Dr. Paul Dettloff’s Complete Guide to Raising Animals Organically: Natural Ways of Farming, Feeding and Treating Cattle and Other Ruminants
By Paul Dettloff with Megan Dettloff-Meyer
Talk about timely! Given the sudden spike in interest in growing one’s own food and raising animals, resources that can help people learn how to do this organically—and well—are invaluable. Dr. Paul Dettloff’s Complete Guide to Raising Animals Organically is such a resource.
Dettloff is a holistic veterinarian and sustainable agriculture consultant. His book starts with two important reminders. First, animal health is built on the health of what animals eat—and the health of what they eat is dependent on the health of the soil that their food comes from. Second, animal health depends on the environment in which animals find themselves, so creating a healthy environment is crucial to minimize health problems from the start.
Thus the first section of the Complete Guide focuses on how to build and support healthy soils and healthy plants using compost, foliar sprays (nutrients applied to a plant’s leaves) and similar tactics. The next section—all about energy (including electricity) and its impact on animals—came as a bit of a surprise, but given that I had just read Arthur Firstenberg’s The Invisible Rainbow, it was a welcome one. I don’t expect always to agree with everything I read, but I see it as important to interact with ideas that are outside of my normal range of opinion and discussion, and that is just what this section provided. Dettloff discusses “energy wheels” as well as dowsing and the impact of DC (direct current) on animal and human health, providing suggestions of things you can do to address these issues.
In his section on alternative health care, I was immeasurably excited to see a discussion of herbal hedgerows. Years ago, when we had cattle, we also had a large mixed annual-perennial growing space with all sorts of medicinal plants. Our cows, whose only experience with comfrey was when we occasionally cut a few leaves to offer as treats, came down with pink eye. Though the comfrey was blocked by two fences, the cows trampled their way through both and ate all our comfrey plants to the ground. The plants came back (in case you were worried), and more impressively, the cows’ pink eye cleared up with no other treatment. This made a lasting impression on my understanding of what to feed our animals.
Dettloff conveys the power of building medicinal plants into an animal’s ecosystem and gives many ideas for how and what to include— yarrow, hazelnuts, my beloved elder(berry) and more! This technique truly allows animals, and especially ruminants, to let their food be their medicine, let their medicine be their food and to self-medicate as needed. This section also discusses homeopathy and essential oils. Knowing which oils to use for specific animal health needs makes it a helpful quick guide.
The final—and longest—section of the book covers treatment protocols in a thorough, well-laid-out and easy-to-navigate manner. Dettloff organizes it around major bodily functions and systems (such as digestion, reproduction and the nervous system) and covers a few general areas of concern. He caps this with a section laden with the wisdom gleaned from his more than forty years of vet experience. I suggest reading this section during the off season to become familiar with the contents (and the equipment you may need). Then, as health issues crop up, you can consult the book without starting from zero.
This book is strictly limited to ruminants. Though it does not cover pigs, chickens, rabbits or other common farm animals, it may offer some general ideas and principles. Both Dettloffs get two thumbs up for this interesting read and useful resource, which allows individuals raising ruminants to have a holistic veterinarian “on their bookshelf.”
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2020