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Homeopathy works for animals on the farm

Posted Jan 04 2010 12:22am

I don’t often reproduce entire articles available elsewhere in full, but this personal account of using homeopathy to help livestock is well worth a read.  People often say to me “ah, but you have to believe in homeopathy for it to work”.  I say, tell that to the cows and sheep.  Like Mr Dowding, my mother kept a flock of pedigree dairy Friesland sheep in the 1980s (yup, dairy sheep - not cows), and largely relied on homeopathy to treat any cases of mastitis that developed:

Homoeopathy Works for Animals on the Farm
Sunday, 27 December 200, from www.homeopathyheals.me.uk

by Oliver Dowding

There is much debate over the efficacy of homoeopathy, how it works and what it does to the recipient patient. If, as claimed by many detractors, disbelievers and outright cynics, homoeopathic success is all in the patient’s mind, how is it that it works so well for animals?

This article is written from the experiences I had in keeping 500 head of dairy livestock for 14 years, whilst managing the farm under organic principles.  I was meeting many health challenges that they faced, which we primarily resolved with homoeopathic remedies.  The overriding outcome and opinion formed was that cows are not inherent liars or fraudulent creatures!  They have no axe to grind, nor a commercial position to maintain or enhance.

Let me start by pointing out that I am not qualified as any sort of medic, nor vet, in the traditional sense of education.  Neither I nor my various herdsmen who undertook much of the disease analysis, remedy selection and application, had any formal training in disease management, assessment, or in homoeopathy itself.  Everything we did was undertaken as a result of observation of the animal, research using the textbooks available, undertaking on-farm training with established homoeopathic vets, and the use of selected homoeopathic repertories.  However, I, like many people, have an avid interest in what works and the observation of real life.

Before we could make the transition to using homoeopathic treatment for my animals, I had to persuade the herdsmen that this was a workable idea. There was at that time one herd of 120 cows and one of 180, with potentially up to 5 different people in charge of them.  The youngstock, (the offspring from the cows), were cared for by both the herdsmen and women, but also students on placements from agricultural colleges.  The latter were often dealing with the calves – the most fragile of life-forms, and in need of the most prompt care. They were also the carers with perhaps the least amount of formal educational training for treating anything homoeopathically. They were prepared to undertake anything where learning was involved, using their youthful open minds to approach the tasks.

I started by taking all the staff to another farm where they were successfully using homoeopathy.  Indeed the herdsman there, Philip Hansford, had written his own book  – “The Herdsman’s Guide to Homoeopathy”, which came to serve us as an initial “bible”, coupled with other books by esteemed vets such as George McLeod and Chris Day.  Unlike some reference books where technology constantly changes - the modus operandi, the efficacy and the remedies themselves, together in large part with the diseases and challenges we face, are unchanging.

Chris Day is an excellent vet.  A well known horse trainer asked him to help resolve problems with a race horse which had developed a bad back problem after its first race.  The horse’s usual vet had no solution and said it should be destroyed. Chris Day suggested a mixture of homoeopathy and acupuncture, neither of which the horse’s trainer had any understanding of, but they allowed him to try it. The horse was cured and went on to win the Cheltenham Gold cup!  Garrison Savannah was the horse’s name.

I  took the herdsmen to a day-long seminar given by Chris Day, where we both learned of specific remedies he had used, but equally importantly, saw the results of research that he had undertaken and which gave us the confidence to proceed.  Lastly, I invited Chris to the farm where he talked, MRCVS to MRCVS, with our vet – a most valuable experience for the latter. They spent a few hours at the kitchen table and walking around the yards.

We then began implementation, armed with a basic stock of remedies.  We had some immediate successes, such as with such Baccillinum treatment for ringworm.  However, in the dairy world, the number one threat we all face is mastitis.

Failure to deal with it meant price penalties on all milk produced, when the herd’s milk cell count is too high. One also suffers the penalty of having milk discarded while the cow is being treated. Then there is also the hassle of having to separately manage such animals and the disruption it causes to routines.

All this was a massive inspiration for the herdsmen to get the welfare of their animals, the observation of any ailments, and the correct selection of any treatment undertaken as accurately and in such timely a way as possible. This is besides the fact that they, like anyone else, didn’t like to see an animal suffering.

The cost of each case of mastitis, at today’s values and considering all factors, is well over £280, and nationally the cost is well over £120m.  Mastitis is one of the three major reasons for culling cows from dairy herds, so it’s a disease for which one needs a good strategy.

So what did we do?  Conventionally, when a case of mastitis occurred, we had previously relied on treating the lactating cow with antibiotics.  When the lactation ended we’d give each cow an intra-mammary tube of antibiotic – known as “dry cow therapy”.  Suddenly we found that we had to research our books, select remedies and observe and record the results.

We adopted some prophylactic treatment for the widespread illnesses, by placing remedies in the water troughs. This was designed to give whole-herd or group coverage, using what are referred to as nosodes.  These were applied maybe weekly, at about 5ml per water trough, which typically held 200-500 gallons of water. It is essential to point out the need for water trough hygiene and constantly changing and cleaning out the troughs in order to gain maximum efficacy.

The herdsmen monitored each new case of mastitis, recorded all the details and we discussed them.  Improvements in all areas swiftly followed with better detection, analysis, remedy selection, application, etc. Furthermore, we increased the number of remedies we stocked and also the potency of the remedies. Potency was an issue that caused much curiosity in the beginning. How could it be that the remedy which had been more diluted could be more powerful and produce a faster reaction within the treated animal? Once again, observation by us all, proved this to be the case, and we need not doubt it any longer.

For all homoeopaths, inevitably, there are more criteria to consider in dealing with illness than just the presented symptoms.  It’s not just a case of selecting some off-the-shelf broad spectrum remedy.  We learned to assess not just the headline illness, but also to consider the animal’s character, the severity of the illness and more.  We then set about making the remedy of choice, and considering the required potency.

We were assuredly amateurs in this!  To make it harder, our patients could not answer our questions directly, although their bodies and mannerisms did offer plenty of clues to the very observant herdsmen.  Despite our amateur status, we were immediately impressed by the number of cases of mastitis – and the many other illnesses we tackled, both in calves and cows, responded positively to homoeopathy.  We wondered if this was just prophylactic.  Had we been using conventional drugs wildly and for no reason over the previous 15 years?

Or perhaps the cynics were right, and that there was nothing in the remedies and the cows were aware that simply showing them greater consideration, was all they needed to get better?  Upon thinking it through a little further, we realise that before there were conventional medicines, farm animals had suffered and died because they didn’t ‘just get better’. We soon disabused ourselves of this notion, realising that only a goon could come to that conclusion.

As the years rolled by our arsenal of remedies increased with expanding knowledge and understanding.  The herdsmen spent many hours studying reference books and reading articles I gleaned for them.  We went on farm walks, spoke with others like us, and with vets who were homoeopaths.  And all this was before the introduction of the internet!  Basically, they understood how animals worked, when they were ill, and what made them better.

I was involved in several studies by researchers on animal homoeopathy.  They were invariably studying mastitis, due to its regular occurrence, economic significance, and control options.  We also took part in a University trial of a nosode.  What impressed me, and reflected well on my herdsmen, was that we invariably had better results than many of those in parallel conventionally managed herds. This was not a one-off result, as we repeated it over many years, as did countless other organic farms.  Indeed, the results were often a surprise to the researchers, who struggled to explain them.

If one performs all the normal high-hygiene tasks properly, maintains the milking machine regularly, and keeps and uses records astutely, then there is no reason why removing most antibiotics need be a daunting prospect – except to the lazy, or unimaginative, farmer.  Or, sadly, for one believing everything that the conventionally and closed-minded vet tells them, such as that the farmer will have all manner of illnesses and welfare problems to follow such a transition!

I should at this stage, point out that we did not succeed with the homoeopathic remedy in every case.  In such circumstances we resorted to conventional antibiotics and were extremely pleased to have them on hand.  We did this because we had been unable to assess the type of mastitis we were trying to fight, the severity of the case and thus the potency of the remedy required, the character of the cow we were treating, or finally that we mis-selected the remedy to use.  We often switched remedies after initial failure, and were successful second time around.

So, what else did we treat with homoeopathy?  A massive range of ailments and conditions.  One abiding memory for me is when our Yorkshire herdsman, who after the vet had assessed the problem and asked Les, “your medicine or mine”, invariably said “mine”.

Les had many years milking experience and having elected to use the homoeopathic option, he was never too proud to admit he’d got it wrong and revert to the tube or bottle.  It’s not derogatory to say that none of my herdsmen had been through higher education that delivered them pieces of paper!  But so what?  More than once I heard Les say “bullshit baffles brains”. He wasn’t afraid to say so to the vet, as he opted for the homoeopathic option. Had the vet disagreed, under his professional code he would have either demanded that we adopt the conventional treatment on offer, or reported us to the relevant authorities, if he thought we were causing animal suffering unnecessarily.

What else did we cope with?  Well, there were fertility issues, foot problems, calving assistance, calf pneumonia and other illnesses to deal with.  These were all dealt with by the same people and using an ever expanding arsenal of remedies

I recall vividly being present when a cow was calving one night. The cow’s birth canal had barely dilated, and we could hardly get an arm inside the poor beast.  However, I suggested we apply a dose of Caulophyllum 30c, once every 10 minutes.  This worked a treat as one felt the whole birth canal opening up beautifully and about 45 minutes later a live calf was eased into the world.

I readily accept this is not a scientific experiment that would satisfy the cynically minded, but when one saw this repeatedly over a period of 15 years it held much greater sway for us than any scientific experiment. Let it not be forgotten that all we were doing was using the homeopathic experience gained by thousands of other people over a great length of time, and utilising it to its full effect.

This birthing remedy Caulophyllum, for those not familiar, is derived from the squaw root, as chewed by many Mexican women before childbirth.  We also put this remedy into the water troughs of groups of cows within 2 weeks of expected calving, to act as a nosode prophylactically.  As an aside, I can tell you that I have recommended this remedy to many women fearing childbirth. It also came in very handy for the birth of my second child!

Where we were often frustrated in not having enough time and sometimes skills, to record and analyse our results more meticulously.  One needs to be able to do this to redefine how each ailment is to be treated and with which remedy.

However, given our lack of medical training, although aided at all times by our vet, we without doubt performed some amazing feats, and in my opinion often saved many an animal from significant suffering, and crucially without the unnecessary use of drugs.

As the years rolled by, I found I had to often face considerable cynicism, anger, disdain and worse, from many very conventionally minded farmers and vets, especially while operating in the roles I held in agricultural politics.  Often the most severe opposition came from those who had never fully investigated and did not understand homoeopathy.  The emotive, and indeed often childishly dismissive language used by opponents of homoeopathy, goes far beyond that of any scientific debate and has led me to believe that the issue is rather one of politics.

It is one thing not to believe, but it’s a wholly different thing for those purporting to be open minded and/or interested in discovery, to then dismiss homoeopathy on the basis of ignorance, or “not wanting to know”.  Just because they cannot identify, analyse, find or accept the content of the remedies, even less to understand the mechanisms by which they operate, does this really mean that it’s all hocus-pocus?

On what basis were the conventionally minded scientists prepared to invest hundreds of millions of pounds, probably billions, building the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss mountains, with the hope that they might discover a particle smaller than any we currently can identify? This is no different from accepting that the infinitely variable water molecule has the ability to transmit the energetic information from the initial plant or mineral, or anything else, from which the homoeopathic remedy is prepared.

Who while reading this can explain to me the mechanism by which the computer is delivering this article to you?  We all have an understanding of some parts of what is happening but the vast majority of the mechanics of the machine are not something we understand but simply utilise and harness for our benefit and advantage. Why is it that so many people cannot have the same open mind to alternative medicine?  Albert Einstein once said it is always unusual to find someone for whom curiosity survives a formal education.  Sadly this is true of many conventional medics.

I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve read of or had a discussion where homoeopathy is alleged to be unproven and thus must be ineffective.  There is nothing so assured as the certainty of the ignorant!

I’ve come to the conclusion that for many critics, their rejection of homoeopathy is connected to the perceived threat from homoeopathic products, either to their commercial livelihoods, or to their long held professional beliefs.  Let us not forget that homoeopathic remedies are derived from natural resources and are wholly sustainable.  For vets and those in the pharmaceutical industry it seems to me that homoeopathic remedies pose a big threat to their lucrative drugs arsenal.  Farmers and others fear that life could become more complex – but many of these are often only responding to hype whipped up by their so-called suppliers or advisors, again soundly equipped with a good dose of cynicism and profit orientated personal motivation!

To try and address the standpoint of these critics and deliver them research in a form which they are prepared to accept, is probably a waste of time and money.  Trying to prove to them whether homoeopathy works or not, how it works etc., is likely futile as they are of that ilk, “whose opinion changed against their will are of the same opinion still”.  No amount of placebo-controlled trials are going to convince them that the effects of homoeopathy, which I and hundreds of thousands of others have observed regularly, aren’t some 3-card-trick delusion.  I find this closed minded ignorance and resistance to enquiry sad, especially coming as it often does, from those of a supposedly intelligent and learned disposition.

What has always been fascinating to me is when one is confided in by a friend, who invariably has been cynically disposed to homoeopathy, but has suffered some debilitating and constant illness or affliction for which they have had every conceivable conventional treatment on offer, none of which has resolved the condition. Following which they finally and out of desperation, sought out a homoeopath, found resolution to the problem, sometimes within days! They cannot explain it but can then no longer dismiss homoeopathy as a serious medical option, even though they have no idea how it worked for them.

I’ve had the good fortune to read of and meet many conventional and organic farmers who have adopted homoeopathy, often after watching conventional medicine let their animals down.  I have one near neighbour who now rarely calls his vet for anything.  He gains great enjoyment and reward from farming with his animals and watching their health improve in the most natural way available – much made possible by homoeopathy.

Where we all struggle is that none of this has been “proven” by what is allegedly considered to be “sound science”.  What we have to ask is whether it changes the outcome for the patient?  Does it matter?  After all, as we all know, once upon a time our forbears did not accept that the world was round.

We did not know why certain “drugs” worked in their early years of use but it did not stop them being used.  The physicians of the day knew they worked and as a result prescribed them to their patients.  Such as with aspirin!  We later found out how they worked and now have a better picture.  Of course, there have been many drugs where there are later found to be serious side effects.  We further know that one of the major causes of death is from officially approved drugs of the allopathic variety.

We should remind ourselves that in America’s capital city, Washington, DC, the only monument honouring a physician is one for the founder of homoeopathic medicine, Samuel Hahnemann.  I’ll bet all those drug promoting lobbyists choke as they drive past it on their way to cajole the politicians and their advisors to continue funding modern conventional drugs, in order to maintain both their gravy train and the people’s continued lack of health or dis-ease, which facilitates their income stream.

We have to accept that many medicines have much less valid research based evidence than most people perceive.  We also need to appreciate that homoeopathic remedies as a generic are accepted by the EU for use on farm animals.  Homoeopathic remedies are not disease specific and therefore not sold, as drugs are, to cure a disease.  They are selected ideally by a trained person (medical or lay), to augment the body’s efforts to return itself to full health.

To pretend that conventional medicine has all the answers is inaccurate.  Farmers and humans often turn to homoeopathy for their own illnesses, simply because antibiotics and other drugs are not working.  Many will find that homoeopathy does not work either!  However this will primarily be because their farming methods are maintaining the disease state.  Anyone involved with mastitis knows that there are about twenty management aspects to tighten up if one is to prevent, not treat, mastitis.

The pragmatic assessment of a farm’s management tools carries a great deal more weight and clarity of thought than endless squabbles about molecules.  It is as divisive and irrelevant as squabbles about how many angels could stand on the head of a pin.

Perhaps we should remind ourselves that there are many good, intelligent people out there using homoeopathy on their farm animals.  The crunch question is why would these farmers and vets keep coming back for more if homoeopathy was a dud?  I know the answer and it unsettles those who see their profits seriously threatened, despite the fact that health has been restored to many people and animals through the use of homoeopathic remedies.

For those who wish to learn more of where homoeopathy can help in the animal world, may I heartily recommend you to courses run by ‘Homoeopathy at Wellie Level’, or HAWL.  These are definitely muddy boots courses for those practising on farms.  They use real farms and animals as examples, are taught by professionally qualified vets and others with suitable qualification or experience.

There are no liars allowed near these courses!  As they say, they “teach conventional and organic farmers how to use homoeopathy effectively on their own farm”.  Their website http://www.hawl.co.uk/ goes on to say “drawing on our combined veterinary, homoeopathic and teaching skills, we have put together a course which is as unique as it is inspiring. We have taught over 200 students.  We aim to make the course simple, comprehensive, useful and above all fun.“ The teaching team are all qualified homoeopathic vets and professional homoeopaths with farm experience.

I would also quote from their website the experience of one conventional vet, now additionally trained and qualified as a homoeopathic vet.  Graham Goodrich BVetMed. MRCVS VetMFHom, says:

“Like most Vets, I was a sceptic about the alleged benefits of homoeopathy.  Admittedly, I knew nothing about it, but it couldn’t possibly work, could it? Then, one day, I went to revisit a heifer with Tetanus, which I had been treating with conventional drugs for about 10 days.  We were keeping it alive, up until now, but it really wasn’t getting any better. However, on the day in question as I walked into the darkened shed in which she was confined, she was standing there chewing her cud as if she’d never been ill!

It turned out that the Vicar’s wife who lived next door to the farm, was interested in amateur Homoeopathy had suggested giving the remedy Hypericum 30c.  24 hours later, the heifer was to all intents and purposes “cured”. Certainly, she never looked back and went on to calve and join the dairy herd. I was, to say the least, impressed! I enrolled on the Faculty of Homoeopathy courses, ultimately passed the exam and the rest is history. The incident with Tetanus happened in 1986, and I have been treating animals with Homoeopathy ever since.”

I conclude by urging you all, when challenged by scurrilous people, be they from vested interest groups, Government departments, the media and others, to ignore their siren ways, and to remind them that there are “lower life forms” that can show homoeopathy works, have no vested interest, nothing to sell, nothing to prove, but just get better.

Let’s hope the future for homoeopathy just gets better too, which if we all pull as one, it surely will.

Oliver Dowding

Shepton Farms Ltd., Southdown, Shepton Montague, Wincanton, Somerset, BA9 8JP.

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