Week five: the cause?

In the evening of the twentieth of April, as I watched the evening news, I listened to a professor from an eastern U.S. university announce that herd immunity was the only way to successfully attack the COVID-19 virus. Herd immunity occurs when a disease goes through a herd of animals and some or many die, but, the ones that survive may carry an immunity to save them in the future. Then a statement followed that assumed that those who survived would pass on the immunity to everyone else. Then I began to wonder, how much personal experience did that doctor have with herd immunity in humans or animals?
Being a farmer that grew up with my dad and grandfather, I observed only two diseases in our herd that terrified my family. Blackleg, which was always fatal if an animal contracted it, and rabies which resulted in a very horrific death to the animal. The blackleg bacteria could survive in the soil for many years and then an animal on pasture could pick it up years after the last incident of an animal having the disease on that farm. Due to the frequency of blackleg in our county and the low cost of a vaccine, most cattle farmers vaccinate animals in the spring before putting them on pasture.
Rabies is usually transferred by a wild animal. Since dogs are most likely to be in contact with wild animals and then with people who can also contract rabies. Most every farmer with a dog gets it vaccinated against rabies. Any farmer who has received a series of painful injections in the belly to ensure that if they might have contacted an animal or dog who had rabies, he might get it too, will advise you to get your dog vaccinated.
We only had one scary incident on our farm since Jeannie and I began dairy farming. It started with a couple cows with runny manure. Soon half the herd had runny manure. Then some of our two-month-old calves began dying very suddenly. Our veterinarian, Dr. Grant Rogers, worked with us right from the start. Soon, so many milk cows were treated, that over half our milk was thrown out because it might contain antibiotic residue. Both cows and two-month-old calves continued to die. Every time an animal died, I moved the animal’s pedigree paper to the dead cow file. A year before that, we had started to vaccinate every pregnant heifer before she calved and punched a V-shaped hole in her pedigree paper. The V meant that she had been vaccinated with Vicogen which guarded against many diseases including salmonella. I began noticing that every animal that died didn’t have a V-punched in her pedigree. Once I showed our vet, he immediately vaccinated every animal still alive in the barn. Just like you turn off a light switch, every animal got better and no more calves died.
During our years of dairy farming and working closely with Dr. Rogers, we concluded that most health related problems with cattle were the result of nutrition not being done right. I often wonder if our own human nutrition is even close to being right. In the early 70s, there seemed to be a lot of cancer eye in milk cows. That was the same time that fogging the barn to kill flies was done every summer morning. Once the fogging insecticide was banned and fogging stopped, cancer eye in the cattle also stopped. Just in the past few years several farmers have complained about an increase in deformed fetuses in calves. Some of the crop sprays that have been introduced have been blamed for affecting reproductive systems in some species.
We have noticed that billions of dollars have been spent in trying to find treatments and cures for some very deadly diseases but there is very little news about anyone trying to pin down the cause or causes. I also wonder if any records have been made about the past six months diets of people who survived COVID-19, or have they recorded the previous six month diets of those who died with COVID-19? Could there be a link to immunity?
The world has learned that there is no food shortage in the world. Since COVID-19 started there have been millions of litres of milk dumped down the drain, thousands of tons of vegetables have been plowed back into the ground, and many abattoirs have been closed leaving thousands of heads of beef and pork being held back on farms or even euthanized on farms. Some people are complaining that some foods are hard to get while others have been buying more than they need. Before COVID-19, it was estimated that one-third of the world’s food was wasted and never eaten.
That’s enough to think about this week. Be safe and stay home if you can.

Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations. gladcrest@gmail.com

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