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Animal Health Notebook
Old cow with calf Alan Newport
Aging in all mammals has similar ties to the endocrine system.

Thoughts and mechanics of aging, part III

Hormones affect aging, and in turn diet affects those hormones. The system is complex but a good diet is not.

My first quarter of vet school included endocrinology, or the study of hormones, and most of it went way over my head. Since then I’ve picked up a little information and learning, but the truth is that I am still likely behind the eight ball.

The definition of hormones includes chemical substances produced by an organ or cell which have a specific regulatory effect on specific activities of certain cells or organs. Similar chemicals are often referred to as eicosanoids and are produced by non-glandular cells. Actually, eicosanoids are produced by every cell and are “flash hormones” that actually orchestrate the entirety of every body and hormone system.

To slow aging we must gain control of eicosanoids. Eicosanoids have become very important to our thinking. They are the cellular information guys, very short lived and really vital. Trouble is that they are very small and extremely short lived (a matter of minutes or seconds).

Here’s an example in the bovine realm: A specific eicosanoid (prostaglandin F2-alpha) is produced by the endometrial cells lining the cow’s uterus and it removes (essentially melt) the corpus luteum (CL) on the ovary and institutes another estrous cycle. Several products have come on the market in the past 40 years that contain the natural F2-alpha or a synthetic analog. We have used them to short-cycle and synchronize cattle and abort undesirable pregnancies.

There are likely hundreds and possibly thousands of different eicosanoids. They are produced by cells not glands. They have specific functions. Some are heavily involved in pain and headaches and stability of tissue. Aspirin neutralizes bunches of these. Cortisol neutralizes and stops their secretion for a period of time.

There is much to be learned about eicosanoids. They are a key component of aging and are the basis as to health from forage produced beef and fish oil. Remember that Greenland Eskimos consuming their natural diet do not have American aging diseases. Cattle on highly mineralized diverse fresh forage that has been completely recovered are similar to Greenland Eskimos, or I should say that their beef is similar in nutrients to the Eskimo diet.

In previous blogs I stated that there are multiple factors or pillars of aging. Remember that all are important and as they are combined they synergize and greatly speed the process of getting old.

Several hormonal activities or their levels decrease with age. Examples are estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and melatonin. Many of the outward signs of aging likely have to do with a decrease of hormonal communication with the control center in the lower brain, or the hypothalamus. Maintaining the body or the beast at better efficiency greatly slows the decreases in hormonal communication. Stabilizing sugar and insulin is likely factor No. 1 in slowing hormone function loss.

It pretty much gets back to the natural model principles I preach regularly.

  • Cattle should fit the ecosystem.
  • Broad plant diversity yields system stability.
  • Close the herd as much as possible.
  • Self-harvest forage with the cattle.
  • Achieve limited seed consumption of 10-15% of dry matter.
  • Boom-and-bust management with high animal density builds soil and functionality of the mineral, water, energy and biological cycles.
  • Working with the natural model rather than against it.
  • Develop a cow herd weighing less than 1,000 pounds.

Aging and its mechanisms are important to study. We all need cattle that are highly functional to make significant profit every year. We know that low-cost systems are the only way to go. But none of us want to be bringing in new cows on a regular basis since many will not fit. We run into this problem every year with “take-in” cattle.

Remember that the system of aging is too complex for us to ever totally learn or understand. We don’t need to know all the complexities, but if we learn and apply the natural principles it will help us take care of our business.

As for our own bodies, daily consumption of self-harvested grass-fed beef with a few compost-grown fruits and vegetables will stabilize our aging mechanisms. Supplementing with good amounts of fish oil is a nice add-on.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Beef Producer or Farm Progress.

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