Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tetanus Anyone?

Fluid replacement

Several combined decades of farming between Keith and I and you would think we'd seen it all. Not even close. The unusual on our farm often starts with a phone call from husband to wife.

Keith: "You got time to come look at a calf?"

This is not good news. Once when he asked me to come "look at" one of our goats, she had a compound fracture (bone protruding through the skin) after jumping over a fence. Another request to "look at" a goat resulting in him holding her upright, upper limbs in his arms, bottom in my face, while we delivered triplets. It was very cold that day and I almost lost my wedding rings inside that caprines uterus.

Last evening the request to "look at" an animal turned out to be a calf with a third eye.

Yes, the well known third eye phenomenon present in the early stages of Clostridium Tetani bacterial infection, better known as Tetanus or Lock Jaw. Of course it was not well known to me until about 16 hours ago but now I can say the Third Eye and I are well acquainted. Intimate, even.

Keith had found the 4 month old calf standing inside the barn alone, looking not right. Moving him out into the sunshine the calf was able to walk but very stiffly, his tail held out from his body, his head low. The most obvious symptom for us was his "locked jaw." Literally frozen shut.

And then there was that third eye thing, which is the third eyelid located in the corner of the eye, protruding partially across the eye. It looks as if the calves eyes are just rolling around in its head. As Quint said in Jaws  "Y'know, the thing about a shark, he's got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes."

Anyway, back to the ranch...Phone calls to the vet proved unhelpful as everyone was gone for the day and the emergency numbers given resulted only in voice mails as well. Even the large vet clinic at the University of Illinois had phone issues and disconnected me three times. It is so rare for us to need our vet that I did not have his number in my phone, Keith however had it in his head.

Knowing time was of the essence I turned to my good buddy Google, learned what I could and after a few more phone calls to find the drugs we needed I set off to Pontiac in a rush before the local farm supply store closed at 8pm.

Once back home, with the calf isolated in a well bedded, quiet and dark box stall I gave him IM injections of Penicillin and Tetanus Antitoxin. Yes, that's right we gave an antibiotic to an animal whose life was in danger just as the National Organic Standards tell us to do. The calf was able to drink a small amount of water, still able to move his lips and did try to eat some hay.

When I got back inside our vet did call (felt very bad he'd been in a meeting, I really do love our vet) and confirmed our initial diagnosis. He also told me we needed to really increase both our antitoxin and penicillin dosages but even so death was very likely for this animal. Seems that Clostridium Tetani  Bacteria  is very virulent. Once it enters an animals blood stream and grows, it releases toxins that affect the animals entire central nervous system.

Within just hours the creature, if untreated, will be laying on its side , limbs out straight, bloating because the rumen freezes up and spasming until death. I told myself I'd euthanize that calf  before I'd witness that level of suffering.

So how did our calf get Tetanus? We think it went down like this. We purchased this calf about a month ago from another Certified Organic Dairy. He's been healthy all along but he had not yet been castrated. Not a huge deal, a little later than we normally do but not terribly so. Keith did band his testicles a week after we brought him home and in normal circumstances over the next few weeks those dangling participles will shrivel up, die and fall off, leaving a very nice well healed and closed wound.

But, we were running six  smaller hogs with a few of these calves and we believe that dangling package was just too tempting a toy and piggies, running under the calves,  may have nibbled on said package. So of like shiny red and green Mistletoe twinkling from up above...hard to resist. This area was injured, opened to the environment and when the calf laid outside on dirt where Clostridium Tetani live, the bacteria had a great opportunity to enter the calves blood stream. On inspection of our calves nether regions we did see a reddened edematous tissue where the testicle had been. Portal sight confirmed.

At 4am Keith said the calf had improved. Lying down but upright. No sign of the third eye and neck muscles more relaxed.

At 8 am this morning his condition declined and we were back where we were last evening when we first discovered him. No worse but no better than 14 hours ago. Another call placed to our vet. Another trip for more meds. Another 2 IM  injections of the Tetanus Antitoxin and another 2 IM injections of Penicillin.

12:45 am. Calf looks better. Moving his neck more. Less of the freaky third eye thing. Not standing (would YOU feel like standing?) but sitting upright and chewing his cud. Jaw muscles looser but still doesn't open. Sometimes he can be heard grinding his teeth. Sensitive to sudden movements, light , noise all due to the CNS irritation.

2:00 pm Keith able to get calf to stand. Very weak, wobbly and stiff but able to suck down another 2 quarts of warm water with electrolytes. Less third eye.

He might just make it. We'll see. If he does we'll raise him for our own supply of beef on The Poor Farm next year.

Lessons learned

1. Do not run pigs with calves immediately after calf castration by banding.
2. Be vigilant in checking calf band castration sites for appropriate healing.
3. Keep Vet numbers, other emergency Vet Numbers in the barn, on our phones.
3. Keep large doses of Tetanus Antitoxin on the farm ( at least 6 of the 5ml vials, 1500 units /5ml)
4. Keep large multi dose vial of Penicillin on the farm ( at least one 100 cc vial, 300,000 units per cc. for life saving only)
5. Document all Tetanus signs and symptoms seen and treatments given for future reference.
6. Be prepared to euthanize animal if symptoms progress.

Cost of Care so Far

8 total vials of Tetanus Antitoxin
     3 at Big R (5 ml/1500 units per 5 ml)  $8.97
     5 from Vet Office (same as above)  $35
2 Vials Injectable Penicillin
     1 from Big R (100 ml/300,000units per ml)  $9
     1 from Vets office (same as above)   11.50
Syringes and needles from Vet for 7 days of PCN treatment   $8.80

Since we'll need to give the PCN for 7 days our total cost of treatment will be about $75 vs the potential loss of meat (at our cost) for our own table of about $1000. All the meds will have over a year to be excreted from his system even though federal law states for conventionally raised beef they can be injected with antibiotics and tetanus antitoxin up until 21 days before slaughter.

Now before you get all bent out of shape about the vets markup on the Tetanus keep in mind, he has staff to pay, and lots of overhead. Plus he returned my call twice and because he knows us and our skills well (Keith, the  very experienced dairyman and me the RN crone) he is comfortable ordering the meds, giving us instructions to treat animals ourselves rather than charging us a $75 visit fee. He offered to come but we were comfortable with the injections/treatment based on his advice. In addition his office is only 10 miles from our farm vs the 35 miles to the farm store. Saves gas and time.

So, will we now vaccinate all our calves with tetanus to prevent future occurrences? No, we won't. In the 30 years that Keith has been working on dairy farms he has never seen tetanus in a calf. We will however change our fairly new practice of running pigs with calves until AFTER any castrated calves are well healed.

Always living, always learning.

Future calf care (keep in mind mortality rate is 80% ) will include daily injections of PCN, lots of extra fluids, with electrolyte replacement plus good hay, to keep him hydrated and maintain nutritional status,  helping him get up to keep circulation and digestion operational, keeping the stall quiet, dark to avoid more CNS insult, lots of dry bedding and as our vet suggested... "Prayer"

Have I mentioned how much we love our vet?


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Devastating Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV): Why We are NOT Worried.

Our small farm piglets

The CAFO piglets

If you farm, homestead, raise pigs or just enjoy listening to Ag radio you are probably aware of the PED virus that has swept through confinement hog farms in the US this past year.

*According to the US Department of Agriculture, PEDV has surfaced in 26 states. Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics and a Pork Checkoff consultant, estimates the loss of more than 5 million piglets in the past several months, with 1.3 million in January (2014) alone.

 Karen Richter, a Minnesota Producer and president of The National Pork Board states "This has become one of the most serious and devastating disease our pig farmers have faced in decades." She goes to say, " While it has no impact on food safety, it is clear implications for the pork industry in terms of supplying pork to consumers."

And finally..The Big Solution of Big Pork Producers, ...Biosecurity

Where do I begin on this one?

Well, I suppose with a disclaimer. We here on South Pork Ranch do not do any kind of formal research, we are not (Thank God) a mega farm, we do not gather data for anyone but ourselves and our opinion are ours alone; Purely anecdotal from over 50 years of combined small family farming.

And frankly this biosecurity crap is what has killed all those piglets in the first place, which is why we have never practiced it here and never plan to.

I will take it down to the very basics not because you my readers are limited but because our government is riddled with learning disabilities.  Bacteria and viruses can be good or bad. Bacteria and viruses can serve very important functions on the farm and in general. It is impossible to shield ourselves, our children, our farm from bacteria and viruses. 

The orange I brought home from the supermarket was handled, I am guessing my maybe 50 people (with dirty hands, with colds, with who knows what) before I picked it up and bought it. It rolled around in its little bag touching other foods and then I put it in the bowl on my kitchen table where it could touch even MORE fruit) Sure I could wash it but water doesn't kill germs. Am I going to rinse it in bleach water? Will I eat part of the peel or zest it up in a recipe? You bet your sweet bippy I will.

The focus, for any of us to come out of this world alive (until of course, we die, and we all will indeed die) is not to attempt to remove all bacteria and virus's from our world  but to IMPROVE OUR IMMUNE SYSTEMS AND THOSE OF OUR LIVESTOCK. Now keep in mind I understand that institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes are bound to provide care under certain anti-bacterial standards as unfortunately harmful bacteria can thrive in those places if left unchecked. I am referring to the need to keep things simple on farms and in homes that are already healthy.

Back to PEDV.

Those CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) piglets were sitting ducks. With decades of antibiotic overuse, confined animals have had their immune systems completely wiped off their genetic maps. Even if PEDV is mildly controlled in the future (No sign of that yet), it's devastation in CAFO hog houses is just the beginning of what this country is destined to see, a complete annihilation of its conventional meat supply. Only with drastic production method changes will they be able to turn this crashing train around, the train that started careening off its track when after WW2 we started pulling our livestock off the good green earth it needs to survive.

And because this type of farming is based on finance alone, I have no hope, that these changes will occur. I do however have great hope for the ever increasing population who is insisting on humanely grown, healthy meat raised by small farmers whom although not opposed to a healthy bottom line, choose to farm in an ethical manner first.

I believe it is past time for all livestock farmers to adopt the small portion of same Hippocratic Oath  (sadly not mandatory) as physicians: First, Do No Harm.

Please understand. I do not view farm animals on the same level as human life. I do believe God gave them to use to use to our benefit. But I am appalled at the horrific treatment the majority of our US livestock is experiencing. There are better ways but sadly they won't make us filthy rich which has become the impetus behind Factory Farming today. I am not saying that those  farmers with just a few Hog Houses are filthy rich but they are certainly contributing to the welfare of those Bigger Ag Companies who are.

And at what price?  The future devastation of our meat supply in this country, and the deteriorating health of our population.

So here at South Pork Ranch we continue to focus NOT on keeping germs off our farm, like we are being told to do by those who keep losing millions of their own animals, but instead on maintaining  the health of our livestock. What follows is our list of...


1. Allow visitors to your farm.
2. Allow delivery trucks, postal vehicles, customers SUV's to roll right on up the lane.
3. Allow people to (here is the scary part) actually Touch your animals. With supervision of course. It is still a farm and animals can be dangerous.
4. Avoid any antibiotic use (unless the animals life is threatened) instead utilizing, organic, holistic, homeopathic treatments first.
5. Wear your chores boots until they wear out but be sure to rinse them off well in the mud muddles before bringing them inside the farmhouse.
6. Wash your coveralls when the percentage of clean cloth seen is less than the manure stained portions.
7. Raise your animals outside, in spacious areas, on the good green earth, rather than in inhumane overcrowded concrete and steel buildings where they reside on hard surfaces just above huge pools of their own toxic waste their entire but greatly shortened lives.

Yes, I am being a bit glib in a couple of our actions above, but not much. We do keep a very clean milk parlor, milk house according to Grade A Standards. We teach our customers to wash their hands before accessing our milk tank

Hand washing really is one of the best ways to deter disease spread.

Our farm is not perfect. We make mistakes but each time we suffer an animal loss we ask ourselves. "What could we have done different? What are others like us doing? How can we improve?" So when I see Big Ag repeat their same mistakes like overuse of antibiotics , overcrowding, and increased biosecurity when it has not proven successful in the past, I have to wonder (again) about their basic sanity levels.

We do isolate new animals when they are brought onto the farm. This only happens two-three times a year. And we do quasi-isolate sick animals but not alone. We will isolate them with a litter mate or another calf because animals like humans need companionship and they heal best when not in absolute isolation.

What I ask of you my fellow farmer is this. Take a drive. Observe the number of CAFO setups in your area and ask. "If this farmer is so proud of the way he is raising his animals why is there no Farm Sign or contact info outside those buildings? Why do they not invite consumers to tour? Why are those animals never taken to petting zoos or schools ?

The reasons why not...go way beyond Biosecurity.

* Source: from

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Saponification Sunday!



Patchouli Suzie made colored with
Wheat Grass, Charcoal  and Spirulina Powders
Coconut, Olive Castor and Sweet Almond Oils

 Yesterday I spoke at Illinois Valley Community College's Homesteading Conference and as always come home feeling good about what it is we do here. Helps that two of my blog/fellow homesteader buddies Deborah Niemann and Cathy LaFrenz were there teaching as well. We do have a lot of fun when we get together!

The first class I taught was about raising pastured cattle and pork. Although only 4 folks showed up we had a great discussion as smaller groups facilitate that. However, in my next class on the basic of soap making, the room was filled! I even had 5 men take the class.

That just goes to prove...nothing really.

Sometimes you are into pigs and sometimes you just want to smell good.

With all that's been going on with our farm, soap making took a back seat. But the last two weeks I have been able to catch up a little due entirely to those Internet fans of mine, Carolyn, Susan, Fitz and Julie who have recently ordered boatloads of soap. AND another order of soap for Miss Effie's Summer Kitchen .

Geranium Rose
Colored with Infused Alkanet and  Red Clay for dividing line

Nothing like motivation to get you off your raw milk high horse and back into the world of oil covered kitchen counters (and floors.)

Lemongrass via the ever famous in-the-pot swirl

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Representative Daniel Burke Crosses Over to The Bright White Raw Milk Side!

Just hot off the email presses is this outstanding photo of Illinois Representative Daniel  Burke, yes the same one who sponsored HB4036 Amendment #1 which would ban all raw milk sales or distribution in Illinois, with a glass or raw milk!!

That is Rep.Burke on the right and Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance  in Springfield, who really went to bat for raw milk farmers and consumers when he became aware of the Bill. This represents the first official raw milk tasting in our capital which included several others in addition to the two gentlemen above.
And let me just say this about Representative Burke...I cannot imagine how tough it was for him last week to get ALL those hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of phone calls, emails, letters when he probably just assumed that The Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium had all the facts, which they didn't. I also want to say how much I respect him for listening to those who contacted him, for educating himself further about raw milk and for being brave enough to admit he had been misinformed.
Representative Burke now says he has no intention to move forward with legislation banning raw milk. 

Bravo Wes King, Representative Burke and all you Americans who did not stand silent while yet another of your rights was being threatened. !!!!!!

Poor Farm Update...Spring Walkabout

So the status is this. Still working closely with a young couple on the sale of our farm. If all goes well we will leave here in November and they will move in. In the meantime we are increasing livestock numbers here to meet our present needs as well as future projections for possible new owners, who plan to sell the same products we are plus produce and poultry.

To make life even more fun we are now getting busy on Farm number 2 which we purchased last fall. The seven acres have proven a great place for target practice this winter but now with spring thaw here it is time for clean up.

The previous owners of The Poor Farm had lived there for many years but for reasons unknown to us, upkeep was obviously not a priority. Maybe they just got too old, too sick or just no longer cared when face with the foreclosure on their farm. I can't help but feel empathy for them as we've learned this farm had been in existence sine the mid 1800's. Recently Keith and I explored the property as weather warmed in order to see the lay of the land...

 At the north west side there is a naturally made pond. Only a couple of feet deep we plan to dig it deeper and wider. Will be a great place for natural water runoff and home for our ducks.

Moving south we run into what was probably an old pig shed. Small but adequate in its time.


I love the faded red wood on this shed and we will probably reuse for the indie walls of our yet-to-be-built barn .Unless we can find a good barn close by that the owners want to sell or giveaway which we will move to The Poor Farm.

The inside of the pig shed is in bad shape but it obvious by the beams that some one years ago put some time, effort and skill in its creation.

 We also needed to see how water flowed and drained, in which directions, at what speed etc. The day we went was perfect, we were able to see so much that we were not able to observe when we bought the property due to the extremely high grass/weeds.

And we needed to full asses the previous owners leftover "inventory." Junk to some, recyclable metal to others.

On the far south west end the land was higher and there were rows of snow between three rows of higher land. Keith thinks maybe a land fill area but I'm wondering if maybe there was at some time a garden of long raised beds here? If only the land could speak for itself.

The south side had more inventory piles and even included an old chimney. From where? The house? A smoke shed? This pile is a very long way from the house and yet contains a lovely guest bed and old frig.

At the farthest south west point we can clearly see the drainage pattern of the conventional field behind us. We were very happy to see that our property is built up (to the right) and the flow of water, topsoil and more than likely non-organic chemicals will run alongside our borders.

Looking north from the south end of our land you can see what remains of what once was a mighty barn. Keith is anxious to see what all is underneath. Me, I'm a little worried that Mr. 1930's farmer's skeleton is there waiting for discovery.

Keith and I don't always see the same "potential" in metal debris but I am absolutely in love with this old pig waterer. I see a great planter or even a shelf display in the house (which is not yet built but I can SEE it)  What would you use this for?

Although the property may seem a real shambles and represent nothing buy years of work, there exists an understated beauty.

 But then again I have always been a sucker for milk weed plants with their angel wing composition.
As we move east along the south side it is easy to see the hill the current house sits upon. If our future architect agrees we are planning to build our earth covered home within that hill and to the west (left) of the old place.

There is less water pooling (and junk) on this side of the property which may indicate a good place for initial animal grazing.  But as we move to the north east side we run into yet another dump site.
But we really don't mind. It was like an archaeological dig except that we having starting digging yet. We will do that this Sunday as we've roped in some family members to help. It was interesting to see how some of the junk, that towards the way back of the property was really very old, rusted, decaying while the piles closer and closer to the house (which must be torn down as completely unlivable)  were in better shape.
Meaning you could read the labels on some of the cans still!  Here again is the current house which at first glance might seem livable.

But don't be fooled. The roof is terrible and there is massive water damage on the inside. Interior roofs have given way, floors are decaying and the foundation collapsing. yet we still plan to pull any thing of use like windows and out into a new barn. We will strip the house of every usable piece we can and then who knows? A big bonfire? We'll see.
Below is the current well house. Soon the well will be checked and we'll know if its' good enough to use or if we'll be face with digging a new one.

I have great plans for use of this amazing weathered wood as well. Indoor shelving maybe.

For some reason this above pile of snow fencing really impacts me the most. Who rolled it all up after winter storms were over? Did they have any idea they would never set them out again?

The property is loaded with beautiful trees like this white birch plus many hardwoods and various willow trees. I love willow trees.  The very north side though has this thick line of bushes. Which at first glance seems like a nice privacy fence from the road which runs on the other side.

 However...after all the leaves dropped from the bushes over winter we could now see the buried treasure it offered us.

 Lions and Tires and Bears...oh my.

Some other highlights. Raised concrete supports from an old corn crib,

Suitable for more raised beds?
After figuring out the water flow I found myself becoming fascinated with the texture of the debris, the history within each piece. This old tree trunk with the eye of a whale.

The tiny bits  of  beautiful moss able to grow on fallen wood

The sculpture of rust barbwire wrapped around a fence post

A burned out stump with its Zebra like striations.

An old motorcycle frame. Wondering if I need to place a call to American Pickers? You know how Mike Wolfe loves his motorcycle frames!

So ends this spring 2014 tour of The Poor Farm. Hope you enjoyed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Meet the New Pigs on The Block

Really, If I were a pig (just don't) I'd want to look just like Miss Gidget here




 Believe it or not we actually  do more here on South Pork than just fight back on raw issues all day. (Note to government)

We raise Beef. Tend Bees. Milk cows. Assist customers. Feed pigs. etc...

Speaking of pigs, check out these stunning gals we recently purchased from Deanne Holmstrom up in the beautiful rolling hills of Wisconsin last month.

Both are full blooded Red Wattle Gilts (virgin sisters)  who will soon be big enough to be bred by one of our registered RW boars. Wally and Max are drawing straws for the privilege as we speak. Perhaps we will split them up and compare the litters? Sounds like a good time to me.

Wally making eyes at the new girls

They come from some amazing stock (Sire side) from a few of the original Red Wattle breeders in our country like Clyde Grover of Northern Illinois, and Elvis Kirsch of Texas where the Red Wattles were rediscovered in the 1970's, as well as from some wonderful newer breeders (mom's side) like the Wickham Farm in Iowa.

As we gear up for selling our farm and working with the Prince Farming who plans to expand all our farm product lines, especially pork production, we needed to add to our current breeding stock. We fell in deep like* with these two the minute we skidded down the long snowy drive of their beautiful homestead.

Best way to move a couple pigs down a slippery slope?
Well, they don't call them hog panels for nothing.

But then again how fun is a road trip if the road is dry and easy to see? We enjoy a challenge and finding these two treasures was worth every mile. The Holmstroms are fellow dairy farmers like us and raised these girls with the gentlest of hands. They are super sweet (the pigs AND their owners), easy to care for and very content in their new digs in our barn. But what I admire the most is their deep mahogany red coloring. Admit it. They are stunning.

Gidget and Gizmo.
Tomorrow is their big day as they will be introduced to an electric fence. Once they master the skills (i.e. back up from the wire, don't go through the wire) and complete the written competency exam they will be assigned  a breeding group and moved to an even BIGGER pasture.

If all goes as planned we'll have litters from these girls sometime in August, which means lots more pork for folks to buy in February. A life cycle you can smack your bacon lovin'lips on!

* (genuine love won't come till we see what kind of mothers they prove to be, sorry I can be very judgemental that way)