Editor’s note: Please see the announcement for the next HAWL course on “Homeopathy on the Farm” at the end of this article.
What if somebody told you that there is a credible alternative to the use of antibiotics in farming, one that has the possibility to transform the health of the animals AND save the farmer money. Would you prick up your ears? Or maybe you’d just laugh . . .
Well I once would have laughed.
I had been a conventional dairy farmer all of my life when my ‘journey’ into the alternative began, more than ten years ago. Our farm was vaccinating for leptospirosis and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), and our vets wanted us to vaccinate for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) as well. Every time they came out they prescribed a dose of antibiotics – most of the time because they couldn’t work out what exactly was wrong. It wasn’t just the cost and time that bothered me, I had recently had a kidney infection made worse by a reaction to the prescribed antibiotics which had left me unable to work for months. This made me seriously question the effect drugs were having on my herd’s long-term health, and on the health of the soil on my land.
This was back in 2004 and, as usual that year, my staff and I all went off to the Welsh Dairy Event where we saw Crossgates Farm’s homeopathic remedy stand, which intrigued me. The boys circled like vultures and wouldn’t approach but I went and spoke to them and they convinced me to try homeopathy and also told me about the Homeopathy at Wellie Level (HAWL) course, which I eventually registered for in 2008 after some initial success using Crossgates’ remedies.
Putting HAWL teachings into practice
(Sally with her remedy collection, pictured)
After completing the HAWL course I came back to the farm and started practicing what I had learnt on my herd. The course teaches farmers to observe their animals in a whole new way and gives them tools to act quickly at points of stress, often preventing problems from developing. This was new to me and made such sense – as farmers we all know the triggers that can precipitate illness and/or loss of production or condition: separation, transportation, dehorning, castration, Artificial Insemination, poor ventilation, even bad weather…
As well as acute observational skills, we are taught how to make our own decisions, including how to assess whether homeopathy is appropriate or whether we should call the vet. HAWL farmers learn a ‘traffic light’ system – the aim being to keep your herd in the green and act quickly as soon as you see any warning signs – i.e. amber. Taking early action in the amber zone means that fewer animals end up ‘in the red’ – needing the vet.
This has made such a difference to the way we work; using homeopathy enables us to be proactive. It empowers us as we are able to act before those ‘not quite right’ animals become properly ill.
One of Sally’s jersey crossbreeds with Daf, her herdsman
We’re now nipping things in the bud as soon as a cow or calf is off-colour and before she gets ill – it’s so much easier for her to come back to health from this point. By the time you call the vet, you’re in a serious situation. We’re able to treat any observable symptoms before they develop into a disease that the vet can recognise. And we now think ahead to prevent problems. For instance, yesterday, we knew the weather was going to turn very cold so we were able to treat the water troughs with a remedy called Aconite so the susceptible cows didn’t develop a chill or a cough. Little actions like this have meant that our cows now get very little pneumonia. This makes the difference between good herd health and a vet visit that often results in antibiotics being prescribed.
The cost benefits
Over the years, homeopathy has brought us on financially. 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 proves 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 since 2008, when I took the HAWL course, our vet and med bill has halved. You can’t argue with that!
HAWL course, Wales
A constant learning process
Homeopathy is not a magic bullet, the system needs proper learning and responsible application. It’s a bit like ‘going organic’ – as I have recently found out! It’s not simply stopping doing something; different skills are needed which means a steep learning curve. I host regular meetings and workshops with homeopathic vets and teachers here on my farm, so we all continue to learn and support one another. Five farms from the area have recently started to take part in a pilot research study with HAWL vet Dr. Chris Aukland to investigate whether a homeopathic approach creates a healthier farm. This is generously supported by HRH the Prince of Wales who is keenly interested in sustainable initiatives to reduce antimicrobial (antibiotic) resistance in the food chain and on the environment.
Homeopathy has not only transformed the health of our farm but it has also transformed my life. When I first started out with homeopathy, farming friends and colleagues would ask me what I was using and whether it worked – and I would tell them to ask me in 10 years’ time and we would see. Well 10 years later the farm is more profitable, we’re about to become organic, and I’m three quarters of the way to becoming a licensed homeopath, so there’s the answer!
Some useful resources:
There are hundreds of homeopathic remedies but some key ones that we use all the time are:
Arnica – for any physical injury, eg lameness from bruising, mastitis from a kick in the udder, falls, prolonged calvings where cow/calf are exhausted.
Aconite – for any ‘stressful’ situation where animals are likely to be fearful, anxious or experience shock – all vet visits including TB testing, the crush, all situations that are new to the animal, transportation, separation, etc. Also, as mentioned, any cough, chill, high temperature that comes on from bitter cold weather or wind.
Belladonna – early stages of mastitis when the udder is hot and hard and the cow reacts – possibly violently – when the udder is touched.
Hypericum – injuries to spinal nerves from falls or birth (downer cow).
Ignatia – stress of separation – weaning, loss of calf, loss of companion.
About Homeopathy at Wellie Level (HAWL)
HAWL bases its Farm Homeopathy Courses at HRH on The Prince of Wales’ Farm in Tetbury. Now in its 16th year, HAWL has taught farmers from all over the world; both conventional and organic. Farms represented have included sheep, beef, pigs, poultry and even alpacas, but the bigger percentage have been dairy. Most farmers have cited their reasons for attending the course as being increasingly worried about antibiotic usage, many already finding that antibiotics are not always working and that conventional treatment has adverse side effects on their animals’ health.
HAWL RUNS RESIDENTIAL AND NON-RESIDENTIAL COURSES – Dates can be found on the HAWL website.
Homeopathy for the Farm
HAWL 5 Day Residential Farm Homeopathy Course
For Farmers, Veterinarians, Students, Researchers
HAWL’s very first ALL INCLUSIVE Residential Farm Homeopathy Course will run on November 5th – 10th at award-winning Abbey Home Farm, Gloucestershire, UK. (Accommodation is from Sunday 5th – 10th inclusive. The course runs Monday 6th – 10th)
EARLY BIRD PRICE: Register before midnight on August 31st and SAVE £250! Book now and pay £1,450. From September 1st the cost of this course will rise to £1,700.
This course is designed for:
- Overseas students: farmers, vets, researchers
- UK students whose location is too far from Tetbury to make the 3 day course manageable for them.
The cost is fully inclusive of FIVE days’ teaching, SIX nights’ accommodation with three meals per day, plus additional refreshments. Students will have the opportunity to see how this very special organic farm operates during their stay. All meals are produced in the farm’s highly rated restaurant using home raised organic meat, eggs, dairy and farm produce. Full details of Abbey Home Farm can be found on their website.
BOOKING INFORMATION: Availability of this course is strictly limited to just ten places so early booking is advised.
Both your application and full payment MUST be received before the start of the course.
A deposit of £450 is required to secure your place; the remaining balance will be due by August 31st 2017. (From September 1st, full payment will be required at the time of booking.)
Terms & Conditions: (please read)
- If the course is undersubscribed the course will be cancelled and all payments refunded. (Fees are not otherwise refundable).
- Any transfer fees incurred by overseas banks must be covered by the payer, not HAWL.
- The discounted fee of £1450 only applies to those who enroll by August 31st. From September 1st course participants will be required to pay £1700 in total.
- Anyone registering after September 1st must pay the full course fee upfront at the time of registration, ie no deposit will be permitted.
- Payment receipts, with joining instructions and directions to the venue, will be sent to you 21 days before the course begins.
For enquiries, please email: [email protected]
Sally Wood farms a dairy herd of 280 crossbreeds in SW Wales, with her partner Garry, and they are currently converting the farm to organic. Since 2013, she has been a volunteer area co-ordinator for HAWL. She is also training to become a licensed homeopath at the Welsh School of Homeopathy.