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May 3, 2014

Organic Valley veterinarian and nutritionist Silvia Abel-Caines on the the tools she carries

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Below, Sarah Nassauer's January 15, 2014 Wall Street Journal story.

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Silvia Abel-Caines [below]

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walks the grounds of organic dairy farms every few weeks as a veterinarian and nutritionist for Organic Valley, the largest organic farmer cooperative in the U.S.

Her durable leather bag, purchased about 10 years ago, is filled with tools to test cows' nutritional needs and protect her from the elements as she works to advise farmers on how to keep cows healthy without treatments or feed used commonly in conventional dairy farming.Farmers "contact me whenever they have a health-related issue that they suspect has some root in nutrition," she says.

She uses a "hay probe," a long, steel tool connected to an electric drill, to grab hay samples from the core of hay bales. She later has the hay tested for fiber, protein, carbohydrates and minerals.

She tests the grass cows eat with a refractometer, which shows its sugar and mineral content. Cows producing certified organic milk are required to graze on pasture for at least 120 days each year. Cows making conventional milk often eat grain like corn and soy. To deal with cow digestive problems, she carries raw apple cider vinegar. The acid helps balance the pH in their stomachs, she says.

She has several creams to keep her skin moisturized or heal cuts. Calendula oil mixed with beeswax can be used "for the cows and for myself," and is perfect for cuts, she says.

A leather-covered notepad and solar-powered calculator are always close at hand. A Nokia smartphone and earphones with a microphone allow her to answer questions from farmers across the country, hands free. The phone connects to the Organic Valley database that tracks the quality of milk each farm is producing. While visiting the many Amish and Mennonite farms that produce organic milk, "I can give them information about their own production they probably don't have recent access to," she says.

She carries Organic Valley coupons, handing them out to people in airports who strike up a conversation about her company logo jacket or hat.

May 3, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink


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