Dr Chris Aukland BVSc VetMFHom MRCVS, Head of Livestock Health Programmes, Whole Health Agriculture, discusses homeopathy.
Chris leads the farmer education and support team at Whole Health Agriculture (WHAg). They offer training and support to help farmers develop skills to create resilient natural health and longevity in their livestock.
Chris has over 30 years’ experience in holistic veterinary practice and combines his work at WHAg with small animal surgery, ensuring he keeps up with the latest advances in alternative and conventional veterinary practice.
TF: What is homeopathy?
Dr CA: Homeopathy is an established system of medicine that supports the individual’s own healing process, stimulating a state of dynamic homeostasis (or optimum balance), thereby minimising susceptibility to disease and fostering good health.
TF: How does it work?
Homeopathy works by reminding the body’s natural healing mechanisms of what needs to be done to get back into a state of balance.
Often termed ‘nano-medicine’, homeopathy uses ultra-dilute substances to individualise treatment.
The symptoms presented by a sick animal or person are ‘matched’ to the ‘symptom picture’ of various remedies, choosing the remedy which is the closest match.
For example, caffeine can make us more alert. However, too much caffeine in some people can provoke sleeplessness, restlessness, anxiety and inability to focus.
Working on the homeopathic principle of treating like-with-like for somebody experiencing these symptoms – perhaps due to worry or stress.
The best match might be the homeopathic remedy ‘Coffea’ (produced from coffee), which has a symptom picture of sleeplessness, anxiety, restlessness and an inability to focus.
TF: Is it becoming more popular among farmers?
We have seen increasing demand for training and ongoing support from farmers, particularly over the last five years.
Our training webinars sell out. We are close to launching a membership and online learning platform developed to meet needs and support farmers no matter where they are in the world.
There appears to have been a quiet ‘underground’ movement for some years. Suddenly, it is becoming more mainstream. Interest has always spread through word of mouth – farmers trust farmers; if they say something is working, it creates demand.
Where is the increased demand stemming from?
A question to which we also wanted to know the answer!
We recently conducted a survey into the use of CAM (Complementary & Alternative Methods /Products/Medicines) among farmers to find out what they were using and why.
221 farmers, mainly from UK and Ireland, responded, the majority, 88%, of which used homeopathy. We looked at (among other things) specific markers based on figures that farmers are required to record.
Of all farmers who responded, 66% reported lower vet and medicine costs, and 65% responded that their use of CAMs has resulted in or contributed to zero, low or reduced antibiotic usage.
40% reported zero, low or reduced wormer usage and 36% reported reduced frequency or severity of lameness. One third reported increased financial profitability of the farm.
Of the 70 commercial dairy farmers who responded:
- 71% reported lower vet and medicine costs;
- 69% reported that their use of CAMs has resulted in or contributed to zero, low or reduced antibiotic usage.
Also highly noteworthy is that 69% of dairy farmers reported fewer cases of milk withdrawal, and over half noted less frequent/severe mastitis and lower cell counts.
52% of dairy farmers have seen increased financial profitability of the farm.
Homeopathy is particularly useful because there is no risk of:
a) Toxic side-effects,
b) Drug residues, so no withdrawal period,
c) Can help farmers reduce reliance on antibiotics
TF: What uses can it have on farms?
It can mitigate stress in routine events where conventional veterinary options have little to offer; events that we take for granted, such as weaning, tail ringing, castration, routine examination, separation etc. – which can result in loss of condition or production.
A sick animal is an expensive animal. It can also improve herd vitality so that they are more resistant to infectious disease, parasites, etc. and animals thrive better.
Farmers also use homeopathy for infections. The following slide is taken from our survey and shows responses to the question: What conditions have you treated successfully without antibiotics? The dark blue bar shows the responses for homeopathy.
NB: The use of homeopathy should NEVER replace the vet. Our advice is always based on a holistic ‘traffic-light’ triage. For any problem:
Look at the RED level first and for any serious condition, contact your vet as usual.
Then look at the GREEN level; this is your husbandry level. Can you mitigate any potential ‘maintaining causes’ such as draughty barns, a change in feed, stress to the animal?
Finally, you can address the AMBER level and look at homeopathic and other natural medicine options.
TF: Can farmers use it to fight bovine TB?
In the UK, it is illegal to treat TB, which is a notifiable disease. As such, homeopathy should never be used to treat TB.
Always be aware of the local regulations. For any farm, we want all livestock to be as healthy and naturally resilient as possible.
Used well, homeopathy can improve the overall health of the farm, which will mean the farmer experiences less disease generally. A healthier, more vibrant cow is much less likely to be susceptible to TB.
TF: Why should farmers consider homeopathy?
Homeopathy has the potential, applied correctly, to not only treat symptoms but also to increase resilience and reduce susceptibility to disease.
TF: What should they take into account before they do so?
Seek advice and support. Do your research. Speak to other farmers using it with good results about how they integrate it into their health planning.
It is important also to get appropriate veterinary support. Contact the Irish Society of Veterinary Homeopaths.
What type of homeopathic remedies are available, and how can farmers utilise them?
In the UK, there are no restrictions on farmers sourcing and using remedies in the UK. There are various useful remedy kits available. In Ireland, remedies must be sourced via a homeopathic vet.
There are hundreds of homeopathic remedies but some key ones that farmers use all the time are:
- Arnica- for any physical injury, e.g. lameness from bruised soles, mastitis from a kick in the udder, falls on the yard, difficult births where dam/newborn are exhausted.
- Aconite- for any ‘stressful’ situation where animals are likely to be fearful, anxious or experience shock – before vet visits, including TB testing, the crush, any situations that are new to the animal, transportation, separation, etc.
- Hypericum- for injuries to areas rich in nerve-endings, e.g. disbudding, ear-tagging, castration; damaged spinal nerves from falls or birth (downer cow)
- Ignatia- the stress of separation – weaning, loss of dam/ offspring/ companion.
Farmers tend to use liquid remedies and spray bottles for ease of administration to individuals/groups or put remedies into the troughs if dosing the whole herd/flock.
TF: How much could a farmer save by opting for homeopathy?
This is difficult to quantify as every farm is different, and one farm may measure success by a different set of criteria than others.
However, our survey showed that 66% of farmers/71% of dairy farmers reported lower vet and medicine costs.
Sally Wood, who is a conventional turned organic farmer in Wales, told us:
“I think the mainstream assumption is always that if you use homeopathy to reduce antibiotics, your welfare will go down and your cull rate will go up, but ours proved the opposite, and our herd is so healthy that we can sell our surplus stock.”
“When people ask me whether homeopathy works, I tell them that our vet and med bill has halved.”
What about homeopathy use in Ireland?
Interest appears to be growing. A group of homeopathic vets and farmers have done training together via NOTS, who all support one another in their learning.
What does it take to become a homeopath farmer?
Anyone can start with a few simple remedies. (Obviously, farmers need to observe the regulations in their country and stay legal!)
We know some farmers who ONLY use the remedies Aconite and Arnica and report success.
Training and support are important for best results and to transform the health of a herd/flock. This is something that WHAg is dedicated to providing, including piloting a scheme to train farmers to provide ‘coaching’ to other farmers.
This is not to replace the vet but to help them integrate strategies to foster health and resilience.
TF: Can you see this becoming more popular in the future?
I think it is inevitable. People generally are taking a more holistic view on health.
Overall, we are more ‘planet conscious’. Furthermore, farmers are exploring less toxic health options such as fermented foods, herbs and homeopathy.
Also, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is not going away; farmers are under a lot of pressure to reduce antibiotics.
In the UK, we see buyers and supermarkets leading the trend for reduction in antibiotics, and some organic milk buyers expect members to achieve PWAB status (Produced Without Antibiotics).
In conclusion, homeopathy and other non-toxic inputs such as ferments, herbs etc., offer a viable alternative for farmers.
How can farmers obtain more information?
For more information on WHAg’s new learning and membership platform, and to sign up to our newsletter: see www.wholehealthag.org
See Facebook – The Farmacy at WHAg
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