We use antibiotics as a tool, but we do so carefully. And over time, we make sure to improve using the latest technologies and medicines to give our cattle the best care.
Our family, and our industry, has taken steps to reduce the need for antibiotics. Here’s a list:
- Our herd health plan helps prevent the need for antibiotics because we use vaccines to prevent sickness. I like to compare this to the wellness checks that I take my son to. I want him to be healthy, so in order to do that, I take him yearly to the doctor for checkups and to receive vaccines vital for his health. After our calves are born, we analyze their health and get them in if they are sick. At weaning time, about 6 months of age, we give them their first vaccines and check them annually after that for vital vaccines and medical care.
- Safe, healthy environment for our cattle to live in. We take pride is making sure our cattle live in a healthy, sustainable environment that is also safe for them. We rotate our cattle frequently to new pastures, take water samples and make sure the fences and other hardware are properly managed to keep our cattle from injuring themselves.
- Isolate a sick animal so it doesn’t get other animals sick. I instantly think of school-aged kids with this one! With our pastures being so big, we naturally have to bring an animal into the barnyard when she is sick to treat her. It reminds me of keeping kids home from school to “isolate” the sickness to prevent spreading. We have special “sick pens” that we keep our cattle in that reduces stress and allows us to get her in to treat her if need be.
- We prescribe antibiotics only when the life of the animal is endangered and then under our veterinary’s supervision. Giving an animal an antibiotic is just like if we as humans ever need an antibiotic. We need a veterinarian prescription to administer the antibiotic and we are supervised on the proper dosage for the animal’s size. We don’t give more than what is needed and we never sell an animal before we know that antibiotic’s withdrawal time (the time it takes for the antibiotic to work it’s course and get out of that animal’s system) is finished.
- Treatment and prevention doesn’t always mean an antibiotic or vaccine. There are other avenues for “wellness”. One would be the specific mineral blends that use homeopathic treatments of yeasts and chelated minerals. We use mineral tubs and salt blocks that our cattle have all-access to for getting the minerals and vitamins they need.
- We work with nature. We plan the dates of calving, weaning and other stressful times so as to minimize environmental stresses. Our calving season is later than most “spring calvers”, starting end of April and going through June, but in our environment of Eastern Colorado, we don’t want to stress the mamas and calves by calving during the cold, harsh spring (although April and May aren’t always sunny!). We take cues from nature as that is the same time frame when antelope and deer have their babies. The more we can work with nature and the environment to reduce stress for our cattle, the less likely we will have to even use antibiotics – which is our goal!