There are still very few bovine veterinarians who specialize in organic livestock production, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work with some of your clients who choose to do that type of production.

In a webinar yesterday sponsored by eOrganic, Hubert Karreman, VMD, Bovinity Health LLC, Narvon, Penn., discussed some of the premises of organic dairy medicine and some challenges facing veterinarians when treating organic dairy cows.

In the “Your Organic Dairy Herd Health Toolbox” webinar, Karreman, one of the foremost experts on organic dairy medicine, said organic production works best if producers can mimic Mother Nature as closely as possible, be mindful and observe and adapt to what animals are communicating, and to optimize the biological carrying capacity of the land base of the farm.

Karreman discussed five elements in his formula for healthy livestock, which apply to conventional as well as organic cattle. “Dry bedding is immensely critical to animal health,” he said. “Cattle also need fresh air and sunshine, well-managed pastures, high-forage rations for healthy rumens and appropriate housing and ventilation.”

Information on what can and can’t be used in certified organic herds under the USDA National Organic Program7CFR 205.238(c)(7) is available here.

Cattle welfare
Karreman is an expert on using plants and other natural ingredients in veterinary medicine. And, as a veterinarian, he is not anti-antibiotics when that is the only treatment he believes will solve the problem. In some situations he believes antibiotics need to be used immediately, including cases of generalized peritonitis (after C-section), bone infections or when two or more organ systems are involved and the animal is depressed.

“I always look at Nature’s toolbox as my first choice, but we must keep in mind the animal and the animal’s condition.”

Karreman made it clear that in the certified organic program, cattle producers must not withhold treatment (i.e. antibiotics if indicated) from a sick animal in an effort to preserve its organic status. And, after that animal is treated, it must be clearly identified and can’t be sold/labeled as organic.

“A safe statement is that withholding an antibiotic, if it is the appropriate treatment, can compromise animal welfare,” Karreman said. “Don’t wait to give treatment until it’s too late, for either conventional or organic animals.”

Karreman has available two books on health of organic dairy cattle. Get more information here. Visit Karreman’s website here.

Read more about working with organic dairy clients in Bovine Veterinarian here.