Hygiene on the livestock production farm takes on a much greater significance than in other fields of veterinary homeopathy.
Hygiene seeks to normalize the patient’s world for the species and to minimize noxious external stressors that either lead to acute disease or to the exacerbation of chronic disease.
Because of the structure of many farms (large numbers of animals, short tenure of the animals on the farm), the emphasis cannot be on individual chronic disease. The numbers and/or the time constraints mandate a collective (herd, flock, etc) approach to disease with an emphasis on crisis control and prevention, rather than an individual approach focusing on chronic disease.
In these situations, hygiene becomes the primary tool in the health care program, not therapeutics. If hygiene is correct, crises from acute disease and from an exacerbation of chronic will be minimized. The need for therapeutics will be minimal and will target only those aspects of individual acute disease (traumas in particular) or collective acute disease (epidemic contagions) that are not prevented by proper hygiene.
The exception to this thinking is the smaller family farm or dairy where the numbers are smaller and the stock tends to stay on the farm for multiple years. The structure of these farms would allow for the treatment of individual chronic disease much as is the case with horses or companion animals.
Let’s consider the expanded role of hygiene in the farm, keeping in mind that these are the things that successful farmers do on a routine basis in the name of making their business profitable but probably don’t associate with their overall health care program..
On the typical farm, much, if not most, of the feed for the stock is grown on the farm in the form of pasture, hay, silage, and grain. This means that hygiene must start with the vitality of the soils on the farm – healthy soil means healthy and nutritious crops. Manure and waste management, grazing and harvesting programs, tillage and planting methods all have a direct impact on soil quality. Attention must be paid to more than the standard NPK fertilizers, as these are totally inadequate for production of a healthy soil.
The plants selected and propagated must be matched to the micro-environment of the farm if they are going to grow with minimal outside inputs. On the same line of thinking the livestock selected must also match the environment on the farm as well as the production and management systems.
Water must be clean, plentiful, and readily accessible. It must be provided in such a manner as to prevent fouling from excrement or from damage to stream beds and banks. Ideally water should be supplied in easily cleaned stock tanks.
Housing on the farm must provide adequate space, ventilation, and light for those times when the stock are not in the fields. When the stock are in the fields, shelter from sun, wind, rain and snow must also be available at all times.
Equipment must be sized for the animals being worked and must be in prime working order. This is especially true on the dairy where even minor fluctuations in vacuum or the presence of minor stray voltages can wreak havoc in the health of the herd.
And finally vaccinations and supplements must be tailored for the farm and the specific needs of that farm. Just because a vaccine or a supplement is available, doesn’t mean it should be used on every farm – regardless of what the chemical salesman or the feed store owner says (not picking on those businesses but knowing that is where farmers get a lot of their information about available products).
These thoughts don’t really scratch the surface of the hygiene needed on the typical working livestock farm but are given as a broad overview.
There are so many fields with so much depth that I think it would be nearly impossible for one person to be an expert on all facets of hygiene on the farm. The ideal situation on a farm is to develop a team approach to hygiene.
From my way of thinking this team should be structured to include:
- Farmers and producers in the area – no one knows a farm like a farmer. No one has the level of understanding of what is needed on a farm as does a farmer. Historically the ideas behind the most successful farms have come off the farm, not from academia or government.
- Soil and plant specialists – health begins in the soil and with the nutrition provided by the crops raised on the farm
- Nutritionists, geneticists, animal behaviorists, and other animal scientists – animal types, their handling and their feeding are all considerations in how well the animal is adapted to the farm and ultimately how healthy they will stay
- Equipment specialists – The farm can be a dangerous place, especially when the equipment used to work and handle the stock is not in top working order
- Veterinarians, extension agents, and academia
A group like this can help assure that the farm runs as smoothly and as healthy as possible.