About Farm Homeopathy
In the UK only a vet or its owner may legally treat an animal with homeopathy. There are only about 50 homeopathically qualified vets and of these, fewer than a dozen are in farm practice. All this leaves the farmer struggling, encouraged to use a system he does not understand, yet discouraged and unsupported by conventional vets and helped only by a few books and on-line articles. Not only that, but most conventional farm vets are simply not trained in any alternative approach, with many struggling to even understand organic standards – the Lowe report observed that, while many small animal veterinary practices offer alternative therapies, farm practices offer no alternative expertise at all.
A *programme funded by the United States Department of Agriculture reports ‘the conventionally trained health-care professional’ ( ie vet) as not being trained, ie unable, to either help farmers reduce dependence on chemical treatments, or advise the farmer on the promotion of health as opposed to treatment of disease.
The HAWL Course, is designed to educate and empower farmers to take an holistic approach to their health management. Holistic, means to look at the bigger picture and take a proactive and considered approach to health, rather than just reacting to problems. Using homeopathy to improve health is only one part of what the farmer can do to avoid disease. Good animal husbandry and management is really what it is all about, but even the best stock management cannot avoid or eradicate specific stresses placed on production animals. Homeopathy is a powerful tool when used correctly within the general health strategy, which is how HAWL teaches homeopathy, ie not to take the place of the farm vet, but as a part of good farming practice. A sick animal is not a profitable animal; much better to avoid problems.
* References. *McCrory 2007 “Education to Extension Agents, Veterinarians, and other Professionals in Complementary Treatments and Preventative Health Management for Organic Livestock Farms” NESARE Professional Development Grant. www. qmps.vet.cornell.edu
JOHN BALE, FARM MANAGER WITH TWO DAIRY HERDS
“Its a MASSIVE help, so to me its a win win situation. I see the health of the herd being good from its use, my feeling is that if it didn’t work I wouldn’t be wasting my money on it. We don’t spend so much on vets bills. Its all part of the fight to keep a healthy herd. Mastitis is a good example, I hardly ever use antibiotics on mastitis. If we get 3 cases a months then I am doing badly, cell count is around 250. We have not used dry cow therapy in 20 years”.
Homeopathy and The Farmer
Information about how much, or in what way, farmers use homeopathy is very limited.
The production of homeopathic remedies is well regulated within the EU. Farmers may buy remedies from any supplier but these must be made by a registered pharmacy. While farmers rely on the homeopathic pharmacies to supply remedies, they are not by law permitted to prescribe for an animal. (Only a vet qualified in homeopathy or the animal’s owner can legally prescribe homeopathic remedies for an animal in the UK.)
In the UK few homeopathic vets work on farms at all and those who do have little time to set up farm studies or trials, or even collect and publish their own work. There are several homeopaths who own their own farms and treat their own animals but there is little information published about their experiences.
Research is often done to prove or disprove that a specific remedy (or combination of remedies) is effective for a named condition. These trials may well be good science but they are often very poor homoeopathy as they often do not follow the basic rules of homeopathic prescribing. More information can be found on our Research page.
Much of the work published about farm homoeopathy is by practitioners rather than the farmer him or herself, and most is about disease prevention treatment. More useful to farmers is what they can do to avoid problems and to improve health status – avoiding problems is not the same as preventing disease.
Prevention is often attempted, homoeopathically, by using nosodes (see next column) against specific diseases, but avoidance is a very different approach and more positive, as it looks at boosting the general health of the animals. It is now well accepted that problems arise out of stress (weaning, transportation, separation etc) which makes animal more susceptible to disease. HAWL farmers are taught how to observe their animals, to look for signs of stress, to select remedies to help the animals cope with these stresses. Giving animals remedies at these times might not only avoid disease, but might possibly improve production too.
To date we have many positive anecdotes from farmers but no studies recording improvements or comparisons. In Norway, (where vets are not permitted to prescribe homeopathy), Hektoen investigated the use of homeopathy by some dairy farmers and found that they used it because, in their experience it worked, trusting it in spite of veterinary and scientific opposition.
HAWL is always keen to hear from farmers or farm vets about any studies they have conducted.
Many farmers first become acquainted with farm homeopathy because they are attracted to nosodes as a ‘preventative’ for specific diseases. Their use goes back a couple of hundred years, as does the debate about whether are actually homeopathy (‘like cures like’), or are being used homeopathically (ie when the symptoms are present), or even if they work at all.
This is a very big subject with a number of different threads.
A nosode is a homeopathically prepared remedy made from diseased tissue and given to prevent that same disease, so technically they are isopathy (ie ‘the same as’ rather than ‘similar to’). Homeopathy is based on the principle of ‘like treating like’ – ie using a substance similar in its effect to the symptoms it is being used to treat, eg coffee for insomnia.
Do nosodes work? We need to take that question in stages. Do they work generally or do they work on the farm? For the first point, despite scepticism even within the homeopathic community, some have been seen to work very well, eg in Cuba where over 2 MILLION people were given the Leptospirosis nosode as a disease preventative with dramatic positive results.
Farmers report varying success; anecdotally there seems to be agreement about the effectiveness of nosodes for diseases like Orf and New Forest Eye, and less for those for conditions arising from production like Mastitis.
Unlike most farm homeopathy, trials have been set up to look at the effect of mastitis nosodes, (most recently a large DEFRA study, never published so not peer reviewed), and any negative results (beginning with Egan) are often cited as proof that homeopathy does not work at all.
The HAWL view is that relying on nosodes is not practising responsible homeopathy which means the farmer is still thinking about disease rather than health promotion, and is still depending on suppliers to solve their problems. The HAWL course is focused on empowering the farmer to take steps to promote health and to make their own decisions including, of course, when to call the vet (homeopathic if possible).