago - rotate crops to contain weeds, worms and insects?  I guess continuous mono-cropping with herbicides made things ‘easier” but at what cost.  Rotating crops and mechanical cultivation was cheaper in the long run and provided food that was safe to feed to man and beast alike.  Nowadays we must eat the ‘fankenfood’ foisted upon us by corporations like Monsanto and Dow Chemical.

If approved, the final ruling would affect areas of Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and surrounding states. 

Does anyone else see the irony in the EPA finally doing something to actually protect the environment?

The grass is always greener.

   I really like this fine cartoon and I’m sure the  author  wanted to humorously illustrate the old ‘grass is greener” adage and also possibly comment on the pure cussedness of some cows in their distain for fences, 

   However, upon further reflection, this drawing illustrates 2 very importnt principles of animal nutrition.   1.  No two animals have the same nutritional needs.   2.   All soils, crops and feeds differ in their mineral content. 

    The feeding activity of these two cows demonstrates the above principles in that each cow is satisfying it’s own specific needs by seeking out what it needs no matter which side of the fence it is on.

    This concept was explained in the 1950’s by Dr. Wm Albrecht’s film- aptly named “The Other Side of the Fence”.

"No, I'm not stupid."

   Patrick Moore, who actively tours the world promoting GMOs was being interviewed byFrench documentary filmmaker Paul Moreira.  Claiming that gl yphosate is no more harmful than a glass of orange juice, Moore said,  "You can drink a whole quart of [glyphosate] and it won't hurt you."

   "You want to drink some?" responded Moreira, adding that "We have some here."

   Moore quickly retorted "I'd be happy to," before proceeding to say "Not, not really, but… I know it wouldn't hurt me.”

   Moreira responded once again, "If you say so, I have some glyphosate."

   "No, I'm not stupid," was Moore's response.

Scientific Truth

I read an article today in Dairy Herd Management in which the author bemoaned the fact that so many seemingly intelligent people no longer believed in science.  I could name several good reasons why I have very little faith in what is sometimes called “Good Science”.  Here are a couple that come to mind.

1. In many areas, scientific research and the promulgation of the results are profit driven.  For example, Monsanto funds the research, releases only the results that support sales, pays off government officials to look the other way and they tries to foist off its toxic products on to the consumers.  They safety tested glyphosate on 10 rats for 90 days and deemed it safe.  Then the French researcher Serelini did the same research for 2 years and found an alarmingly high incidence of cancer.  He was labeled as a naysayer and brutalized in the press. Monsanto is not alone in this.  Good science today seems to be anything that supports corporate profitability.

2. I think a good definition of science is .. “the orderly arrangement of what is currently considers to be true”.  What we consider to be true changes from day to day.  Eggs are bad for you and then suddenly eggs are good for you. Same with meat, milk, vaccinations and many drugs.  Note how many ‘wonder drugs‘ are suddenly removed from the market after years of popularity when the previously hidden side effects begin to surface.

I could go on and on with this - and probably will in a future blog entry.

“The scientific “truth” of today becomes the discarded error of tomorrow.”    From: “On growing Up Tough” by Taylor Caldwell

Two news items - WHO & EPA

Two news items stand out today. 

!.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide as a ‘probable carcinogen’.  

2.  The EPA is set to put new restrictions on the world's most widely used herbicide to help contain the rapid expansion of resistant weeds.  14 weeds are now resistant to glyphosate (Monsanto’s RoundUp) affecting over 60 million acres of farmland, In the US 280 million+ pounds of glyphosate were used last year and 90% of the corn and soybeans planted are GMO.  Last year Monsanto's glyphosate sales totaled $5 billion.

COMMENT: Does it seem to any one else that our government is more concerned about resistant weeds than it is about the effects of glyphosate on human health?

Wisdom from Dr. Wm Albrecht 

"Wild animals chose their own medicine according as the soil grows it, and thereby exemplifies better health and survival on their own than our domestic ones do under our management.”
                                           Dr. William Albrecht

Quote of the Day

"The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money." -- Alexis de Tocqueville   French historian  (1805-1859)


I don’t know if it is classified as true inbreeding or not, but the genetic lineage of all current Holstein sires can be traced to only 2 bulls.      51% of Holstein sires born in this decade trace their lineage back to Elevation and 49% go back to Chief.

We do know that inbreeding or even close breeding can have several deleterious effects on dairy cows, including: 1. Impaired immune function, 2. Reduced longevity.  3. Lower milk production and 4. Diminished reproductive efficiency.

They may not be related, but in the light of the above facts, I find it curious that even while milk production seems to skyrocket, the average dairy cow in the US does not live to complete 2 lactations and 50 of the dairy cows calve with either a metabolic or infectious disease.  Just wondering ?!

Statistical Deception

    There is an old saying that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.   At one time I had a copy of a book entitled “How to lie with statistics”.  It seems that Big Pharma has taken both concepts to the extreme in the way they interpret and promote the results of their drug trials.  

   This statistical trickery is accomplished by using ‘relative risk’ data in which one specific group is compared to another specific group rather than evaluating how an individual responds to the drug - ‘absolute risk’. 

    This magical technique enabled one drug company tout a 54 percent reduction in heart attacks when actually the reduction was less than 1%.

    Used in reverse, this statistical legerdemain also allows the cover up of any adverse effects of the drug.

If you are interested in more details, go to:

Remember the Spotted Owl?

Sp. Owl

With all the hub-bub in the news about terrorism in the middle east we tend to overlook the more insidious eco-terrorism we have been experiencing here at home for decades. 

25 years ago the Endangered Species Act  put 90% of Oregon’s federal forest off limits to logging. The area has never recovered economically and the spotted owl population has continued to decline. The ESA people have never even said “Oops”.

Another example of how we are protected by “the best government money can buy”.

USDA funds for Organic Research

I noticed today that, as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, Ag Commisar Vilsack released $66.5 million for research and extension activites relating to improving organic agriculture and specialty crops.  I am guessing that most of this money will be available for grants.   

I wonder if anyone will apply for a grant to investigate how BigPharma shills have infiltrated the National Organic Standards Board.


Cafeteria-style Research

Cafeteria-style research shows
Cows prefer water with iron levels below 8 mg/L

Research conducted at Cornell by water-quality expert Dave Beede has been published in the February Journal of Dairy Science.  In the experiment, Beede and other researchers set up a series of water tubs cafeteria-style, so they could see which tubs the cows preferred based on iron concentrations in the water. Upon first exposure to drinking water, lactating dairy cows tolerated iron concentrations up to 4 mg/L (or 4 parts per million) without a reduction in water intake; however, water intake was reduced with concentrations of 8 mg/L.

They also indicated that the direct livestock suitability water analysis used by some labs may underestimate the amount of iron in the water as some of the iron is chemically associated (bound) with other chemicals in the water and not analyzable. Therefore, what may appear as a favorable 2 mg/L level may actually be an inhibitory 8 mg/L level.

Learn more:


Conventional nutritional opinion claims that animals do not have the ability to balance their nutritional needs when given the choice.  Yet, these researchers relied on the nutritional wisdom of these cows to set their own standards for acceptable levels of iron in their water by providing varying concentration of iron in water “cafeteria-Style”.

Reading between the lines, this experiment also shows that laboratory tests are not as accurate as an animal’s nutritional wisdom ---   “some of the iron is chemically associated (bound) with other chemicals in the water and not analyzable.”. However, when given the choice, the cows didn’t have any problem choosing the level of iron acceptable to them.

And taking that one more step: maybe cows really are smarter that some scientists.

Hopefully more researchers will begin to apply common sense in their research and the interpretation thereof.

A Calf Problem

I had a phone calll today from a fellow who was having trouble raising baby calves. His calves were suffering from scours and pneumonia, with considerable death loss.  As we discussed his operation it was apparent that he was doing several thinks wrong--things that almost doomed the project from the start.     

First, he was buying calves from several different sources - local dairymen, sales barns and calf jockeys.  So he really had no idea if any of the calves had received colostrum or what if any attention had been paid to their health and nutrition.    

Second, he only had one group of calves and any new purchases were immediately added to the group. This exposed the newcomers to whatever was going through the older calves in the group and these older calves were exposed to whatever the new ones were carrying.   

Third, he was vaccinating the calves with an attenuated live- virus vaccine. which should only be used on healthy animals.  I don’tknow what he was feeding, but if he was using a soy-based milk replacer that in itself is not conducive to calf health. 

Before he contacted me he had already run the gamut of available treatments with very little success.  It is almost impossible to overcome the poor management practices listed above and I had little to offer him except - “Clean up your act and better luck next time”.

Mouse gene makes cattle TB resistant?

Chinese scientists claim to have added a gene from mice to cattle that makes the GE cattle more resistant to Tuberculosis (TB).  This would -they say - allow the GE animals to stay in the herd longer and require less antibiotic use.  I wonder what the unintended consequences are?  In the US cattle with TB are slaughtered not treated. If the GE animals kept in the herd were not 100% resistant they could end up as carriers!

 I suspect that this experiment or press release is but a ploy to try to put a ‘good face’ on genetic engineering and to mask the sisnister aspects.

Farming for Food or Profit

   In January I was sitting in a trade booth at the GrassWorks Grazing Conference when a fellow stopped at the booth and after reading our glyphosate banner began questioning me about why we were against the use of glyphosate.  I briefly outlined several concerns we have, such as trace mineral tie-up, super weeds, damage to soil and GI bacteria, as well as damage to human and animal health. 
   He was not impressed.  He told me he considered Round-Up to be one of the best new things that had come about during his farming career and in his experience it was very cost effective and did no damage that he was aware of. I could tell right off that I was not going to make a convert here.
    Having previously made the decision to never argue with an idiot in public - because those watching would not be able to tell who was the idiot - I played my trump card and asking him; “Have you ever considered that you are primarily growing food for people and animals to eat and not just producing a commodity to be sold or traded on the market?  He gave me kind of a blank condescending look and just walked away.
   It is unfortunate, but often true, that many farmers are so engrossed in the profit side of farming that they overlook the fact that they are poisoning the unsuspecting folks who buy their tainted products.

First Post

Since my awareness of holistic concepts began when I read Bromfield’s books in 1948 it is fitting that I begin this new blog venture by reprinting an older entry first made 0n June 10, 2008.

"A visit to Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm is somewhat like a pilgrimage for me. When Ruth and I, along with Gwen and Jim Helfter, visited the site today I recalled that it has been over 60 years ago that I read his books Malabar Farm and Pleasant Valley.  His story was my first exposure to the sustainable or organic agriculture movement.  In that time there has not been all that much improvement on the innovative methods on building soil that he proposed in the early 1940’s.  In my mind, Bromfield, Dr. Wm Albrecht, Sir Albert Howard and others of that era were the pioneers of what we now call the organic and/or sustainable agriculture movement".