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Animal Health

Local focus - Vet tackles health myths at LocalFest

Written by Melissa Hemken

Lander – The new Lander Community Center was host to the Fourth Annual LocalFest on Oct. 24, focused on producing and marketing agriculture products locally. Will Winter of Minnesota, a retired veterinarian, presented on livestock nutrition and health, focusing one session on the biggest lies in livestock production.

“There’s a lot of stuff that science does not know how to explain whatsoever, like murmurations of birds and how schools of fish move,” said Winter, founder of the American Holistic Livestock Association. “The other thing is a germ. Myth number one is that germs are the cause of disease.”

“I’m going to take a dead calf and put bovine tuberculosis germs on it. Will it get tuberculosis? No, because disease is created by the body,” he explained. “Health is related to genetics, nutrition and environment for livestock.” 

“In Europe, the Mad Cow disease hysteria killed millions of stock, and it’s a prion disease – not infectious,” Winter continued. “Hoof and Mouth is another one that caused millions of animals to be killed. Both are caused by what the animal eats. We can’t name one disease that doesn’t begin with nutrition.”

Veterinary concerns

According to Winter, the biggest lies of modern medicine are vaccine, wormer and antibiotics. 

“Vaccines are a nasty crutch that get us in trouble down the road,” Winter said. “The multivalent vaccines are the worst as they scramble the immune system, and the body doesn’t know what it’s fighting. We want to stay away from multivalents, even if they are more convenient.

“As a vet, I used to vaccinate like crazy, and I injected myself with strain 19 live brucellosis. All the vets treated themselves with a mineral cocktail,” he explained, “so why don’t we do this with cattle?”

“We can’t have a conventional livestock operation and take away all the drugs at once,” Winter continued. “The stock will all die because they are addicted to the drug. Zinc is something we use as we move the stock off of the vaccines.”

Minerals and nutrition

Many beef producers underestimate the importance of mineral supplementation and nutrition. 

Mineral deficiencies cause a reduction in growth and efficiency and depress the immune system. Trace minerals are required for metabolism of nutrients, reproduction, immune response and nerve conduction. 

The most commonly deficient minerals are copper, cobalt, magnesium and zinc.

“A faded, reddish Black Angus that doesn’t have the blue-black color is deficient in copper,” Winter said. “Iron is an antagonist to copper and zinc. If we have iron in our water or soil, we probably have a deficiency in copper and zinc.”

He continued, “They say sheep aren’t supposed to have copper, but I differ. My sheep needed a copper mineral to bring the color out in their horns and hooves, and my worms went away.”

Pink eye and foot rot are caused by mineral deficiencies, as well, he explained.

“I use Multi-Min 90 and vitamin A before shipping or right after purchasing cattle. The injections alleviate mineral deficiencies during times of stress,” Winter explained. “It takes about a year to fully replenish minerals to the bone marrow.”

Overuse

Winter said that Ivomec is useless now, as there are so many super worms, and it affects the soil minerals killing the dung beetles. Wyoming has over a dozen species of dung beetles, and they are needed for fertility and to sequester the carbon back in the soil. 

To check if a producer has dung beetles, take a bucket of water and throw in a scoop of fresh, day-old manure. The beetles will swim to the top of the water.

In the U.S., 80 percent of antibiotics sold are used for livestock. 

“Antibiotic resistance is very common now,” Winter said. “A good place to die is a hospital because of all the super bugs. We blame feed grade antibiotics as the problem. It is even hard to find calf starter without antibiotics woven into it.”

He further mentioned, “Overdosing on antibiotics is a huge problem. A healthy digestive tract is 80 percent good bacteria and 20 percent bad. Antibiotics upset this balance. Hippocrates said, ‘Nature itself is the best physician.’”

Nutrition

“To get away from antibiotics and vaccines, nutrition is essential,” Winter said. “When the average Brix of forage hits 12, we are golden. We don’t need vaccines or supplements. If we have a low Brix, we might have to go all the way back to the soil to find what needs to be done to increase nutrients.”

The Brix unit of measure has been traditionally used in the wine, sugar, fruit and honey industries to estimate the sugar, or sucrose, or water soluble content. Forages are composed of many soluble and non-soluble compounds, including sugars, oils, minerals and proteins. Measuring Brix in forages shows the nutrient and energy content of the grass. To improve the Brix count of forage, apply charcoal, compost tea, manure and lime.

“A rancher with a high Brix measure in their forage,” Winter explained, “will produce a 12-ounce grass-fed steak that will fill up a guy who can normally eat a 30-ounce commercial steak. That is the difference in nutrient density that the steer consumed.”

“As soon as we got to 1914 and produced war chemicals, we threw all our treasured knowledge of animal husbandry away,” Winter said. “Old agriculture books have tons of ag wisdom that was known back then, and we have forgotten. There are a rainbow of tools are out there, and there are amazing things we can do without using vaccines, wormers or antibiotics in our stock.”

Alternatives

“I encourage every farmer and rancher with livestock to have a homeopathic first aid kit,” Will Winter, a retired veterinarian from Minnesota, said. “We can cure our kids, chickens, cattle, hogs or whatever with 50 homeopathic items.”

“Apple cider vinegar is the most startling,” he commented. “I see more results with it than anything else. It prevents scours, bloat, reflux, indigestion and virtually all forms of internal and external parasites, and it improves disease resistance.”

Apple cider vinegar can be administered to livestock through mixing in the water tank at a rate of 1.5 cups of apple cider vinegar to 20 gallons of water. It can also be sprinkled directly onto hay, silage or concentrate feed. Recommendation consumption for beef cattle via the drenching method is four ounces a day per head and, for calves, two ounces a day.

Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..