story to find out more.
Not Pills, for Healthier Animals
By Don Comis
February 22, 2002
Nick Maravell takes the same view
toward his certified organic beef herd as he does his land: a long-term one. He
wants the best-of-the-best Angus, with such good genes that they arent
likely to require medicines for parasites or diseases.
Rather than rely on medicines, he wants to carefully select his herd,
starting with stock from Maryland-based Wye Institutes Angus herd, bred
since 1954. For even better stock in the future, he joined a team of
farmer/research partners helping Louis C. Gasbarre, a microbiologist with the
Agricultural Research Service in
Beltsville, Md., to develop a gene test to detect cows predisposed to attract
Gasbarre discovered that certain animals carry parasites. If you could
detect these animals early on, as calves, you could remove them and not need
parasiticides for the rest of the herd. Or you could breed to eliminate the
Maravells herd is fairly new, but so far he hasnt needed to
treat for parasites. He keeps a small herd on his 165-acre organic farm to
prevent a high parasite buildup in his permanent pastures. As the herd grows,
he plans to expand his fencing to other organic fields--hay, edible soybeans,
corn, barley, rye or hairy vetch--so cattle can forage after harvest or graze
cover crops in early spring and late fall.
Maravell doesnt use any commercial fertilizers, herbicides,
insecticides, parasiticides, antibiotics or growth hormones. The only exception
he has had to make so far was to give an antibiotic to a cow to treat a pinkeye
infection, and he will only use that heifer for breeding, not for organic meat.
This coming fall, Maravell will market his beef under the Nicks
Organic Frozen Beef label. He will sell individual cattle to customers
and then have each cow butchered, packaged and frozen for the customer.
More information on the ARS organic farming research on Maravells farm
can be found in the February 2002 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine, online.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.