Drawing parallels: farm methods and human health

By Brent Royce, Guest blogger

For those who have followed me on Twitter (@brfarms09) you might have heard me complain over the last few years about my neck issues. This problem has given me the ability to draw many comparisons between our two different approaches to medicine in Ontario, that being the conventional system and the naturopathic one, and how we care for our livestock and land.

The first time I was convinced to try alternative medicine I said “yeah right” but went because of the ‘yes dear’ syndrome. I came home with a different perspective about it because their approach is basically the same as I farm…

Whether in the field or the barn, I look at the big picture of what is going on and if something doesn’t seem quite right I fix the issue and then figure out why it happened. I guess you could also call this a proactive approach. This starts long before I place a flock of birds in my barn or put a seed in the ground.

Years ago, when we first started raising turkeys, we learned the importance of good health with a few tough lessons to reinforce it. Such things as good stomach health along with the benefits of probiotics long before this was a really of any interest to the average person (or that I had heard promoted for human health). We use probiotics to keep the turkey’s digestive system healthy to allow it to fight off bad bacteria easier. We even focus on the actual pH of the water to keep it close to the normal pH of a turkey’s stomach. Like everything, turkey’s stomachs are designed to work at a certain acidity level, therefore by keeping the water at that level it’s easier for the bird to digest its food.

I have had epilepsy for close to 25 years, so I have used our normal medical system a lot and still believe that it’s very important. Along the way I’ve had different reactions to different medications, and adjustments to kinds and amounts have been made because we have access to many different medications due to living in a great country.

Along this journey I started having a lot of joint pains and worked through the medical system to specialists that eventually recommended a prescription for a medication that would require me getting my eyes tested every six months. On my way home from that appointment I got thinking: whenever our turkeys appear to be dealing with bad legs or joints, we increase the vitamin D we give them to correct the issue.

That night when I got home, I went to the pharmacy and picked up some vitamin D, keeping the prescription to take in later. Some 15-17 years later I have never needed that prescription and my joints continue to move fine. Chemicals – either natural occurring or synthetically made – when used at proper rates (doses) are not an issue as I use them both personally and on the farm.

I guess my point is that most of the time we have been able to relate problems discovered and solved on the farm into better ways to improve our own health usually before it becomes mainstream.

I’m not promoting any form of human medical treatment (conventional or naturopathic) as I use both and see relevance in each. I’m just drawing parallels between farm methods and human health. We, as people, can learn lots from how we as farmers treat our land and animals. To this day I still look at the overall health of my livestock, crops and myself. Along with treating the symptoms that show up, it’s important to look at the bigger picture and make changes to avoid the problems happening again.

Now if I only ate as well-balanced meals as my animals!

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