Milking mighty totara
A Wairarapa company is looking to the healing powers of the mighty totara to save New Zealand’s dairy cows from a scourge that costs the industry $100 million every year.
Totarol founder Doug Mende has been investigating how Totarol, the chemical compound found in totara trees that makes their wood resistant to rotting, could be used to treat mastitis.
Mastitis – an inflammation of the udders that leads to abnormal milk – affects one in 200 cows. Infected cows must be taken out of their milking round, costing farmers valuable production.
Dairy New Zealand estimates the loss in production to the industry at about $10,000 a farmer.
Up to 2 per cent of cows had to be culled because of persistent mastitis, Mende said.
‘‘Every year 500,000 cows get mastitis – that’s $260 million in antibiotics – and it’s not even necessarily working,’’ Mende said.
His research showed that Totarol was 1.6 million times more effective than penicillin, which would mean cows would not be overexposed to antibiotics, he said.
The last step was finding investment funding to pay for the $700,000 clinical trial. Mende could not be drawn on which companies were involved.
‘‘ We’re working with some big international companies – look at the biggest and we’re there.’’
Nearly 20 years ago Mende stumbled across Totarol in a newspaper article.
Before he could begin investigating its uses, he had to find an environmentally friendly extraction method.
‘‘It was the first time anywhere in the world that supercritical extraction had been done on a solid, and that’s what we put our patents on,’’ Mende said.
Supercritical extraction of Totarol happens when totara is placed in a chamber of pressurised carbon dioxide heated above 31 degrees Celsius.
In keeping with the environmentally friendly extraction process, Mende uses only recycled wood supplied by local farmers and iwi.
– The Dominion Post
TOTARA POWER: Doug Mende, who holds the trademark on Totarol, has been looking for new ways to use the natural extract.