Thursday, April 5, 2012

Animal health and treatment

I was reading another blog, and the author was promoting the idea of having animals live a "natural" life -- which to that author means to allow the animal to die if it gets sick.   They went on at length about this, and said that they'd lost more than a thousand chickens and turkeys while they came up with a flock that doesn't have any disease. 

Is that a choice that you would make?    Would you feel comfortable with a farm that did that?  Buy their products, for instance?

Would your opinion change if you could vaccinate the flock and not have any incidence of that disease? 

Would it change if it was something other than poultry?  Sheep, goats, pigs, cows? 

The author claims to be open to different opinions; says that, but never actually allows them.  Since there's no discussion there, I'm interested in hearing your opinion here.  


Unknown said...

Yes, I'd be okay with it. It's not like the chickens were going to live more than 6-8 weeks anyway. Nor would the species matter. I raise goats and everyone "in goats" knows that the day is coming when Ivermectin and Cydectin will no longer work on parasites. If/when that happens, we will all be doing what this farm is doing.

Rae said...

I wouldn't touch their products, as I don't agree with that practice.

I think the idea of having a flock/herd/gaggle/whathaveyou that lives in a "natural" way is a lovely idea, but not necessarily realistic, and often cruel to the animals involved. They're livestock, not wild animals. While some breeds are a bit more resistant to certain things, most of the "natural" has been bred out of them over countless generations. Much better perhaps to practice prevention (test and/or quarantine new stock, pasture rotation, clean food/water, etc). If an animal becomes sick, treat it. If you don't want treated animals because they don't fit into the "natural" master plan? Remove the animal from the herd/flock/whatever, treat it and sell it, or put it down humanely if the condition is untreatable. Just letting it die is horrifically cruel, in my opinion.

Stoney Creek Homestead said...

We have been raising livestock for over twenty years. We try to raise them as naturally as possible. To us this means no hormone injections, or chemicals being used to raise their feed. If an animal gets sick we have always treated them. We don't believe that 'natural' means the animal suffers. To us this is not humane! We have always given our calves, and lambs vits A& D, and selenium when they are born. We vaccinate our animals with 8-Way. We always used a product like Ivomec for parasite control. And a vet has always be consulted when we encountered a problem that we could not treat.

Lets face it, as soon as you own livestock, you are responsible for their health. You also have a responsibility to help keep certain diseases that the industry has helped to eradicate.

I believe if a person can not be responsible beyond making sure they have feed, but lack in other areas of the animals well being, these people should not be allowed to have livestock. These type of people give agriculture a bad rep. Regardless what country you live in!!


Sagecreek said...

What blog is it Bruce?

Bruce King said...

Sage, send me a private email and I'll send you the links.

I'm interested in peoples view of the idea and want to keep the particular farm out of the discussion for a while.

Bruce King said...

Brent, from email:

Interesting. The worst situation would be a disease you can vaccinate against but can’t cure. If you vaccinate then you lose any ability to see which animals have natural resistance and you can’t improve the herd via selection (or breed). Salatin talks about something a little similar to this with the more minor issues of flies and worms – he doesn’t use fly treatment and selects from the healthiest looking mother cows. That isn’t letting cows die, though.

If you’re gonna go natural for its own sake then you need predators. Is the author going to introduce bears, wildcats and coyotes to eat the chickens?

I don’t know chickens well. Is there a big disease problem? A thousand doesn’t seem a huge number for chickens. If I lost a cow that’s 750kg of animal which is a couple of hundred chickens, so he’s sacrificing a few cows worth of meat to create a better flock. It’s distasteful and expensive, but if there’s a real need with chicken health issues then I can see the point. You can look from an economic pov and ask if he’s making money by developing a flock that is disease resistant. From an animal welfare point of view chickens always seemed a little odd in the first place. Even chicken tractor chickens are stuck in a box all day.

Funder said...

I don't support small farmers because I think all chemicals are evil government conspiracies. I support small farmers who raise livestock that had happier lives before the end, who ate more species-appropriate feed and less grain. If I wanted something that had never been vaccinated or dewormed, I'd befriend a hunter and get venison. (and I do, actually, but not exclusively.)

So no, I wouldn't choose to do business with someone running his own Darwin farm. Please vaccinate. Please utilize an intelligent deworming system (and not just some ivermectin when they get skinny). If the creature gets sick, please give it antibiotics and let it heal.

Bruce King said...

Andrew can't get past the darned captcha thing, but made this comment to me in email:

"Chickens are a bit problematic in this particular question. Most chicken diseases strike early, selection is difficult because of the larger numbers of individuals, and the generations don't live very long. Meat birds in particular are oftentimes 3rd or 4th generation terminal crosses, so breeding for resistance is complex to say the least.

In larger,longer-lived stock such as cattle, I think that vaccinations are sometimes neccessary, but can be a detriment to a herd-improvement program.
I've seen several very good-looking cow herds that received no vaccinations at all. If an animal got sick it was promptly treated, and promptly culled from the herd. After a decade or two, they don't have any cases of pinkeye anymore."

Bill Gauch said...

The thing is, from disease resistance perspective, this is a bad approach. The key to a resistant flock, herd, etc. is biological diversity. For example, if you let all the chickens die which are susceptible to coccidiosis, then you likely will be left with very closely related animals with the same resistance to that one thing. Meanwhile, the ones who are resistant to Newcastle disease are now dead.

If these were wild "pockets" of animals, exposure would typically be limited to one incident at a time per region. In a farm situation, even a "natural" one with low per acre numbers, you still have an unnatural situation (large open field, common bedding and feeding areas, etc.) In reality, if you want to do selective breeding with this type of goal, you would quarantine and deliberately expose groups of animals to a specific contagion, evaluate for susceptibility, treat and then breed the strongest resistance to whole flock, herd, etc. For things that are untreatable, you expose a generation and cull all the susceptible offspring and try to breed resistance through better breeding pairing.

Culling the weakest of the herd is acceptable, even preferable. There just isn't a cost benefit, plus the animal will likely suffer through illness after illness. There is never a scenario where you should "let" an animal die. You either treat it or kill it.