Homesteading Q&A: Cow Pinkeye, Livestock Lice, Horse Mineral Deficiency and More

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Giving vitamins A, D and E may help your cow's pinkeye.
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Using a milking stand may ease the strain for both you and your goats.

QUESTION: My heifer’s eye is very red and watery and seems sensitive to light, and my neighbor says the animal has pinkeye. What do you think? 

ANSWER: Judging from the symptoms I agree with your neighbor’s diagnosis — and if you do nothing to correct the condition, blindness can result. I recommend that you give vitamins A, D and E orally or as an intramuscular injection in the neck or rump, and put a patch over the affected eye to keep out the light. This treatment usually results in steady improvement.

QUESTION: My cow, goats and burro always seem to be rubbing their bodies against poles or buildings. What could be the cause? 

ANSWER: Particularly at this time of year, the trouble could be lice. Part the hair of the animal quickly, and you can usually see the pests scamper. If any are present, dust the stock well with flowers of sulfur and rotenone — an effective natural product that is non-toxic to humans — and rub it in with an old glove, especially on the neck and body and around the rump. Be sure to repeat the treatment in seven to 10 days. This should control the lice for several months.

QUESTION: My horses chew on wood. Could this habit be due to mineral deficiency? 

ANSWER: If the horses are kept inside, the cause is usually not mineral deficiency but boredom and/or lack of exercise. All the same — as I’ve recommended previously — keep a block (or part of a block) of trace-mineralized salt available to your horses and cattle. Also give the stock free access to dicalcium phosphate and ground limestone, an excellent source of calcium (do not use hydrated lime for this purpose!) and they’ll balance their own mineral needs. As a further measure, paint all wooden portions of stalls, fences, barns, etc., liberally with creosote. (Wear gloves and don’t spatter the chemical in your eyes — it burns.) Animals don’t like wood thus treated, and the preservative will add years of life to your buildings and equipment.

QUESTION: How important is salt in the diet of my goats and burro? 

ANSWER: Salt is essential, especially in the winter months. Follow the feeding procedure recommended above for cattle and horses, and the critters will satisfy their requirements for minerals.

QUESTION: When and where should I order my baby chicks, and what quality standards should I look for? 

ANSWER: I prefer to order chicks from a reputable local breeder in January, February or March. Be sure the seller’s flock is tested and free of B.W.D. (bacillary white diarrhea) or pullorum disease. This will save you many heartaches and unnecessary losses. Also see that the newly hatched chicks have fluffy down and well-healed navels. The choice of breed is up to you, but for practical purposes it’s best to avoid such exotics as Blue Andalusians, Jersey Black Giants, Brahmas, Orpingtons, etc. They’re nice to keep but usually don’t lay enough to be profitable.

QUESTION: I’m 6 feet, 1 inch and while I enjoy the milk of our two nanny goats, I do got a few aches in the process of milking. What can you suggest, Poppy, to make the job a bit easier? 

ANSWER: A chore is a chore and always will be. If you enjoy the finished product, that’s what counts most. Anyhow, here’s a milking stand I’ve used that should make things easier and more comfortable for both you and the goats. The ramp is removable and is unnecessary in any case if the does are trained to jump up on the platform to be fed and milked. The stanchion restrains the animal until the job is finished.

QUESTION: In the past, Poppy, you’ve made several suggestions to cut livestock feeding costs. Have you any others now that the price of manufactured feed is so much higher? 

ANSWER: Here’s one additional possibility: Check the canneries in your area for by-products — pea vines, sweet corn husks, etc. — that can be used as low-cost animal feed.

 “Poppy George” Plitt graduated from college with a degree in agriculture in 1932. During the years that followed he made a good many friends and a name for himself (as a gentleman, inventor and executive) in the field of bird and animal husbandry and care. At various points in his career, Mr. Plitt served as Director of Nutritional Research and Field Services for two of the East’s larger grain mills. He is also, the originator of Pride of the Valley Wild Bird Food and Kleen Kitty cat litter. Mr. Plitt now raises and trains standardbred horses and keeps a wide variety of other birds and animals on a New York farm.

“Poppy George” is now sharing his experience by giving MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers down-to-earth advice on the care and feeding of homestead livestock.