Holistic animal husbandry refers to the art, if you will, of considering the whole animal, every body system, and every environmental/external factor instead of reducing them down to one disease state, one organ system, one treatment, etc. This starts with nutrition, environment and health at the very core, but can be as involved as a person is willing to go with it, depending on their level of knowledge of the workings of the body and the effects of environmental factors.
Corn and soy are the most genetically modified crops out there, and sadly those GMO crops have contaminated even organically grown crops of corn and soy. Aside from that, corn and soy change the fatty acid ratio with more Omega 6 (inflammatory) and less Omega 3 (heart/brain healthy) than is healthy. Soy can also throw estrogen levels off kilter in both females and males. Those are the reason we do not feed corn and soy. What we do feed is primarily pasture grasses and "weeds" like yellow dock, chickweed, clover, dandelion, vetch, etc. We'll also be planting more beets soon! In addition to their forage based diet, we supplement with Non-GMO, soy/corn free pellets from Tucker Milling, called Nature Crest. I've been happy with it, but I'm not so stuck in a rut that I'm not willing to consider that there's something better. We will be incorporating more fermented whole grains and seeds with a bit of added kelp and blackstrap molasses into the diets of the animals soon, as we feel that the closer to the natural (not heavily processed) state of food we can get, the better.
The most common animal husbandry practices rely on many synthetic drugs, not only given to animals in the form of injections and oral medications, but also in their environment. Examples would be formulas used for disenfecting areas, formulas for ridding areas of bugs, etc. These common practices have effects on soil health and populations of beneficial insects, which eventually effects the pasture which is grazed by the animals. It also starts a cycle of "treat it, your problem doesn't go away, treat it more, it gets worse," and on and on. I'll use fly control as an example. If you treat an area for flies, yes, it gets rid of those flies, however it may also disrupt other insect populations. If you're wise and have chickens to help with fly control, those chickens lose a food source, so they go elsewhere and the cycle continues. These treatments also have an impact on the animals directly, by potentially weakening their immune systems. The immune system is essentially found throughout the body - the gut, liver, lymph nodes, everywhere. If one thing is thrown off, things tend to get "out of whack," setting the animal up for disease, that may not be a direct side effect of the chemical concoctions used, but a result of that cocktail weakening one organ system that leads to another.
Holistic animal husbandry goes well beyond nutrition and environmental applications, though. We obviously aim to avoid sickness all together and focus on genetically hardy animals and giving them the things they need to live well. Next, and even more important, in my opinion, is NOT giving them things that would compromise an intact immune system, like vaccinations and medications. So, many people freak out at this point and say "What if an animal gets sick, do you just let it die?" No! That's when my favorite part comes in. Not my favorite because I need to use my skills, but because I'm ABLE to use my skills to treat these special creatures with plant medicine, which at it's core helps the body to help itself instead of destroying or suppressing body systems. A genetically hardy animal combined with herbal treatment when needed is a winning combination! And here again, most people would balk at this point and say, "You need something strong - a pharmaceutical drug!" Nope again. Have you ever heard of poisonous plants, plants to avoid letting animals eat, plants to avoid letting your children eat or touch? Yeah, of course! Well, if plants have the power to do harm, you also have to acknowledge that they have the potential to do good, when used properly, as they can't be both powerful and powerless. That doesn't make sense.
To Be Continued
There are so many connections that I could make and so many more details to cover, especially in the realm of vaccinations and medications, but I'm going to let this introduction sink in for a bit and pick up with another post covering those things later. I hope I've mentioned some things that get you all thinking, questioning, and wondering what we could do differently to raise healthier animals not dependent on both harmful and expensive treatments. Thank you for your interest in holistic animal husbandry!
We've been eagerly awaiting the birth of all our little goat babies for what seems like forever. Lulu (a first freshener Toggenburg) was due to kid first. Her estimated due date was June 1, but she gave birth to beautiful boy/girl twins on May 30th. She was nice enough to hold out until I went out to feed. She ate her feed and we all went through our morning routine as usual. As had been the case for the past couple of days, I checked to see how Lulu's tail ligaments felt, not because it benefited her any, but I was curious to know if I could possibly tell when she might kid. I checked and I could feel NO ligaments. They were all soft and ready to go, so I though, "Yay, she shouldn't be too much longer, maybe tonight or tomorrow." Then, as I was walking around, taking in the scenery and checking this and that, Lulu comes up to me and just had a different demeanor. She wanted me to pet her and be near her, which she typically doesn't care one way or the other. Then she practically led me to the hay filled stall of the barn, where she started breathing heavily. The other goats couldn't resist seeing what we were doing, so they joined in as well, but I could tell that she wasn't keen on having them around. Then I saw her backside open up to the size of a baseball and I knew this was the real deal. I know I don't want an audience when I'm giving birth, so I removed all the animals to the back pasture so she could have her peace. When I returned she pushed and the amniotic sac bulged out. I was beyond excited that she let me (and even seemed to want me to) be part of this experience, as I missed our first goat kidding last year so this was a first for me, although not my first birth by any means. I've been a doula for birthing mothers and I've had two children of my own, with the last being unassisted (yes, on purpose). Even so, birth never gets old and is always exciting!
I'm in the goat groups on Facebook and I see everyone posting about how they "saved" the day (and their goats) by shoving their hands where they don't belong and pulling out babies like prizes in a grab bag. No thanks! Not because I'm squeamish or I think I "couldn't" do it, but because BIRTH IS NATURAL - human, goat, pig, etc. We did not get here by being afraid of birth or by not instinctively knowing how to do it. Just as women don't need interference during birth, neither do animals 99.99% of the time. This just seems stupid to have to say, but I suppose mainstream thinking has effectively brainwashed everyone into freaking out about birth. Maybe Lulu knew I would be her moral support but wouldn't interfere needlessly so she trusted me, who knows. Lulu progressed quickly and the increasingly harder pushes brought her to her knees. She looked to me for support and I just squatted beside her and rubbed my hand down her side between contractions. She relaxed as I did this and then tackled the next contraction. Soon enough she decided that standing would be a better position for her, so up she came. At this point I decided to get a video of the birth. I could see what looked like a foot and a mouth with baby's tongue out. I admit that the tongue out scared me for a moment, but I looked (no hands) a little closer and clearly the baby was moving. I also noticed there were two feet that looked to be pointed in a favorable and easy birthing position. I knew she had this, even though she was only at the beginning. The first baby (a boy we named Tumbleweed) came tumbling out after several hard pushes. He hit the ground, but not as hard as I expected, really. I knew this wasn't a bad thing and that he was fine. I did help get his head unfolded after he was out just because it didn't look that comfortable.
The pause between babies is necessary and important. Mom gets a little break from contractions and is able to lick and bond with the first baby. Doing so stimulates more Oxytocin to flow through her body so she is ready to push out the next baby. I'm assuming they may feel a "birth high" similar to that felt by natural birthing human mamas when they have accomplished such an amazing feat all on their own and have all those wonderful birthy hormones flowing. Lulu definitely looked energized and ready for the next baby as she felt the first of her second set of contractions return. She lifted her head and paused for what looked like a moment to regroup and focus, then she began pushing again.
And Then There Were Two
The birth of the second baby was much faster than the first and seemed easier for Lulu. Although, the second baby, a little girl, was much smaller than her BIG brother. Lulu probably only pushed three times before baby Annie was out except for her back legs. If you look closely, you can see that little Annie was alert yet still between two worlds, with her back legs still inside her mother. Lulu needed a little rest before Annie came out completely, but that was fine. No need to interfere. After several minutes of being stuck between two worlds, Lulu stood up and Annie was completely earthside. And then there were two - Higher Ground Queen Anne's Lace (Annie) & Higher Ground Tumbleweed.
Give Birth a Chance
Lulu is a Toggenburg (Swiss breed) first freshener (FF for short), meaning that this is her first time to kid, or give birth. She rocked it! She did not need me, but fortunately for me she let me be a part of her special day and even seemed to appreciate my quiet, hands-off presence. Thank you, Lulu!
From experience as a birthing mammal, myself, and my experience helping other birthing women, I knew that a hands-off approach was best. Rupturing the sac would've made labor hurt worse as there would be no cushion between baby's hard, bony parts and mom. Pulling at any point could've caused more harm and stress than good. Stress in labor/birth sends nasty chemicals soaring through the bloodstream that work as an antagonist to naturally occurring Oxytocin. Overall, birth is natural, so just let it be, give it a chance to work out, and only interfere if it is blatantly obvious it is needed. Otherwise you just may cause the issues you're so afraid of to begin with.
The cold temps are here and keeping the animals warm and the water in liquid state is top priority. Here are 3 simple ingredients that can be added to your water tanks to help keep them warm in icy Winter weather.
It was by acident that I discovered this little gem to help keep the water in liquid, or at least slushie, form. While nursing a sick pig and trying to get him to drink more water while providing him with a bit of iron at the same time, I put a decent amount of molasses in his water bucket. The next morning, which was the first freeze for the season, the main water tank for the goats had an inch thick sheet of ice on top, but the pig water was still perfectly drinkable, and only a little slushie. Ding, ding, ding! This became the first and most important ingredient in what evolved into the Keep Them Warm forumla.
The next time I was mixing my molasses mixture, I caught myself thinking about different things I could add that would be beneficial to the animals in the cold weather and I automatically thought of Cayenne. People had mentioned giving Cayenne to their chickens in winter to keep them warm and help keep egg production up, so I thought it made sense to add it here. Cayenne also has the benefits of being a vermifuge against intestinal parasites, a tonic herb that boosts the immune system, and a catalyst herb that boosts the efficacy of other herbs and supplements. This one is a definite winner!
Apple Cider Vinegar
To round out the formula, I naturally turned to apple cider vinegar (ACV), as it is not only known for being a great probiotic, but it has many more benefits as well. It provides energy for working dogs while repelling fleas and ticks and conditioning their coats. ACV may also improve digestion, provide relief from arthritis and inflammation, help adapt to colder temperatures, and help prevent urinary tract infections and urinary calculi. It also disrupts the development of bacterial and viral infections. Every animal can benefit from these attributes!
Order ingredients by clicking on each individual ingredient below (aff. links):
1/2 to 1 cup Molasses
1 tsp Cayenne
2 TBS Raw, Unfiltered ACV
Very warm water (not hot or you risk destroying the live part of the ACV)
Add first 3 ingredients to a quart-size Mason jar. Top with very warm water and secure the lid. Shake until the molasses is completely mixed. Pour this mixture into a 2.5 gallon chicken waterer and top with water as usual, or adjust quantity of ingredients and add to the size water tank of your choice. I give this formula to all my animals - chickens, guineas, goats, pigs, dogs, and cats.
Keep them warm! :)
Just your average ex-medical scientist turned herb loving, natural living, homeschooling mom, wife, and homesteader who values common sense, real food, real people, primal instincts, and self-sufficiency.
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