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     The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) recently sent letters of non-compliance to certifiers that allowed external use of zinc sulfate, ZnSO4, to treat hoof infections of sheep, goats and cows. MOFGA Certification Services was one of those certifiers.
     The Maine Legislature in 2014 voted into law changes for facility requirements for operations processing fewer than 1,000 birds. The specifics for facilities are less onerous. Now you have to show the state inspector, when he or she arrives to inspect your facility, that what you are doing is safe and sanitary – so look carefully at your facility and process.

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Ectoparasites (parasites that live on the outside of the host) can cause large financial losses to livestock farmers if not managed in a way to reduce populations.

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Part of my job is to attend meetings where experts, including farmers, talk about livestock. This year those meetings included the Maine Agricultural Trades show, which had a session for the Maine Grass Farmers Network, the Common Ground Country Fair, and the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) meeting.

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Wes DanielsCows are good! Without the predictable supply of milk, meat, leather and fertilizer supplied by domesticated cattle, the great civilizations of the Northern Hemisphere would not have flourished. Cows are bad! A United Nations report says cattle farming is “responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases.” The production of cattle, particularly for food, has been cited as one of the three top environmental threats because of deforestation to pasture the planet’s 1.5 billion domestic cattle.

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Lane guides at Yknot FarmRaising sheep and goats organically can be a challenge, so many farmers who support organic principles have not transitioned their animals to certified organic. Presently MOFGA Certification Services certifies four sheep and two goat farmers. Among the issues that farmers cite as hurdles to becoming certified are internal parasite control, control of foot rot, other medical issues, the cost of organic grain, and overall profit.

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Toki Oshima drawingConferences and workshops are rich sources of tips for livestock care, pasture management, marketing and more. Here are some ideas gleaned from 2011 events that I attended.

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Water hemlockIf a pasture has enough palatable plants to eat, livestock will generally avoid the poisonous plants. But livestock are individuals, and there are always exceptions. So any pasture management method that results in over grazing will encourage animals to eat plants they would normally avoid.

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Sheep eating Regano and grainI applied for and received a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant to study Regano, an alternative, prophylactic treatment for coccidia that could be practical on small livestock operations with limited acreage and/or with animals of special value. (Parasites are not expected to become resistant to Regano because of its mode of action.)

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The 2008 Farmer-to-Farmer Conference, sponsored by MOFGA and Maine Cooperative Extension, had lots to offer livestock farmers. The livestock sessions were some of the best attended, and enthusiasm for livestock is high. Here are some highlights from those sessions.

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The long awaited proposed pasture rule addition to the National Organic Program (NOP) was published on Oct. 24, 2008.

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University of Kentucky agriculture specialists and an Eastern Kentucky farmer are testing a mix of cattle and goats or goats following cattle in paddocks to graze pastures of tall fescue, orchardgrass, clovers and weeds.

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“Swath grazing” – pushing harvested crop leftovers into row piles up to 16 inches high to keep them within reach of cows – allows cattle to graze year-round, even in the middle of a North Dakota winter.

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The price of grain has risen sharply in the past year and probably will not be going down, so now we have to manage livestock on the least amount of purchased grain possible.

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The Maine Grass Farmers Network (MGFN), a cooperative effort of University of Maine Cooperative Extension and MOFGA, has received funds to purchase machinery for shared use by Maine farmers to improve nutrient management, pasture productivity and overall performance of grazing animals.

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Three articles: A "Bovine Bill of Rights;" feedlot cattle fed distiller’s grain, a byproduct of ethanol production, have about twice as much E. coli O157:H7 in their hindgut; a new strain of swine influenza – H2N3.

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List of sources with contact information.

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Three articles: Creekstone Farms Wins “Right” to Test for Mad Cow; New Food Seal for Humanely Raised Farm Animals; Livestock Generating Greenhouse Gases

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I attended two sessions presented by Frederick Provenza at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) conference this January. Both concerned ruminant eating and foraging behavior and biological reasons for this behavior.

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Three articles: Genetics Research Helps Scuttle Scrapie; Probiotics Boost Immunity in Pigs; FDA Warns About Fumonisins in Horse Feed

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Selenium (Se) serves important functions in all animals. Called the “protection mineral,” it is a key component in glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme. The enzyme, found in red and white blood cells, heart muscle, brain, fat, lungs, liver, kidney and skeletal muscle, stops oxidation and thus protects cells and unsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes from damage by oxidizing materials, such as peroxides, that form during normal metabolism.

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One reason pasture-fed animals – and their products – are healthier is that the animals eat more on pasture because they like it. This is their natural behavior. On the other hand, confined, grain-fed animals are subject to unnatural, stressful environments, such as overcrowding and excessive ammonia in chicken houses. Likewise, when feedlot cattle are taken to slaughter, their hides are often caked with dried manure that is difficult to remove and may contaminate the meat with E. coli O157:H7, the bacteria that can harm people.

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Following are highlights from the New England Sustainable Livestock Conference in Vermont and MOFGA’s Livestock Health workshop featuring Hue Karreman, a holistic veterinarian from Pennsylvania, and Jim and Nancy Gardiner, dairy farmers from Otselic, New York.

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Scrapie Eradication Program (NSEP) is entering its sixth year with the goal of making U.S. sheep and goats scrapie-free by 2010. In Maine, approximately 60 flocks have enrolled in the NSEP.

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Diagram of the "flight zone" of cattle“I’m a visual thinker and somebody who really notices details,” said Dr. Temple Grandin at the annual meeting of the Maine Grass Farmers Network in August. “I think totally in pictures,” she added. The packed room at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity had come to hear how this autistic person’s particular way of seeing the world could help them manage their livestock.

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New Hampshire agriculture commissioner Steve Taylor writes that solar water pumps caught his attention at the 2005 Farm and Forest Expo trades show this year. "Rotational grazing programs are often limited by availability of water for livestock in far reaches of pastures," he notes.

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Toki Oshima drawingThe most important point to remember when transitioning a dairy herd or any livestock or farm to organic production is that learning new things takes time. You need to have patience with yourself, with the process and with your animals. Change is difficult.

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Holistic Health Care necessitates a frame of mind that differs from that of allopathic medicine. I have been reminded of the importance of that requirement often lately. One case was a question on ODairy about hairy heal warts. Some of the responses to the farmer’s question included methods of treating the warts, which is fine but doesn’t address the cause of the problem.

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Last winter MOFGA hosted two presentations about livestock health care that were well received by and very helpful to growers. One was presented by Dan Leiterman and by Paul Dettloff, D.V.M., from Wisconsin; the other by Henrietta Beaufait, D.V.M., from Albion.

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The new National Organic Standards have some management practices that differ from the practices that MOFGA has allowed in the past. Farmers will have to become familiar with these new requirements and begin putting them into practice before the Rule goes into effect on October 21, 2002. MOFGA will be using the new standards for the 2002 application and inspection process. Livestock growers will have to be particularly aware of the new regulations, because their products begin growing well before they are sold.

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Eating livestock products can benefit our health and the environment, particularly when the animals are raised eating a pasture-based diet. More and more research is establishing this viewpoint. At MOFGA’s Spring Growth Conference last March, Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm in Virginia addressed these benefits as well as the profitability of raising animals on pasture. Profitability is particularly great because animals that eat grass are healthier than those fed grain.

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When deciding upon an approach to controlling the level of internal parasite infestation in animals, you need to manage the whole farm in a way that achieves a healthy organism. Many factors affect the severity of the situation, and any existing problem indicates that the farm is not healthy and that some part(s) of the management system or ecology of the farm needs to be altered.

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An article entitled “Burnt Out: What can the UK draw from the disease of foot and mouth” appears in the current issue of The Ecologist magazine. In it, Richard North, a former UK environmental health officer, provides a good overview of the “slash and burn” control efforts, and ably discusses the political dimensions as well. Here’s one excerpt.

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Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) has other common names: hoof and mouth disease, aftosa (other diseases with similar symptoms use this name) and apthous fever. It is an acute, highly contagious disease caused by one of the smallest, filterable viruses known. Cloven footed animals such as cows, goats, pigs, sheep, deer, moose and English hedgehogs are susceptible to the virus. When infected the animals are lethargic, have an elevated temperature, begin slobbering and get blister-like, fluid filled vesicles around their mouths, muzzle, between and around their toes and on their teats and udders.

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Because animals have been indoors for much of the last four months, they are more likely to have developed skin problems than in spring, summer and fall. Not only is sunshine the best cure for skin diseases or parasites, but it may “brighten” animals’ spirits – as it does for many of us – thus improve the functioning of their immune system, and thus fight skin problems indirectly as well.

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On October 18 Henrietta Beaufait, D.V.M., of Albion, gave a well attended workshop in Unity on the principles of homeopathy (which led to a lively discussion about vaccinations) and on the value of understanding the Materia Medica.

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The Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association has done a few livestock related workshops in the past two years. This column will recap some of the highlights of these workshops for those who weren’t able to attend. It will also include information that we have become aware of that might help in raising healthy animals.

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Pigs, cows and other livestock in the Short Hills, N.J., area are dining fine, thanks to the Hilton Hotel there.

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How quickly an apparently unknown disease can arise and cause widespread fear. The disease is called Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) but is more commonly referred to as “mad cow disease.”

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