Doc’s Blog

Bumble Bees Can’t Fly

     When I was a youngster  there was some research making the rounds that said; “Bumble-bees can’t fly.”  I guess some budding aerodynamic scientists had tried to compute the weight/lift ratios for these big bees and come to the conclusion that, mathematically, “bumble-bees can’t fly.”

     While the report was probably issued, ‘tongue-in-cheek’, it was good for some chuckles as it was obvious that bumble-bees were still flying.  The phrase has stuck with me  over the years. and even today, when I see some research that defies common sense, I say to myself; “Yeah, right! and Bumble-bees can’t fly either.”

    Our society seems really enamored with science.  If we read “Laboratory tests show…”  or “University research proves … “ or “Scientists claim…” — most people believe it.   I don’t!  

    For any research to have credibility with me, I have to know, at a minimum, the credentials of the researcher and, most important, who paid the bill.  It is also interesting to know where the person worked before and after the research was published. A lot of  research today reflects the bias of the author and some is down-right fraudulent.  Proof of impartiality is hard to find. 

    Consider the the ongoing controversy over the safety of Glyphosate.  There is a multitude of peer reviewed studies on both sides of the issue.  Which is righr?  How does one decide?  Finding out who funded the studies would give us some clues.

    At some point  we need to invoke common sense or, better yet, the Precautionary  Principle which implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. 

    In conclusion, when you encounter outlandish statements from BigAg or BigPharma, join me in saying; “Yeah, right! and Bumble-bees can’t fly either.”

Trouble Shooting Mineral Deficiencies

     I occasionally get phone calls something like this, “Hey, Doc.  My horses have XYZ , what mineral should I be feeding for that?”   Further conversation usually reveals  they are being fed a bunch of different supplements - some force fed in the ration and some fed free-choice.

     It is not usually possible to prescribe appropriate minerals just on the basis of symptoms, but there are situations  when symptoms or signs do point to a certain mineral deficiency.  For example, if the normally black hair coat of a cow is tinged with red it almost always signifies a copper deficiency.  Hoof and hair problems may be associated  with deficiencies of zinc and copper. Then too, certain environmental conditions influence consumption of certain minerals — some animals take more sulfur in the spring and fall when building new hair.  Cattle on lush spring growth pasture usually need more magnesium.

     When encountering questions similar to the one above—and knowing that an accurate diagnosis is based on good information—I immediately start asking questions. 

Elim-a-Net in use high res
  1. What are you currently feeding?    I am often amazed at the number of supplements some folks give their animals.  I suspect sometime  a bunch of different supplements can cause problems with mineral interference.   What I am looking for here, is any obvious imcompatibilities or gross over feeding, Resulting in metabolic deficiencies even with adequate minerals.
  2. Have you tested the water for livestock suitability and especially for nitrates? 
  3. Do you provide separate sources of calcium and phosphorus?
  4. Do you have a separate source of plain white salt available?
  5. I usually ask the owner or caretaker, “What do you think is the problem?”   Since I am sitting at a desk hundreds of miles away and they are right next to the animals, I believe their observation and impressions should be factored into the decision mix. 

     Answers to the above questions will usually identify some things to be changed or improved.   Many times that involves removing some of the duplicated supplements and I always recommend providing a full-array, free choice mineral feeding program.