I know that you don’t read a farm blog for personal medical advice, so rest assured that I’m not here to poke a finger in your face and to tell you what to think about vaccines.
This past week I’ve received a flood of emails and a few phone calls from customers concerned about mRNA vaccines being used in livestock. Some articles were widely circulated within the vaccine-skeptical information space that cautioned readers to be aware that mRNA vaccines may become the norm in livestock, and that this would lead to serious health implications for people consuming meat from these animals. So folks were wondering, should they be concerned about the meat they are buying from our farm?
Again, I’m not here to pick sides in vax wars. But if you are curious about vaccine use on the farm, I’ll fill you in on our practices.
We do not vaccinate any of our livestock. Generally, the livestock vaccines available are not particularly important for pasture raised and grass fed animals in the Northeast. I can’t speak for conditions in other parts of the country, or of the world, so I’m not prepared to say that livestock vaccines are irrelevant for all farmers everywhere. But most of the vaccinations are oriented toward preventing conditions that are related to respiratory diseases or diseases transmitted through contact with contaminated feces. Being raised in fresh air, grass-covered environments goes a long, long way toward eliminating these problems. Occasionally we’ll find cattle coughing or exhibiting a running nose, but this almost never progresses into a more severe issue.
So what happens if an animal does get sick? Our go-to interventions for livestock health include a few old-fashioned cures. I don’t have firm data on any of our home remedies, just some observational inferences I’ve compiled over the years. We like the results we see from adding organic garlic powder to the salt our cattle lick. A serving of yogurt seems to perk up the stragglers in a group of young chickens or turkeys. I’ve also been doing some work with charcoal, biochar, and apple cider vinegar, and although I don’t have as much experience with any of these, I believe that there are some promising signs in there. If an animal were to get sick enough to require antibiotics, I would administer them, but then I’d remove the animal from our herd and sell it at a loss into the conventional livestock market.
In my opinion, an animal that has become sick enough to require life-saving interventions is never going to be restored to a level of vitality sufficient to make me confident that it will be good for the kind of food I’d want to eat. Our ideal is to raise animals that are at the top of their form, ones that are thriving in the environment this farm provides. I can’t pretend that we’ve found the perfect solution for raising perfect animals or that I know what all farmers everywhere ought to do; this world is too complex for anything like that. But I think we’ve found a system that is working for us.