On our family ranch, we use antibiotics as one tool to keep our beef cattle healthy and well-cared for in order to produce great, quality meat.
And we don’t just use antibiotics to use them. We have a herd health program where our cattle get regular medical care, including checkups, that starts with vaccinations to prevent disease (much like a well-child checkup for our son). But sometimes animals get sick, just like we do and it’s necessary to treat them. So we give antibiotics if an animal is injured or to fight a bacterial infection. This is the most common and prevalent use of antibiotics in livestock.
This week, November 14-20, is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. This week is an annual one-week observance initiated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use. It’s an important discussion to have as food-eaters naturally have concerns about what goes in to our food. I do too.
So as a rancher raising healthy, safe and nutritious beef, I’m proud to talk about how and why we use antibiotics. It’s our goal to raise healthy animals so we have healthy beef.
First, we work closely with our veterinarian; we follow the label and dosing instructions which are approved by the FDA.The FDA regulates the approval and use of antibiotics in animal medicine. Their approval process is stringent and they use the same testing for antibiotics in animals as they do for humans. Any antibiotic given to a food animal has a specified withdrawal time which is the amount of time from the last shot until it is out of their system. The maximum length is 28 days – so the FDA assures us that is no antibiotic residue in our meat as well as the USDA randomly inspects meat to make sure it is safe.
We are committed to doing the right thing – even if it makes work harder for us. A few months ago, we had a pen of cattle that we were going to take to the local sale barn to sell (local being 68 miles away). One of the bulls in the pen had a hurt foot and we had given him an antibiotic to help him heal a week before. We wanted to take all the animals on the same day to make it more convenient, but we left the bull behind because the withdrawal time was not up. Even though it wasn’t convenient to drive just the bull 136 miles round-trip just by himself later on, we are dedicated to doing the right thing and not selling him with antibiotics in his system.
So this week as we have conversations about the responsible use of antibiotics, remembers that farmers and ranchers use antibiotics as a tool to keep their animals healthy so we can have healthy, safe and nutritious meat.