News - March 9, 2016

Herbs replace antibiotics in the cowshed

Albert Sikkema

Maria Goot at Rikilt is working on a new edition of Melkvee, a 2011 dairy farmer’s guide to herbal and homeopathic veterinary treatments. These medicines, intended to reduce the use of antibiotics, are gaining in popularity. Last year 61 percent of dairy farmers were using them, showed market research among 400 dairy farmers. This was up on just 45 percent the year before.

Groot knows most of the natural products used by livestock farmers, such as the homeopathic remedy Pyrogenium, which contains snake venom said to be effective against udder infections. Another popular natural treatment is mint ointment for the udders. The active peppermint stimulates the circulation, calms inflammation and provides pain relief in the udder. Large pills made of garlic are popular too. ‘You inject them into the cow’s rumen,’ says Groot. ‘Garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties and it breaks down the protective layer around the bacteria so that the cow’s antibodies can wipe them out more easily.’

For her new edition of Melkvee, Groot is asking producers about the composition of their products. ‘If they don’t want to give it, the product doesn’t get into the book. They usually do tell me what their product contains, and about their own research on its effectiveness. Then I use the literature to assess whether it makes sense that a substance has an effect.’