Caring for Cows Naturally

Since October I have been treating my cow for Ketosis – a metabolic sickness caused by too much energy requirements (stress of calving and milk production) and too little energy (food) to meet the demands. Some cows come down with it while others don’t, but it usually happens after calving.  Last year I guess I was just lucky – my Jersey calved and life went on as normal. But this year – this year things were a little rougher.

Soon after calving in October my cow began acting odd. First my normally energetic sassy cow became lethargic. Then she lost interest in her food – wouldn’t eat all her hay and grain. That worried me. She was producing so much milk – 4 1/2 gallons – that she needed all that food to keep her going. But when she started staggering I knew it was time to call the vet out.

My cow was so sick the vet ended up giving Daisy an IV of calcium and dextrose to jump-start her.

After that I started giving her Propylene Glycol, Vitamin B-drench and increased her grain from 6# of commercial 16% all-stock to 10# of homemade COB (corn, oats and barley). For a cow who gives 4 gallons a day, they say the golden rule of thumb is 3 pounds of grain to every gallon of milk – but I figured it was wisest to gradually increase her grain to 12# than do it all at once. I also bought some Ketone strips to keep track of my cow’s progress.

But it was like a roller-coaster – up and down, up and down. She’d start testing negative and then we’d go right back to dark purple, almost black, every time I stopped the recommended doses for the glycol. And she still wasn’t interested in food. I have never been so afraid as I was those first two weeks. I didn’t think she’d make it.

Then, after talking to a farmer friend from Virginia who gave me some radical advice I was like: what the heck? what do I have to lose? So I gave it a try.

I began cutting back my cow’s grain to just 2# a day. I also added probiotic powder to her feed ration and every day I gave her 2 oz of Apple Cider Vinegar. Since the glycol didn’t appear to be working I stopped altogether.

Since salt was important too, especially during stress, I hunted around and found a loose salt/mineral combo that contained copper (helpful in treating Ketosis) that I fed free choice. My cow, who usually won’t touch salt, licked a whole dish clean! Come to find out, Pat Coleby in her book “Natural Cow Care”recommends copper and ACV (apple cider vinegar) in preventing/treating Ketosis.

So far this feed routine has worked – for me and my cow. And I’m thrilled to say Daisy has tested negative for three weeks and is her normal, rambunctious self. It took a while but at last she’s on the mend. Not to say it could flare up again later, or that I’ll never deal with Ketosis again having done these changes in her diet; but I am very happy with the results so far and am going to continue. And my Jersey, on just hay and 2# of grain still fills the 2 1/2 gallon tote to the brim – and this is milking just once a day!

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