welcome to the bovine bugle



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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

Busy times on (and off) Howmars Farm

The last few weeks here at Howmars Farm have been pretty hectic. The second crop of haying has been done, we took our first vacation in three years, Mother Nature dumped over 7 inches of rain on the farm in two days, and one of my sons and I were in a community theatre production of "Hello, Dolly" that ended last night. I'll talk about some of the events of the last few weeks, and we'll let you know what's going on right now, too.

Just before going away to Maine for a few days, I noticed one of the first-calf heifers favoring a hind foot. A first-calf heifer is a two-year old female animal that has had her first calf and is giving milk for the first time. We put Uma in the pen with the stanchions, locked her in, and checked out her right rear foot. It was clear that she had hoof rot, a fungal infection of the foot. I was going to get to use a new remedy for the ailment for the first time. Until last year, we would apply a poultice of icthamol to the infected area and wrap it. But an ingredient in the icthamol made it unusable on organic farms, and we would have to use something else.

I was going to use a mixture of table sugar and 2% iodine as a paste to dress the infection. The sugar would help draw out the infection, and the iodine would act as a germicide. I secured Uma's foot, cleaned the area, applied the paste, covered the area with cotton batten, and wrapped the foot with vet wrap. After letting Uma's leg down, we let her out of the stanchion and led her out of the barn. We let her meander at her own pace down the side of the barn and out to pasture. She was limping pretty good, but in a couple of days she should be much better.

We are given these little challenges every now and then by the organic certifiers, to find new treatments for ailments when they prohibit medicines or products that we are currently using on the farm. Sometimes the new treatment is one that was probably used by my grandfather 50 or 60 years ago. I'll let you know how Uma makes out.


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how did the sugar and iodine paste work on the heifer, i'm an organic dairy farmer from australia and we are having the same thing happening at the moment

Vermont is so beautiful why would you want to leave to go Maine??

I hope the hoof is healing! good luck!

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