Milk­ing mighty totara

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY - By LUKE PAUL

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

Photo: LOREN DOUGAN

TOTARA POWER: Doug Mende, who holds the trade­mark on To­tarol, has been look­ing for new ways to use the nat­u­ral ex­tract.

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