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Natural Herd Health- Where to Start

August 9, 2021

To get to the kind of herd that has no need whatsoever for vaccines, antibiotics, or chemical wormers (my goal for holistic herd health!) we start with nutrition. When Charles Walters was interviewing ranchers about Brucellosis and TB, he talked with those who were ranching back in the decades before vaccines. He sought out the successful ones, the ones who had naturally eradicated those diseases in their herds. They worded it this way “Oh, we just fed it out of our herds!” meaning they used nutrition; that includes adequate amounts of wholesome and nutrient‑dense forages throughout all four seasons, along with any minerals or vitamins that could be missing from the soil. Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine asked his peers to show him any disease that could not be traced back to either nutritional deficiencies or excesses. He was right, they could not, and more importantly neither could we today.  

Nowadays we also have to consider that almost all of our air, water and soil has been contaminated with industrial pollutants, or has been made dangerous via dumping or intentional applications of herbicides, pesticides, insecticide or heavy metals. For a truly healthy herd I recommend access to the classic detox substances. I like to see all domestic livestock have access to a detox clay such as Desert Dynamin (montmorillinite) or Redmonds Conditioner (bentonite) clay. Additionally, we have found that a small daily dose of whole‑apple Apple Cider Vinegar can better withstand chronic exposure to the ‑cides, mold mycotoxins (such as Fescue endophyte and those in moldy stored forages), heavy metals and other pollution. 

It is also very important to test every farm or every home for toxic levels of radiation, or EMF pollution. This new form of pollution can easily cripple the immune system and cause chronic illness throughout any herd. It can be from something as simple as stray voltage coming from transformers or power lines, or, worse, cell phone towers, high⁢power lines or other signal devices. If it exists, it must be remediated before good herd health is possible. 

There really is not any pasture, field or farm ground that is not coincidentally deficient (or in excess) in essential minerals and substances. This is why wild herds bothered to migrate thousands of miles, finding salt licks and mineral deposits all along the way. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to keep free‑choice, high‑quality and weather‑protected vitamins and minerals out there 365 days a year. It is sort of oversimplifying things a bit, but it’s still true that we consider copper to kill and destroy bacteria, Iodine for fungal disease and selenium to destroy viral pests. Unlike what occurs with antibiotics and chemical wormers, the microbes can never develop a resistance to high quality minerals and vitamins! I always say that these minerals in high, but balanced doses, are my “Drugs of Choice” when it comes to disease and parasite protection.


Also, at the top of the list for holistic herd health is to create strong genetics, which usually is directly associated with a strong functional immune system. This is impossible when pharmaceutical drugs are being given because those “crutches” help keep weak and diseased animals alive and breeding whereas in Nature, they would be dinner for wolves and coyotes. “Doctoring” a sick animal with drugs does not make them healthier necessarily, it just keeps them alive but still vulnerable to the next disease agent. 

Lastly, comes management that takes in the full spectrum of what might be called, at the least, stress reduction. But more accurately, the creation of lifestyles that follow what animals in nature experience and gives the animals fresh air, sunshine, exercise, social relationships, protection from weather extremes and, of course, excellent nutrition. 

So, this is my proposition, create health via the way it occurs in all populations in a natural manner. At some point in time, it behooves all livestock producers to consider getting off the drug/crutch merry‑go‑round! You cannot just vaccinate your way to health and not only that, nature gets to “bat last.” Just remember that it can take a long time, years perhaps, to get to the point where all vaccines and drugs are eliminated, but it’s a worthy goal and one that is achievable by just about anyone or any operation. There will most likely be a few bumps along the way, which is all the more reason to proceed slowly. It is true that eventually, through culling or through the natural course, the weak, high‑maintenance, fragile and therefore undesirable animals will go away and the cream of the crop will rise to the top! That is where you want to be! Good luck!

Matt Buhmann

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