How I Started with Natural Treatments for Dairy Cattle…

Working as a herdsman and later as a veterinarian led me to develop an herbal udder infusion for dairy cows. - Dr. Hubert J. Karreman

I was asked to start using natural treatments for dairy cow mastitis when I arrived at Seven Stars Biodynamic Farm in 1988. Seven Stars was, and still is, a pioneer in the organic and natural livestock world, and this seemed a divine appointment. The only things available to me at that time were homeopathic remedies, botanical salves, injectable colostrum-whey products and injectable vitamins. Prior to that, I had only worked on conventional farms where the medicine cabinet doors were always open for easy-to-reach antibiotic mastitis tubes. I had no idea how to use natural treatments for dairy cow mastitis.Thankfully, I learned about homeopathy from Dr. Ed Sheaffer and could get supplies from Leon Hess at Hess Farm Supply in nearby New Holland, PA.

Dr. Karreman at Seven Stars Farm

I was hired to milk the cows. I love milking cows. There’s a special relationship created between the milker and each cow — getting to know each cow’s personality really well simply by spending a lot of close contact time with them. You get to know their udders, the individual quarters and even the way individual teats look like. You also get to know how each teat of the udder feels because of preparing them to milk. Especially important and revealing is how the milk looks from each quarter when checking their milk prior to actual milking.

As any milker knows, using a strip cup helps to visually analyze if milk quality is normal or not. (I prefer a black-plate strip cup over a screen-top type cup, but everyone has their preference.)

If a cow would have stringy mastitis and fought me while stripping out the quarter, I would reach for homeopathic Phytolacca; if the cow was slow to move and had irregular milk in the right quarters I’d use homeopathic Bryonia; for “thick” milk I would use homeopathic Pulsatilla. I would give the homeopathic remedies orally, sometimes 3-4 times a day. For every case, I would inject 35cc colostrum-whey once daily at the top of the udder just below the vulva and inject 60cc vitamin C and 20cc vitamin B in the muscle once daily.

Mastitis in a swollen quarter

Working in a tie-stall barn made it easy to give highly individualized care. (The cows went out to graze in good weather during the grazing season.) I saw the vast majority of cases clear up – even when I would hold off treating just to see if the natural treatments for mastitis were actually causing the healing effects I was seeing vs. simply doing nothing and “waiting it out” (to see if things would get better on their own).

I became extremely immersed in homeopathy for dairy cows and at one point had a “eureka! moment” happen and was invisibly guided to go to veterinary school to learn why homeopathics might work. Vet schools don’t teach about homeopathy but I found answers through immunology.

As a practicing veterinarian, I had to have quick answers at hand for the increasing amounts of organic dairy farmers wanting to treat mastitis naturally. No longer could I sit with an individual cow who I knew really well as I did when I was a herdsman, intuitively figuring out which homeopathic remedy for mastitis would be best. And, after all, as a veterinarian I can only make suggestions on how to treat an animal… In the end it’s up to the farmer/owner how to treat his/her animal.

Somewhere along the way as a veterinarian working with certified organic dairy farmers, I came upon the idea of infusing botanicals into the udder as a natural treatment for mastitis. It simply makes sense to infuse botanicals into the local environment of the teat in order to support udder health with their cleansing, antibacterial properties.

Dairy farmers need quick and easy-to-administer natural treatments for mastitis so any potential problems don’t become chronic. Looking at some products made abroad, I worked with my botanical manufacturer and developed a plant-based product here in the U.S. that I named PhytoMast (“phyto” means plant, as in phyto-therapy).

Almost 10 studies looking at PhytoMast in university studies (most performed at North Carolina State University) have been published in peer-reviewed journals showing that PhytoMast supports udder health. In fact, the very first successful PhD studying the non-antibiotic treatment of mastitis in the United States was awarded to Dr. Keena Mullen in 2013 at NC State. PhytoMast was the only intramammary product studied in her PhD work. The first published milk and meat withholding times for an intramammary natural product that supports udder health were done on PhytoMast.

When I think back to the beginnings of my working with natural treatments for dairy cow mastitis, I have fond memories of spending lots of time with individual cows and pondering which homeopathic remedies to use. However, not everyone is in tie-stall barns nor has as much time as I did to study homeopathic remedies. Thus an easy-to-use, rational natural botanical product like PhytoMast with studies supporting its use for udder health is truly handy.

Mastitis on Dr. K’s boot

While there are many different kinds of mastitis, when farmers notice the first changes in milk quality they should quickly be able to reach for an easy-to-use product that has proven value while also helping to reduce antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in the agricultural sector for the benefit of society at large. PhytoMast was developed to fit this exact need, and it’s something that I’m incredibly proud to share with the dairy world; for better udder health, for better milk, in one easy-to-use treatment. A lot has changed since I first started (including the mustache, or lack thereof), but I still believe, as do farmers, veterinarians, consumers, and researchers, that there’s a better way to treat mastitis in lactating dairy cows without antibiotics.


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