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While essential oils can help humans relax and de-stress, essential oils can also benefit cattle. Summer brings increased incidence of heat stress and pesky insects, two conditions you can relieve with readily available essential oils.
Reduce Pests, Reduce Stress
Pests such as flies, fleas and lice irritate cattle, raising their stress levels. Strongly scented essential oils such as rosemary, cedar, sassafras, pine, lavender, penny royal, camphor, anise and eucalyptus naturally repel pests and the stress they bring to the herd. Mix 1 part essential oil with 2 to 3 parts plain vegetable oil, and rub it throughout your cattle's coats, taking care to avoid getting it in their eyes. You can mix several essential oils to make your own blend, such as adding rosemary to lemon and peppermint oils to ward off fleas and mosquitoes.
Hot Oils for Heat Stress
Cinnamon oil is known as a "hot" oil -- one that will make your skin feel like it's on fire when applied undiluted. When added to cattle feed, cinnamon oil helps reduce fermented protein in a bovine's rumen, which causes an increase in body temperature and greater susceptibility to heat stress. Feed cinnamon essential oil in capsule form, or diluted with vegetable oil and mixed into feed. Garlic oil, clove oil and oregano oil are other hot oils producing similar effects.
Garlic Reduces Methane
Another cause of stress in cattle is digestive upset. Methane gases, formed as food breaks down in the rumen, can build up quickly enough to form a foamy substance. Normally, a cow would belch to release the gas, but foam blocks the cow from belching. The problem compounds as gases build up, leading to a serious condition known as bloat. Garlic essential oil contains diallyl disulfide proven to reduce methane gas production in the rumen by up to 70 percent.
Good Health, Less Stress
Essential oils can kill bacteria, fungi and some viruses, reducing discomfort and illness that cause cattle stress. In Europe, essential oils have replaced the use of antibiotics as feed additives to reduce stress and disease. Oils of thyme and oregano, which have anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties, are used, diluted, directly on skin lesions as well as internally. Massage mild relaxing oils like lavender and chamomile along the inner edges of a bovine's ears to help reduce anxiety.
- Essential Oils Desk Reference; Life Science Publishing
- Organic Agriculture Center of Canada: Control of Lice and Mange Mites in Cattle
- The Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences: Effect of Essential Oil Combination on Performance Milk Composition, Blood Parameters and Pregnancy Rate in Early Lactating Dairy Cows During Heat Exposure
- Archer Daniels Midland Company: Plant Extracts Take Stress Out of Heat Stress
- Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images