Advice About Mastitis in Cattle, Tips for Crafts and More

Bjo Trimble shares her experience in response to letters from MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers.


| May/June 1974



Sewing Tools

A good way to reuse sewing patterns you're done with is to donate them to schools or libraries.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ OLEG ZHUKOV

I just recently discovered MOTHER EARTH NEWS  when I made a cross-country trip to Ohio, MOTHER's birthplace. Since then, I've ordered all the back issues and have been joyously reading MOTHER first thing when I wake in the morning. This long letter is because I have a "mizzerable cold" in my head and am too restless to stay in bed. I should be putting the energy to work cleaning house (my housekeeping has been termed "chore-to-chore failsmanship"), but instead I'll offer up some tips and trick in response to the letters I've seen in some past issues.

Mastitis and the Social Heirarchy of Cows

A comment about cows by Howard Garrett (in a letter from the January/February 1973 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS) has really been bothering me. Howard says, in effect, "Normally, more than half our herd of 200 have mastitis, because the milking machines leave the cows uptight and they don't let down all their milk. " Wow! All my farming relatives plus my own experience on a farm tell me that there's something very wrong with an operation where more than 10 percent of a herd comes down with anything. Either Howard has too many cows for the amount of help he has, or he's doing something drastically wrong.

Basically, you should never have more cattle than you can "strip." It seems as if Howard is depending on modern technology to do this for him . . . a bad mistake. Nobody should ever depend completely on a machine for stripping a cow (big operations do, but they can afford to replace animals that get into trouble, or sell off the mastitis-prone ones as hamburger). It only takes a second or two on each teat to strip the last of the milk from an animal (using a stroking movement of the thumb and forefinger), and a machine, unlike a human, can't gently but firmly massage down the bag. A sort of "bumping" much as a calf would do can help accomplish this chore.

But, and I suspect that this is the real problem, has Howard taken into account the social order of his herd? Aside from TV networks and government hierarchies, there is no greater adherence to the pecking order than that found in a herd of cattle. Two cows can be friends. Add a third, and a "social status" immediately goes into effect . . . absolutely guaranteed.

Cattle set up a firm, unbreakable (unless the lead cow dies or is removed from the herd permanently) social order . . . and if a human lets it get disarranged, the entire contingent will hold back on milk and give themselves mastitis. Removing bossy from the group won't solve anything. If she's within sight, sound or smell of the others, they'll hold her spot for her.

I've seen novice farmers trying to willy-nilly muster their cattle through a gate to the barn . . . without the Number One cow in front. You may be able to force the animals through the gate by shouting and beating and carrying on but they'll mill around and shy and do anything possible to get that lead cow through first. And she has her stall. Run another animal in there and you have two set up for mastitis (bossy because she's uptight about having her place usurped, and the other because she knows she's going to get it next day, when you herd them out to pasture). If Howard is running 200 cows into his barn each night and using different stalls each time . .  . well, the confusion and mental turmoil among the cattle guarantees mastitis.





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