I remember one comment on Facebook: "During my last pregnancy, I told my farmer I was really craving my fresh (raw) milk and he said, 'Oh, you must need more iodine.' " To some, that may seem like just another old wives' tale, but in the field of animal husbandry, nutrition is everything.
Proper nutrition means profit.
Poor nutrition means loss.
Farmers' livelihoods are dependent on providing adequate nutrition to their animals. Consequently, this creates the opposite type of industry in animal husbandry than it does in the human medical field.
In humans, disease is more profitable for the industry. In raising animals, good health is more profitable. Often, we can find more health insight in the field of farming and animal husbandry than we can from conventional doctors for our own health!
As both a naturopath in training and a homesteading farmer, I have learned just as much from farming as I have from my work as a holistic health practitioner and my naturopathy training!
Here are just a few of many examples I have seen in my experience raising animals that provide some pretty neat insight into health:
Increased prenatal and postnatal nutrition
Farmers, especially dairy farmers, know how crucial it is to boost an animal's nutrition during pregnancy. With dairy goats, for example, it is common for animals to receive nutritional injections (such as selenium and Vitamin E in my area of the country where the soil is typically very low in those things) as we know that a deficiency can cause kids (baby goats) to be born with weak legs and other problems.
It is also crucial for farmers to provide adequate protein and high-quality hay or forage to their animals especially towards the end of pregnancy (especially with goats who usually have multiple kids with each pregnancy) to prevent late-term pregnancy complications. Farmers know the problems with pregnancy and kidding related to nutritional deficiencies and thus they (the good ones anyway) take numerous steps to proactively prevent those things.
Prevention of Pregnancy & Delivery Complications
During the end of pregnancy, we also put a strong emphasis on ensuring that our pregnancy goats are getting exercise to prevent toxemia. Every goat info book, website, etc., on prenatal care reports that does (female goats) who enter pregnancy overweight are more likely to experience toxemia and other complications, so dairy goat farmers tend to strive for proper body condition (not too thin and not too fat) before breeding their goat, especially for the first pregnancy.
Another interesting thing I learned in raising dairy goats is that prolapse before kidding usually indicates a calcium deficiency. My research demonstrates that the same may be true with humans...
For example, in Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby, she describes how giving an animal potassium (like from raw apple cider vinegar) will enable goats to kid (birth) naturally and prevent dystocia. She further states:
A potassium deficiency causes constriction of small blood vessels in certain areas of the body. Dystocia seems to be caused by a lack of blood supply to the uterus and cervix in the final stages of pregnancy. When potassium is lacking, the fetus is locked in position and, speaking as one who has pulled an inordinate amount of other farmers' calves and lambs, is virtually immovable.
Potassium deficiency is much more prevalent in humans because of common consumption of foods that deplete our bodies of potassium, like caffeine (which also depletes calcium), as well as the prevalence of adrenal problems. (The adrenal hormone aldosterone is responsible for helping maintain the proper level of electrolytes, including potassium and sodium, in our body.)
Prenatal healthcare providers could greatly help reduce labor complications if they discussed the importance of greatly minimizing caffeine consumption, identifying leg cramps during pregnancy (Charlie horses) as a sign of potassium deficiency, and taking steps to support adrenal health.
Unlike conventional human birthing, avoiding unnecessary and dangerous interventions is widely practiced in animal husbandry. For example, on the topic of augmenting labor with synthetic oxytocin:
From a goat website:
"Oxytocin [referring to synthetic oxytocin medication--like the human medication pitocin] causes extremely hard uterine contractions and should never be given to a doe in labor, as the strength of these contractions can force a fetus through the uterine wall."
And from the packet insert of Pitocin (the human oxytocin medication):
"Maternal deaths due to hypertensive episodes, subarachnoid hemorrhage, rupture of the uterus, and fetal deaths due to various causes have been reported associated with the use of parenteral oxytocic drugs for induction of labor or for augmentation in the first and second stages of labor."
In the dairy goat world, farmers also know that an animal that does not get colostrum in the first 24 hours after birth is likely to die or suffer permanent health problems. We know that the colostrum plays a crucial role in the newborn's gut development. Because human babies do not just die if they don't get colostrum, we tend to think that they are fine without it. But the truth is that they are likely to suffer from problems associated with poor gut health (such as environmental allergies, food sensitivities, frequent sickness, eczema, constipation and other digestive issues) later in life as a result of not getting colostrum. (There are other factors in those health problems of course.)
Susceptibility to Illness After Giving Birth
In the dairy goat world, we know that goats (who are already very predisposed to parasites more than any other farm animal) become even more susceptible to parasite infection after giving birth, so steps are taken to ensure they do not parasite overload which can quickly kill a nursing mother. (Conventional farms typically deworm an animal with chemical dewormers before and after kidding. On our farm, we do this with holistic methods like herbs, essential oils and preventative nutrition.)
Emphasis is placed on a new mother's susceptibility to illness due so proactive measures are encouraged. The same should be true for women.
Quality of Mother's Milk
Here's another interesting fact--in the dairy animal world, we know that if an animal's milk (especially with goats) is off in taste, color, etc., we look immediately to the health of the one producing the milk. With goats, it is common for them to be overloaded with parasites when their milk tastes funny. An animal (and a human) produces milk that can change according to their health. It seems like such a simple, common-sense fact, but it is not so common when it comes to human health.
Dry Period to Replenish Nutrients
Another practice in dairy farming is giving cows/goats a dry period--a period of being in neither lactation nor pregnancy--to allow the animal time to replenish her nutrient supplies. This is ancient wisdom that used to be practiced and strongly encouraged in women. Unfortunately, many moms nowadays who are so beautifully and sacrificially welcoming many babies with pregnancies and lactation periods all together are sacrificing their long-term health without this traditional wisdom. This is why we see women suffering from what seems like sudden health problems after pregnancy/lactation, such as thyroid disease, cancer, hormone imbalance, postpartum depression, and symptoms of nutritional deficiencies such as teeth falling out. Click here to read my post on Nutrient Depletion from Closely-Spaced Pregnancies/Lactationand what we can do to prevent that, taking wisdom that is still practiced in the farming world!
Nutritional Deficiencies and Propensity Towards Parasites, Bacterial & Viral Infection
Interestingly, a goat is more susceptible to parasite infestation when it is low in crucial minerals, especially copper. While it is not necessarily specifically copper with humans, the same holds true that we are more susceptible to parasitic, bacterial, or viral infection when we our bodies are depleted of crucial nutrients. As Louis Pasteur said, "The germ is nothing. The terrain is everything."
Here's another example of that: LICE. Yes, those annoying itchy little critters of which everyone shudders the thought. Farm animals get lice too (although it is not the kind that will live on humans thankfully!). But here's something I learned about that--goats who have sufficient minerals, specifically sulfur, will not get lice. I have had goats, who consume their minerals well (that contain sulfur) as well as eat the garlic we give them, live with goats who have lice and never get the lice themselves. It is always the goats who are sick or low in nutrients that get lice. While it may not specifically be sulfur with people, it still raises my curiosity if humans are more susceptible to lice when they are also nutritionally depleted in whatever nutrients may be responsible in humans for warding off live-in critters!
The germ (or critter) is nothing. The terrain is everything.
High-Doses of Vitamins for Treatment
There are some illnesses in livestock where they require high-dose vitamin therapy in the form of vitamin injections. For instance, goat polio (Polioencephalomalacia) is known to be caused by a severe deficiency of thiamine (Vitamin B1), so thiamine injections are the treatment of choice. For many other health issues that arise, we can go to the local vet supply store and purchase an injectible B-complex for under $10. Even veterinarians who do not practice holistic methods have and use injectible vitamin therapy for various illnesses.
Orthomolecular medicine is a field of medicine that utilizes the practice of high-dose therapy for human medical treatment in severe illnesses and diseases. One of the pioneers of this field, Linus Pauling, was a two-time Nobel Peace Prize winner. There are decades of proof that using high-dose vitamin therapy can eliminate things like cancer, paralysis from polio, depression, schizophrenia, and many, many more health problems.
But still, this is not something that is practiced in the field of allopathic medicine. Why not? Because the human medical industry profits off of disease. It's very unfortunate that we are not able to utilize these things in conventional care for the sake of good health the way that even conventional veterinary care does.
Animals Crave What Their Bodies Need (Usually)
My animals fascinate me when they eat what they know their body needs regardless of the taste (usually). I can put out a tray of various options--pure minerals, salt, kelp, etc., and my goats will eat as much of whatever their body needs. With our first set of goats, they were very nutritionally-depleted when we got them. They ate their buffet minerals and kelp like there was no tomorrow. They ate so much that I was afraid they would ruin their livers and die or something! But they knew what their bodies needed, and soon they were no longer depleted. Their fur began coming in thicker, they began putting on some weight, and their personalities/temperament changed as well.
Yes, their mental health improved when their nutritional deficiencies were reversed, as well as many other aspects of their health. And they knew what their bodies needed to do that.
What most humans don't realize is that their cravings usually indicate a nutritional deficiency. In some cases, a craving is to feed something bad inside of their body. For instance, those with candida overgrowth tend to crave sugars which are needed to feed that candida. So that's obviously not a craving we want to divulge! Here's an article that goes into some of what certain cravings can mean for our health.
I just found it fascinating that my animals were so in tune with what their body needed! Of course if a bag of grains gets left out, all of my farm animals will eat until they bloat and almost die, because grains are just addicting. ;)
Importance of Extra Nutrients During Stress
Here's one I found really interesting when I began raising dairy goats. I had already been a nutritional practitioner (for humans) so while I knew this for humans, it was not commonly practiced with humans but was emphasized in animal husbandry.
In the dairy goat world, we know the importance of giving animals extra B vitamins and probiotics when they are going to be dealing with extra stress. This could be from being given new circumstances, during kidding (birth), or other situations that would put added stress onto an animal.
During stress, the gut microbes are negatively affected and the body requires more B vitamins. The same is true for people as well as animals. In humans, extra magnesium should be emphasized as well during times of stress.
How often do we give ourselves those extra nutrients before/during times of added stress?!
These are just a few of the many interesting things I've noticed in my experience with farming. We can look to farmers, especially those seeking to raise animals the way God intended, for some pretty neat health insight for ourselves and our families!
And by the way--from our story in the beginning of the article: fresh, unprocessed milk is a fabulous source of iodine. Pasteurization, however, destroys approximately 20% of the iodine in milk. Farmers know what a body's symptoms are saying!
Blessings of good health,
~Sara Jo Poff
Holistic Health Practitioner & Homesteader