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!
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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