The Dread Disease -- Abortion
Abortion, or the premature expulsion of the foetus by a pregnant animal, may be accidental; that is, caused by violent injury, such as a blow from another animal, or it may be due to structural malformation, or, what is perhaps the most common form, that which is due to the toxic condition of the animal system which makes it not only impossible, but inadvisable for the animal to carry the pregnancy to full term. Associated with the last condition, and often a cause alone, may be the rearing and maintenance of the animal during the whole or part of its lifetime on land which is seriously inadequate in the requirements of a healthy pregnancy, or in the prerequisites of proper growth and development of the breeding female.
It is not possible here to deal more than briefly with the accidental, and the fundamental, causes of premature parturition or unhealthy pregnancy. The first can only be avoided by careful measures for prevention, such as the provision of ample yarding or other accommodation for pregnant animals, gentle handling and, above all, with cattle, the use of a dog in driving or herding should be absolutely forbidden. With the latter cause, which I have called fundamental, i.e. caused by soil or atmospheric deficiencies or abnormality, it is choice of farm, and the methods of soil management and cropping -- matters referred to elsewhere -- that are of more importance than the actual treatment of the animal. Farms in extremely low-lying and excessively humid areas are not conducive to completely and continuously trouble-free breeding. Though it may be possible to bring the animals to a high state of health, there will be periods when pregnancy and parturition abnormalities occur, and though they are temporarily inconvenient and upsetting to the planning of the farm programme, as well as the mental calm of the farmer, they have no serious or permanent effect on the ability of the animals for future breeding.
The cause which is most common, most serious in its results if not properly tackled, and yet the simplest to avoid and cure on the farm organically managed, is that which results from the toxic condition of the animal system. The orthodox veterinary profession, and indeed the whole of orthodox agricultural science, calls this 'contagious' abortion, and blames the bacillus which was discovered by Dr. Bang -- Brucella abortus or bacterium abortum, which is generally found in the catarrhal discharges and the blood-stream of animals aborting for reasons of toxaemia (the condition in which accumulations of poisons in the form of catarrh are present in the system).
Nature has good purpose in all her processes, and the process of abortion is one of them. The bacteria which the scientist isolates and blames for causing the condition, merely arises out of the condition as an essential part of the curative process. As explained in my introduction to the subject of disease, the bacteria are entirely benevolent and engaged in the work of consuming the toxic accumulations and assisting their discharge from the body. The act of abortion, or expulsion of the foetus, is a part of the natural elimination of toxins from the overloaded system, and as such is altogether beneficial to the ultimate health of the animal. The loss of the calf, or foal, or lamb, or kid, should not be regarded as a disaster, but as a life-saver for the dam, which at best would otherwise become permanently sterile and incapable of further useful existence on the farm. As it is, with orthodox treatment she will probably become at least temporarily sterile, and if the bad feeding which caused the toxaemia continues, permanent sterility, or other serious toxic condition, is almost certain.
But with enlightened management and organic treatment, the act of abortion becomes a healing process in the life of the animal whose subsequent health and productive ability will be wonderfully benefited as a result.
Symptoms. Taking the example of a cow (in which abortion is more common than in other animals due to the more exploitive methods of management), where the normal calving date of the animal is known, it is a simple matter to anticipate a threatened abortion. Approaching the third, fifth or seventh month of pregnancy, though it does also occur at other periods, a slight discharge may be noticed from the vulva, and the vulva will become relaxed and bright pink in colour. If the animal is dry the udder may or may not show signs of freshening, depending on the milking capacity of the cow and the length of time she has been dry. If she is in milk, some abnormality will be noticed in the milk, such as thickening, discolouration or clotting. With a cow in milk, the first symptom is often the appearance of clots in the milk and the change to a sticky texture in the milk, and if this is associated with some reddening and slackening of the vulva, abortion is almost certain. If there is no change in the vulva, and the cow is immediately put under treatment, it may be possible to get away with mere temporary udder trouble, but once a distinct relaxation of the vulva is plainly evident, only the most skilful treatment will avoid abortion.
If careful note has been made of the sexual cycle, or if, with a cow accustomed to regular heat periods, a calculation of the heat periods had the cow not become pregnant, it will be found that abortion usually takes place, or seriously threatens, or udder trouble is evident, at the time the cow would have been on heat had she not been in calf. This indicates the close relationship between all the organs of reproduction, the udder, the uterus, the ovaries, the vulva, and the fact that they are all interdependent and jointly responsible for the success or otherwise of the pregnancy. The time of sexual crisis, in the female, is the heat period. It is at this time that the greatest strain is present, and whether or not the animal is pregnant the cycle continues with its phases of 'heat and cool', the heat period being the occasion of trouble if the system is not equal to the task in hand. In less toxic conditions, udder trouble is the worst that happens in these periods of the sexual cycle; in worse conditions abortion takes place, and in the most toxic cases both udder trouble and abortion are simultaneous or closely following one another. Sterility is the almost certain consequence of the abortion which is also accompanied by udder trouble, as the cow is obviously in so toxic a state that drastic cleansing of the whole system is called for before the animal can be capable of performing any healthy function. Even in the milder cases of abortion, temporary sterility is frequent because, of course, the cow cannot be expected to carry a calf in a uterus that continues the catarrhal discharges which caused the abortion.
Treatment Before Abortion
Prevention is rarely possible once the obvious symptoms are observed. But, provided organic methods are the rule on the farm and the herdsman is a master of his work and able to detect the slightest abnormality in his cattle -- the best herdsmen often have an uncanny ability to sense impending abnormalities -- it is possible to commence treatment which will avert an actual abortion. It is not possible, however, in case of animals that have been running with the bull and no service date is known, to be sure whether the signs are those of abortion or normal calving, except from the udder. If the animal appears to be about to calve without making much of an udder, then it is likely to be a premature calving.
As with all toxic conditions, fasting is the immediate necessity. After the first twenty-four hours without food (as it may encourage expulsion of the foetus, it is not possible to give the usual enema), some form of gentle herbal purgative should be given. The liquid from twelve senna pods soaked overnight in two pints of warm water should be given as a drench on the morning and night of the second day of the fast, and repeated on the third day.
As abortion is basically a catarrhal condition, the best possible cleanser is garlic in some form. If garlic grows wild on the farm, then whole plants should be gathered and fed at the rate of four whole plants daily for two weeks, but commencing with one only on the first day, increasing by one each day. If no wild garlic is available, four flaked cloves may be fed morning and night, similarly commencing with one only the first morning and increasing to a daily ration of four cloves morning and night. If the cow will not readily take the flaked garlic cloves, or even the whole garlic plants (which is unlikely as her system will be demanding it), it may be chopped and mixed with a little kale or silage or other appetizing food and a little molasses, or made into a ball with bran.
Failing either garlic plant or root, the prepared tablets of whole crushed and compressed garlic may be used, giving six tablets in a little water morning and night. The tablets need not dissolve. The water is merely to assist passage of the tablets to the stomach, where they will dissolve and achieve digestion slowly, at the same time penetrating the whole system and purifying the unclean places.
During the fast the animal should be kept in and allowed access to ample clean water, which should preferably not be from a tap. Spring, stream, or even well water is preferable for an animal in normal health, and even more so for a sick animal, as it contains vital elements not present in the chlorinated dead water of the Rural District Council.
The fast should be continued for a week or until signs of impending abortion are passed. At the end of a week, if there is no worsening of the condition, molasses should be fed, commencing with a pint on the first day, increasing by one pint daily, to two pints morning and night. This should be given as a drench, diluted in warm water to a consistency which makes it capable of being poured from a bottle. The genuine cane molasses should be used.
If, during the second week, the animal appears to be happy and normal, organically grown green food may be introduced in small quantities, gradually increasing to normal rations of 20 or 30 lb. of good kale, and at the end of the second week a small bran mash -- 3 to 4 lb. of bran -- may be given with added molasses, and then organically-grown cereals introduced. If, in the second week, the animal still appears abnormal the fast should continue another week. In any case, the garlic should continue daily till calving, as a safeguard and insurance of healthy calving.
Treatment after Abortion
If, in spite of all preventive efforts, the animal aborts, or if, as so often happens, abortion has taken place without the warnings having been observed, then the only treatment is one that takes advantage of the natural cleansing process which has been commenced, to take the opportunity of getting the animal back to a condition of normal health in which she may enjoy healthy pregnancy in the future.
Immediate action for the cow should be to provide, if possible, the natural stimulus of a calf. If a young calf is available, this should be put to suckle the cow at once. This will help to stimulate the normal hormone secretions which have a cleansing effect on the uterus and which are responsible for milk flow and udder health. The calf should be left with the cow day and night and allowed to suckle at will. If the cow does not take readily to the calf she must be trained by holding, three times a day, until the calf may be left to help itself. The suckling calf is by far the best treatment for any abnormal calving or udder trouble, calling forth the endocrine secretions of the ductless glands -- called hormones -- which play a major part in the maintenance of health in the organs of reproduction and milk production, and adjusts the abnormalities which artificial treatment may have caused.
Thereafter, the cow should be given the two-weeks' treatment for the prevention of abortion but with daily enemas, both rectal and vaginal, using four gallons of warm water in which eight crushed garlic tablets have been dissolved. If possible, the last half-gallon of water containing garlic should in each case be retained in the intestine and vagina.
Additionally, throughout the two weeks, a daily dose of raspberry-leaf tea, or a blend of birth herbs, such as raspberry leaves, motherwort, and linseed, should be given. Four to five ounces of mixed dried birth herbs or, failing a mixture of these herbs, dried raspberry leaves brewed in a gallon of water, will make four two-pint drenches, to be given morning and night. If raspberry leaves are available on the farm, a bucketful of fresh leaves may be soaked in water, boiled, and the liquid given in two-pint drenches morning and night.
This treatment should be repeated monthly three times, and if effective service does not result after the second fasting period, monthly until service is effective.
In such serious cases the fast should be for two weeks before the week of introducing green food and, later, cereals.
It may be that the cow shows signs of milking well in spite of aborting, in which case drastic fasting may be delayed for a couple of months. But a week's fast, with garlic and birth herbs, should in any case be given as soon as possible after the abortion and while the cow is suckling a calf, and cereal feeding should be withheld as long as possible -- at least two weeks -- with the exception of bran mash with molasses, in which the dried raspberry leaves may be given instead of as a liquid drench.
Fasting for a week does not permanently affect milk yield where the cow's health calls for a fast. Indeed, it will benefit subsequent milk yield, and the cow will usually recover at least the yield of the pre-fasting period or, even more, as a result of the benefit to general health.
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