Doc’s Blog

Organic vs Conventional: A Perennial Debate

An article in the journal Nature Plants says that organic foods contain less (or no) pesticide residues, compared to conventionally grown crops.    On the other hand, a USDA report says 40 different synthetic pesticide residues were detected in organic food samples at levels similar to those seen in comparable conventional food samples.   It’s hard to know whom to believe. 

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Pesticide contamination in organic crops is often attributed to accidental spray drift or cross-contamination in harvesting and storage bins.  That may be true, but almost a quarter of the chemicals detected were insecticides that have been banned for decades. 

It helps to consider these 2 points.  

  • The term “organic” only designates food produced in soils without chemical exposure for a minimum of 3 years.  There is a great variation in the amount of previous contamination.
  • It takes years - maybe decades, or maybe even centuries - for some of these chemical to degrade or to leach from the soil. During that time the residues continue to contaminate crops.

Given the choice, I would prefer produce from a long-term organic farm to that from one that barely meets the 3 years requirement.

A last word of comfort: the USDA stated that in either case the residue amounts are too small to be a health or safety concern. 
If you believe that, well . . .  ?

A Better Dry-Cow Treatment

At a recent meeting of the National Mastitis Council (NMC) one of the discussion groups zeroed in on dry cow treatment. It was pointed out that although blanket dry cow antibiotic therapy was still recommended by NMC, and still allowed in the US, it was no longer acceptable in some countries because of ever more restrictive regulations.

Among the alternate strategies discussed were: taking a more whole-farm approach to prevention and restricting treatment to only the infected quarters as revealed by culturing.

Here is a better idea - a four-step program that relies on the physiology of the bovine beast.

·      When it’s time to dry off a cow just quit milking her.  A cow must have a tight udder for five or six days for her hormonal system to get the message to quit producing milk. Milking her out to relieve the pressure and discomfort before this time is up only prolongs the process

·      After the five or six days, when the udder swelling begins to recede, sanitize the teats and milk out some milk. Normal appearing milk indicates a healthy udder.  If this is the case, completely milk-out the udder, sanitize the teats and rejoice in the knowledge that for now at least the udder is healthy. 

·      Occasionally at this time the milk will show abnormalities such as chunks, clots, watery, slimy, bloody streaks or anything that does not look like normal milk. In that event, milk out the udder, begin your treatment of choice and rejoice that you have discovered the problem before it gets worse. 

·      Continue the treatment, check the milk and strip out the udder every few days for as long as necessary to clear up the problem. If you let her go completely dry while she has an infection, she will almost certainly have the same problem when she freshens. 

I realize these procedures go against the grain of most dairy advisors.  I am under no illusions that many will try this method.  I do know that the cows owned by the brave souls who do try it will greatly benefit. 

For more about the NMC meeting visits: