“Poppy George” Plitt graduated from college with a degree in agriculture in 1932 During the years that followed he made 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 standard bred 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 farm advice on the care and feeding of homestead livestock.
QUESTION: My wife and I are buying some acreage in the
northern “neck” of Virginia and expect to move there
sometime this year. We like the area very much . . . except
for the ticks, which have bothered us a great deal on
several occasions. I seem to be allergic to their bites and
react to each one with weeks of severe itching. My Virginia
friends tell me they have a lot of tick problems with their
dogs and other animals. Do you know of any non-toxic
repellent for these pests, or any way to remove one after
it becomes attached (without causing its head to remain in
ANSWER: Ticks can be a royal pain in the neck (and in other
places too) for both animals and people. My experience with
repelling the creatures has given no consistent results . .
. but I have had fabulous luck with removing them
from animals and humans — myself included — by
means of a drop or two of oil of camphor applied directly
on each intruder with a medicine dropper. You’ll find that
the oil kills the tick, which usually comes out intact
(head and all). Please do not pull off the pests
once they’re attached, because the head breaks loose and
severe itching and infection often follow.
QUESTION: Poppy, I have a goat, a calf, and a cow . . .
and, since I’m without a fenced pasture, I must stake the
animals out to graze and tie them when they’re inside my
“barn”. The goat and calf chew the rope ties, break loose,
and get into trouble. Chains are so expensive that I just
can’t afford them now. What solution can you suggest?
ANSWER: If you’re feeding your stock baled hay fastened
with twine — not wire — ties, save the string . . .
or you may be able to get a supply from a local farmer with
a large operation. He’ll probably be glad to give you the
ties gratis, since they’re a headache to dispose of. Take 6
to 12 strands, attach them to a snap (with a swivel), and
braid them into a rope. You can make the rope as long as
you wish. Then fasten a piece of wire to the end opposite
the snap and use the metal to pull the cord through a
length of old rubber or plastic hose (half-inch or larger
in diameter). This makes a durable, long-lasting tie for
indoor or outdoor use. If you’re handy, incidentally, you
can use the 12-strand braid to fabricate halters for
calves, cows, horses, or goats.
QUESTION: I have a few dairy goats and a cow. Must they be
fed different diets?
ANSWER: Cattle and dairy goats can thrive on
basically the same rations. For instance, both can handle
roughage feeds such as pasture, silage, hay, sugar beets,
and many other root crops (besides most garden refuse
that’s free of chemical residues). Milk production,
however, does require a diet containing 12 to 14 percent
crude protein. Quality alfalfa hay is excellent for both
animals, and a good grain ration should be fed by the
following rule of thumb: one pound of grain for each three
pounds of milk produced. This allowance should be divided
between morning and evening feedings.
Farm Advice: Around the Homestead
Successful animal husbandry depends in part on a knowledge
of disease and its management. If you’re on your toes, you
can spot sickness in its initial stages . . . when you have
the best chance of dealing with it successfully. In future
issues I intend to describe some simple signs that indicate
when livestock or poultry are going out of condition. Let’s
start with the following note on illness in calves.
I recommend that you invest a dollar or two in a veterinary
thermometer and take the rectal temperature of any animal
that doesn’t look “just right”. Do this at the first
indication of ill health. I affix a short bit of string to
the glass eyelet at the top of the instrument and tie the
other end to a spring-type wooden clothespin. After
inserting the bulb, I clip the pin to a portion of the
patient’s tail. This is a very useful addition in case of a
restless beast or one that expels the thermometer or knocks
it out of your hand.
A calf’s normal temperature can and does vary from 100 degrees
to 101degrees Fahrenheit. An excited youngster can give a reading of
102 degrees to 102-1/2 degrees Fahrenheit. In my experience, a temperature
over 103 degrees means trouble. Pneumonia cases of long
duration may produce a lingering fever in the
102 degree to 103 degree range. A drop below 99 degrees usually
indicates that the animal is not responding to your
treatment and is going to leave you.
I use aspirin to get a sick calf’s temperature down. An
alcohol sponge bath is also helpful, but the patient should
be rubbed briskly at the same time, covered promptly with a
blanket, and kept in a draft-free area if possible.