The use of antibiotics in our cattle has, like the cattle themselves, evolved over the years. Going off prior wisdom that it was best to protect all cattle from disease and infection, my husband and his father provided a low dose of antibiotics to all cattle entering our farm as feeder cattle.
These animals – often called feeder cattle – were about 10 months old, weighed about 500 pounds and had just been weaned from their mothers. They were unhappy, hungry and dealing with declining temperatures and the approach of winter. The method worked but further study of the practice revealed the cost of the antibiotic was not being realized in the final product. Too many animals were still falling sick.
So over the past four years, we have evolved our process of taking in new feeder cattle. Focusing on creating a clean and stable environment, we eliminated the low-dose antibiotic and move to doctoring only animals that showed signs of illness.
The newly weaned cattle now enter our farm and are immediately given a diet of dried distillers grains and brome grass. They take well to this food and a hearty appetite helps keep them full and happy. We ensure the pens are clean and dry and dirt mounds are left to allow the cattle to lay inclined.
We have not found a way to completely eliminate sickness from our farm. We doctor about 5 to 10 percent of our cattle for bacterial infections – pneumonia is one of the most common infections. A large majority of those animals will heal. About 1 percent will perish from their illness. We keep extensive records on all cattle that receive antibiotics and ensure that they have cleared the withdraw period before leaving our farm.
Recently, advocacy ground have begun calling for the repeal of antibiotics in cattle and all livestock.
If left untreated, sick cattle on our farm would likely perish and have a greater chance of infecting other animals. All antibiotics found on our farm are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be purchased from a veterinarian.
Antibiotics are an important too that allow us to have a healthy and productive cattle operation. We believe farmers should have continued access to antibiotics to help improve the health of our herd and continue providing a quality supply of beef products.