Organic Broadcaster

Got cows? Vet’s new book offers advice for year-round health management

By Darlene Coehoorn

Book on cow care

Available at

Four-Seasons Organic Cow Care is an easy, interesting read for dairy farmers. Dr. Hubert Karreman covers all the aspects of cow care, from breeding to feeding and any health issue that crops up in between.

According to Dr. Karreman, farmers of any stripe can keep livestock healthier by keeping the animals in direct contact with the land and breathing fresh air, having them graze well managed pastures whenever possible while feeding high forage rations during the non-grazing times. When animals are housed during the winter, they need dry bedding and appropriate ventilation.

As the name suggests, this book is laid out according to the seasons, providing a wealth of information on common problems that typically crop up at that time of year. This format makes it easy to reference problems you might be seeing currently; you can also go right to the section on a specific issue by checking the helpful index at the back of the book.

Spring begins with calving and calf care. Dr. Karreman talks about how to address the needs of the cow at freshening to prevent stresses and avoid the health issues that result. One interesting point he makes is that you should move a cow to the location where it will calve at least three weeks prior to calving so that it will have the correct antibodies in the colostrum for its calf.

The section about spring also covers cow and calf nutritional needs and health issues related to imbalances within the animal like ketosis and milk fever. The doctor does a great job describing what symptoms to look for and how to react to what is seen. He suggests when it is best to just monitor and when to be aggressive with treatments for the observed condition. He also gives examples of products to use. In the back of the book, he tells you how to locate the recommended products.

The spring section also covers pasture. I think farmers will appreciate seeing his recommendation on how to accurately figure out cows’ dry matter feed intake from pasture and the chart showing the feed values of some weeds compared to alfalfa. There is some advice on what to plant and suggested clipping or dragging times to best eliminate unwanted pests and to help beneficials like the dung beetles. Pasture problems like bloat are also covered in the spring section. I have tried the recommended treatment for hoof rot to treat hairy heel warts and hoof rot with great success.

Evaluating tinctures and administering herbal remedies are covered in the chapter titled “Herbal Medicine.” Here Dr. Karreman lists the top 10 herbs for cattle. He reminds us that food should be our medicine, which holds true for cattle, too.

In the summer section, Dr. Karreman covers parasites and pests. He encourages a multipronged approach to provide a better chance of success in fighting them. As always, a clean, dry environment is a must in controlling the flying pests that plague us each summer. Sticky tape fly traps and wasp predators are all a part of that multipronged approach. He also highly recommends the Spaulding fly vac as a superior control method for flies.

The summer section also has information on heat stress on pasture and how it affects cows’ feed intake/milk production.

The fall section covers topics such as vaccinations, feed changes, twisted stomachs, breeding, and exercise. Winter covers pneumonia and coughing, dry cow care, and sprouted grains and their feed value. The “any season” section of the book covers mastitis, hardware and rabies.

Throughout the book, Dr. Karreman stresses the importance of addressing the root cause of a problem rather than applying Band-Aids, especially if they aren’t needed.

I have found much of what is included in this book to be useful in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of conditions that affect cow health. In reading the book, I found that I agreed with many of the suggested therapies as we have tried them and found them to be most effective. I feel that this is a great resource for those who are involved in caring for livestock. I was especially pleased to see the recommended therapies and products were included in the Sources of Products listing at the back of the book.

Two quotes from the “In Conclusion-Happy New Year” section of the book seem to sum it all up:

“By not relying on chemicals and drugs, you are free to rely more on your own vision, intellect, and fortitude to steer your farm.”

“Let’s keep growing organically to create a cleaner world that our children are happy to inherit.”

Darlene Coehoorn and her family have a 55-cow dairy and 500 acres of cropland in Eastern Wisconsin.

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