Welcome to Book of the Week – a weekly feature offering you a glimpse between the pages of an Acres U.S.A. published title.

This week's Book of the Week feature is Dr. Paul Dettloff's Complete Guide to Raising Animals Organically, by Dr. Paul Dettloff with Megan Dettloff-Meyer.


Dr. Dettloff will be making an appearance at the 2019 Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show this Dec. 9-12 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On Dec. 9th, Dr. Dettloff will be leading an intensive Eco-Ag U workshop about Raising Animals Organically. Sign up now and receive a free copy of Dr. Paul Dettloff's Complete Guide to Raising Animals Organically for the session! Learn more and register.

Acres 2019 Eco-Ag Conference and Trade Show

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From Chapter 13: Herbal Hedge Rows

I was raised in the 1940s and ’50s on a small, flat, black, diversified farm . . . 200 chickens, six sows and feeder pigs, and 15 milk cows. Grandpa had sheep and geese. We each owned 120 acres. You could make a living on 80 acres and 160 acres was a big farm. The only idle land was the fence row.

Sprays were not used or heard of yet — hay was mowed with a sickle mower. Fields were all fenced, ditches were not mowed; the townships and counties just let them grow. Our north line fence was pretty wide as us and the neighbors had rock piles. Rocks migrated up each year with the frost. They were from baseball size to bowling ball size and some really big, heavy ones. You would hit them with the moldboard plow and the disc when doing field work. Every spring, everybody picked rocks. They were a nuisance when one cultivated.

The ultimate country for hedges is New Zealand. They divide their grazing paddocks with miles of hedges, beautifully maintained. They take pride in their hedges.

Our north line fence and west township ditch was a haven for pheasants, chuckers (a small, little Hungarian partridge) and red-winged black birds. Rabbits and civet cats and pocket gophers were also in abundance. Civet cats were spotted skunks, which are now gone from southern Minnesota. They would get caught in my pocket gopher traps. Bounty on pocket gophers was thirty-five cents, paid by the township. That money put me through two years of college.

In 2015, I was invited to the Netherlands to speak on alternative treatments. I visited six farms across the country, and two of these farms had narrow peninsulas of trees jutting out into these pastures for cows to munch on. They were about 16 feet wide and 100 feet long and were fenced. The trees were planted quite close to the fence so a lot of the limbs hung over the fence.

The trees were planted quite close to the fence so a lot of the limbs hung over the fence.

They all had a willow — a many-branched willow which they pruned back about every six years at about 6 feet high and they would re-sprout many branches. They used bundles of willow branches for many other things, also, as I saw truckloads of these being transported. A second tree was an alder and a third popular one was a bushy one that looked like raspberry leaves. The cows would graze on these as far as they could reach.

When planting hardwood trees, plant them into clover — red or white clover — and you will have better livability without spraying the ground cover to prevent competition. It’s low-grow­ing and provides nitrogen to the hardwood trees.

One of my loves of life is planting trees and plants for habitat. I’ve taken four farms that were all “HEL” farms and put them back into trees. HEL stands for “highly erodible land” and should never have been plowed. These slopes were mainly wooded or in the level spots supported by perennial grasses. From observation, here’s what I would consider putting in a line fence or hedge row. Remember to keep it diverse. Biodiversity is normal — that means mix it up!

Lilacs — they stool out (spread), are beautiful, and are a haven for birds. They survive planting and grow fast.

Hazelnut — tremendous livability, no animal eats the plant but everything eats the nuts - turkeys, squirrels, deer. 10 days after ripening, the nuts are totally gone. They seek these out. Hazelnuts stool out and I like to put them in patches. I plant­ed 100 plants on an eroded rocky knob and two years later, I wanted to help them out with some foliar spray and lime, and found 99 of them alive. Another spot I put in 60, and three years later all 60 were doing well and starting to send up new shoots. They are hardy.

Any berry — my home tree farm has wild blackberries and wild red raspber­ries. The leaves of these are a medicinal warehouse; replant the wild or use raspberries. They grow well. For ground cover, put in strawberries or blue­berries. If your ground will support ber­ries, get some berry to put in your hedge­row. Goats love berry leaves. When they get sick, tinctured raspberry leaves have high ERGs.

Willow — get like a swamp willow, not a big weeping willow because they get too big. Moose live on willows in Alaska. Willow leaves and small branches are nutritious and contain aspirin.

Comfrey-lined chicken run in New Zealand.

Comfrey — this plant is a forage in the Balkans in Europe. Comfrey is very high in calcium. My comfrey patch for tincturing gets eaten down every fall by the deer — they love it. In New Zealand, the range chicken (layers). People planted and fed comfrey fresh. Two small operations had their fence line-planted to comfrey, which the chickens would pick at. The bigger leaves they would pick and throw into the yard and the birds would go wild over it. Huge source of calcium and turns the yolk bright orange. Com­frey can be invasive. Cows will readily graze comfrey leaves.

St. John’s Wort — another perennial that is easy to grow. Hardy and animals will munch on it. St. John’s Wort will also spread like comfrey but is a very good medicinal herb.

Yarrow — one of my favorites. In Colorado, the mountains are full of wild yarrow and it is a staple for elk. They graze yarrow. This plant is very high in secondary metabolites and used in humans for high blood pressure, healing wounds, and loaded with trace elements. Will grow almost every place. The combination of raspberry leaves, comfrey, yarrow, and St. Johns wart gives you quite an herbal cafeteria.

Elderberry — bushes fit well into hedges. Feed for birds and humans and are hardy and thick. Goats love elderberries.

Chamomile — this pretty perennial is used in teas and herbal blends as it has a calming effect. The blossoms look like little dai­sies. They bloom in mid-July and get about 3 to 3 . feet tall. Deer and cattle will browse on them.

Bergamot — this colorful blue-lavender perennial is an anti­pyretic. That means it lowers temperature. It blooms like chamo­mile in July in Wisconsin. This is also a pollinator — bees will also frequent comfrey flowers, yarrow, and elderberry.

Aronia berry bushes — they are very hardy, the berries in the fall are loaded with antioxidants. Aronia is grown all over Iowa and is good for jams, bird food, and is the most potent plant loaded with antioxidants (vitamin C).

Cedar trees don’t work as the deer eat them up and kill them. Honeysuckle — stay away from as that is very invasive. A plant that I’ve had problems with that one could try would be horseradish — when I dig my horseradish to process it in the fall,

I always replant the tops which I cut two-thirds of it off and replant, trying to expand my row. The deer will come out of the woods and eat the replant — the whole thing. So I end up with no more than I start with. Personal observation is the most reliable source of truth. There must be something the deer need every fall. They don’t touch it in the summer or spring.

Lespedeza capitata

Lespedeza is a plant they use as a wormer in New Zealand. The universities of Arkansas and Missouri have extensive research data on its effect as an intestinal wormer. It is very impressive. I plant­ed an acre of lespedeza and birdsfoot trefoil in Wisconsin on an organic farm. Birdsfoot trefoil is also an excellent wormer. I had two plants of lespedeza and one plant of birdsfoot trefoil success­fully grow on that entire acre; I surmise the southern seed I ought was not for our northern climate. Someone should test this in southern climes; I feel it has potential.

A hedgerow is a haven for birds. I like gourd birdhouses and put 22 of them up one spring that I grew and dried out. All 22 had nests in them. Putting them up is a challenge as raccoons love to tear them apart. When gourd houses will be full, bluebirds, wren, and a plethora of songbirds I can’t identify love hedgerows. Remember — biodiversity is normal.

Fencing the herbal hedgerow is important. Several farms had fences with round wooden 4- to 5-inch posts with a hole drilled about 3 feet above ground. Through this hole they passed a smooth cable about half an inch in diameter surrounding entire hedge. About every 5–6 weeks they would uncouple the cable, drop it to the ground, and allow the herd to graze and brose it for one day. Being all perennials and bushes and trees, they regrow. I would suggest waiting perhaps three years before allowing browsing to let the plants become well established.

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About the Authors:

Paul Dettloff, D.V.M. was raised on a farm in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine in 1967. Though he began as a conventional practitioner, he moved into the sustainable and organic/biological treatment of dairy and beef cows, sheep and goats using natural remedies, botanicals, homeopathy and holistic management of the soil and entire farm. He is an international authority on the natural farming and consults and lectures widely.

Megan Dettloff-Meyer, L.Ac., MSOM is a nationally certified acupuncturist, Oriental medicine practitioner and diplomat in Chinese herbology. She operates Dr. Paul’s Lab, a maker of herbal remedies.

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