That seems like a loaded word anymore – which is why we are going to break down antibiotic use and what it means for us as cattle ranchers and for you as a consumer.
The first, and most important fact about antibiotics, is that there is absolutely no meat sold with antibiotics present, or none present at a level higher than approved by the FDA (or any drug residues for that matter). Ranchers strive to keep cattle healthy and use preventative measures for disease control whenever possible, but when necessary the use of antibiotics can help prevent, control, and treat diseases in cattle. When antibiotics are needed, ranchers go above and beyond safe antibiotic use by following the BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) guidelines set into place over 25 years ago.
Withdrawal periods are the first line of defense to prevent any residue in meat. The FDA sets withdrawal times for all veterinary medicine, including antibiotics. According to the Antibiotic Stewardship for Beef Producers Guide, “the withdrawal period is the time between the last dose of the antibiotic and the time when the animal can be safely slaughtered for food (or, with dairy cattle, the milk can be safely consumed). Practically, the withdrawal time is the amount of time required for the drug to be reduced to a safe tolerance level; the withdrawal time depends on the drug; but typically ranges from zero to 60 days.”
The second line of defense is surveillance testing conducted by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service. They look for chemicals in meat, poultry, and egg products, including antibiotics and other drugs, pesticides and other environmental agents. They use two tiers of testing: scheduled and inspector generated. Scheduled is as it seems – pre scheduled. Inspector generated testing is done when there is evidence the animal had a previous sickness or treatment – indicating a higher risk for drug residues to be present. In the event that residues are found, the beef is considered “adulterated” and is never allowed to enter the food supply chain.
All antibiotics must pass rigorous government requirements before being approved for use in livestock. There are three levels the antibiotics must pass before that approval will be given. The medicine must be safe for the animal, the environment and then finally, must be safe for the humans who will consume the meat.
Following up on our discussion about BQA from last week, antibiotics are also given strict guidelines set by veterinarians and scientists. BQA sets 14 guidelines regarding antibiotics and their use. Those guidelines range from how to select an antibiotic to how to record antibiotic use. The guidelines specifically tell ranchers to avoid using any antibiotic as a front line therapy if it is “important to treating strategic human or animal infections”. There is a 26 page document, “Antibiotic Stewardship for Beef Producers“, released in 2016, that gives very clear guidelines to follow.
Record keeping can be one of our best defenses as cattle producers. Record keeping can be as simple as a pen and a notebook, but there is a plethora of software available to help you keep track of all withdrawal times, injection sites, and any other information needed. Record keeping typically gives treatment date, the animals identification, weight of the animal, product administered, lot number, withdrawal period, dose given, route of administration, location of injection, and name of the person who administered the drug.
Ranchers go above and beyond to ensure that their animals are taken care of and healthy. We treat our animals with respect and compassion, and antibiotics give us on more tool to do that. Ranchers work with veterinarians to ensure that all medicine is being used correctly, and in the lowest doses possible to treat or cure the issue. No matter what meat you choose to buy at the store, you can rest assured that is all antibiotic and drug free.
Now for the more fun topic, lets talk calving!
Many of us producers are slamming into calving season. Late night checks and early mornings seem to be the norm this time of year.
The cows have carried the calves for 9 and a half months, and its finally time to see our breeding decisions pay off. Most of our cows will have a single calf, however, occasionally we will see twins. The most critical period in the calf’s life is the first twelve hours. After the first twelve hours, the calf isn’t as able to absorb the antibodies he needs from the colostrum. Since there is so much importance to the first couple hours, ranchers strive to breed for cattle that are hardy and up and mobile within the first couple hours.
If we have a calf who just doesn’t quite have the strength to get up on his own, ranchers have an arsenal at their fingertips. We can tube the calf colostrum or energy straight into their stomach, stimulate the calf’s normal functions by rubbing them, administer oxygen, warm the calf, help the calf stand, and even help the calf get milk by holding the cow in a chute while assisting the calf with nursing. That long, run on sentence, just to say that we do everything in our power to assure that the calf has a chance to survive. We love our animals, and all of us will do everything we can to keep them alive and well – even if that means many sleepless nights or frustrating hours spent in the barn. As an added incentive, as cow/calf produces , calving is one of the most important times of the year for us. Our calf crop is our income, so we work our absolute hardest to assure they are healthy.
All of that being said, its time to clean the duck coop. Happy Saturday everyone.
If anyone has topics they want covered, please feel free to message me!