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Animal Health Notebook

Here are a million reasons we need bugs

The reasons for good bacteria are obvious, but even the bad bacteria have purpose.

For the majority of my career in veterinary medicine including the thousands of hours in lectures, labs, and study, the unseen microbial world was the enemy. If we did not pay attention and monitor the pathogens closely and medicate before and during stressful times, we might lose the ranch.

I was brought into a real mindful thought process the first time I heard veterinarian-rancher Gordon Hazard say that “you can’t make a well steer weller.”

These days, most of us should have some knowledge and understanding that macro and microscopic life is what keeps the lights on for the rest of us and for our animals. The “bugs” digest the grass in ruminants (like cattle, sheep and goats) and large-bowel digesters (like horses). Our large bowel (colon) and appendix are important and vital for extended health due to the billions of good bugs that live there. Without them, we will leave the planet.

We need roughage to feed health, from the standpoint of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals. We need the scratch effect on the gut lining, and the bacteria produces the B-vitamins that keep our brains from transforming into mush. High-quality beef furnishes the bugs what they need to function at a high efficiency level.

Nutrient density has recently been getting a lot of press and for good reason. Modern farming practices based on highly reactive chemical salt fertilizer, hybrid plants that produce huge amounts of seed and fruit, and GMO technology that allows them to resist glyphosate and several organisms has left alfalfa, corn, soybeans, and many other crops and fruits with less than 50% of the mineral and trace mineral content of two generations ago.

Think about the announcement in February 2017 that Americans health care cost is presently at $10,000 per capita annually and is expected to rise by 25% in the next five years to $12,500 per person per year. If your ranch program is way above average and yielding $125 per head profit it will take 100 head of well-managed cows to pay your medical insurance in 2022.

If there is any such thing resembling a silver bullet, good bugs are the answer for the production of probiotics and fermentation products and extracts that are proving themselves as to their health and curative powers. It will not be many years before most of the present chemo treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease will be proven as asinine. Most of the cutting and sewing can or will be eliminated. Ditto the same for hormone replacement. When we hit the bull’s eye of the right target, health care costs will plummet.

Bad bugs are arguably just as necessary as good bugs when their levels are held within natural model limits. The bad bugs are needed for higher life forms to exist. Think for a minute about these examples:

  • The immune system
  • Soil moisture, mineral and energy levels
  • Parasitic diseases
  • Army worms and leafhoppers

I have never been considered an agronomist, a parasitologist, a botanist, an immunologist, and I spent 10 long weeks in a three-hour horticulture class and gladly slipped out with a C. But I’m gonna give some examples that have real practical application for all of us to ponder.

The immune system will not function vibrantly unless challenged. This is the theory behind vaccinations. Some vaccines routinely fail. The same is true of some types of less-than-complete immunity.

Many of us spent lots of time and mental gymnastics in parasitology learning the names, life cycles, pathogenicity, control and treatment of hundreds of evil little macro and micro critters. Truth is they are not necessarily all evil but necessary.

Ostertagia is likely the only important internal parasitic worm in most cattle operations. When considering worms in cattle, sheep, and goats if you learn their names and cycles you’ve pretty well got the “bad boys” covered (Ostertagia, haemonchus, cooperia). Consider the following facts about these three primary parasitic worms:

  • All three are important for immune function.
  • All three are near harmless in environments where animals graze plants that are 12 or more inches off the ground.
  • All three take out animals that are dinks or freaks.
  • All three have very few live larvae after 75 days of pasture rest.
  • All three are a reflection of broken soil cycle systems (water, energy, mineral, community dynamics).
  • All three are indicators of management errors when they are pathogenic.

Disease organisms are out there for a reason and that purpose is to keep us on our toes. I think some real thought and understanding to be a necessity if we are to go forward.

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