Top natural remedy tips for common ailments in cattle

Top natural remedy tips for common ailments in cattle

There’s a lot of buzz around natural remedies for animals, especially with the rapid growth of organic farming and the rising demand for organic beef and dairy.  

But at the heart of the issue, both for farmers and consumers alike, is—would you rather have an animal that’s pumped full of drugs or choose a natural alternative if it’s equally effective? Natural remedies and their ingredients tend to be cheaper, simpler to find, plus a vet isn’t required to administer them, saving time. 

Here we look at three common ailments that afflict cattle which can be prevented or significantly reduced by following the tips below. These tips have been sourced from ACS Distance Education, a horticultural school recognised by the IARC

Get rid of nasty internal parasites 
Poorly nourished animals kept in overstocked or waterlogged areas are likely to display the most acute cases of internal parasites. Calves and yearlings tend to be more susceptible to worm infestations than older cattle.

► Symptoms
Symptoms of worm infestation include, loss of condition, a pot-bellied appearance, a dry coat, scouring, and signs of ill-thrift, bottle jaw and anaemia. 

► Prevention
Always put prevention before cure. These management practices are a great control measure:
⇒ Give your animals the correct nutrition:
Vitamin A, D and C complex help your animals develop an immunity to parasites. Essential minerals include cobalt and iron. 
⇒ Manage your herd:
Avoid overstocking. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board advises 10.5 sq. m  per cow indoors, with Red Tractor recommending a minimum of 6.5 sq. m.

► Pasture management 
80% of parasites live in the first 5cm above ground forage. By keeping lower stocking rates and a reside of higher than 10cm, you can reduce parasite infection drastically. Cross-grazing pastures with sheep or goats for a season, or using pasture for hay or crops, will also help break the lifecycle of many parasites. 

► Natural de-worming treatments   

⇒ You can use botanical de-wormers such as garlic (in powder or pill form), wormwood, carrot seed, fennel seed, pyrethrum, goosefoot, pumpkin seeds, wild ginger, or mustard.

⇒ Diatomaceous earth (D.M.) and charcoal can be added to the animal’s grain ration.

⇒ Copper sulphate or hydrogen peroxide can be mixed with drinking water or added to feed.

Note! Always consult your vet before treating your animal, even if it’s a natural remedy.  


Eliminate mangy and unpleasant external parasites 

Lice, ticks, mange, and flies commonly affect cattle causing irritation, blood loss, depressed appetites, lowered weight gain, and reduced milk production. Mange can infect the mammary gland, interfering with milking. 

► Symptoms
Rough coat, poor weight gain, lethargy, lack of appetite, depression, and constant rubbing against trees and fences. 

► Prevention
Separate and treat animals that display early signs of infestation. Always keep newly introduced cattle away from the main herd for a few weeks until it’s clear that they are clean and healthy. 

► Natural treatment of external parasites 

⇒ Use a liquid enzyme spray to break down the exoskeleton of the insect or mite. Once this occurs the parasites die quickly. Liquid enzymes are not toxic to the animal. 

Diatomaceous earth (D.M.) and garlic powder can also be used. Do NOT use the D.M. that is sold for pool filtration.

Soap is great for removing the waxy cuticle that protects insects and mites from drying out. Repeated treatments will be necessary especially with heavy infestations. Pure soaps are best.

⇒ Run organic plant oil along the cow’s neck and spine to cover some of the more commonly infested areas. As with soap, repeat the treatment regularly.

⇒ Try Neem oil, a natural insecticide from the Indian Neem tree.

⇒ Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum Flower) is a botanical insecticide that will kill insects and mites on contact. The powder form is best used in the case of heavy infestations.

Note! Always consult your vet before treating your animal, even if it’s a natural remedy.  


Prevent and Treat Mastitis 

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland caused by bacteria entering the gland through the teat. 

► Symptoms
Clinical mastitis is what we can see on the outside, including swollen teats, heat pain, swelling, clots in the strip cups, and abnormal milk. Sub-clinical mastitis is not visible but can be identified through evidence of high microscopic cell counts in the milk, reduced milk quality, and reduced milk production. 

According to ACS, the most common causes of contagious bovine mastitis are:
⇒ Streptococcus agalactiae
⇒ Staphylococcus aureus
⇒ Mycoplasma spp.

► Prevention
⇒ Implement a plan to regularly monitor udder health through cell count monitoring.
⇒ Clean, disinfect, and maintain milking equipment and keep the general environment clean.
⇒ Adhere to hygienic milking procedures, including udder washing and pre-dipping teats before attaching the milking cups. Fore-strip each teat, use gloves, and do not milk infected cows at the same time as other cows, or use the same equipment and post milking teat dip.
⇒ Avoid letting machines over-milk and damage the teats. Finish milking by hand.
⇒ Control fly populations as they are known to spread mastitis.

► Natural treatments for mastitis 
Treatment of mastitis should be immediate and thorough. The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable (1991) recommends taking these steps:
⇒ Confine the cow in a clean, well-ventilated shed, or suitable shelter during the course of the treatment.
⇒ Begin with a cleansing fast for two days. Allow water only.
⇒ Drench each evening with a senna laxative. Soak the senna pods in ½ a pint of cold water for a minimum of six hours. Add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.
⇒ On the third morning, break the fast with a drench of 2 pints of milk, mixed with ½ a pint of tepid water with 10 heaped tablespoons of molasses.
⇒ At midday feed a meal of steamed hay. To steam the hay, fill a gallon bucket with 1/3 hay and soften by heating gently over hot water for one hour. Add 2lbs of bran and 10 tablespoons of molasses. Repeat the meal in the evening. Do not give the cow any further senna laxative brew.                                                                                                                                                ⇒Keep the cow on this diet for three days and increase the quantity of the feed according to the size and appetite of the animal.
⇒ Supplement the treatment with medicinal herbs.

Again, always remember to check with your vet before administering any treatments.