If there’s anything positive to note following Subway’s announcement of a new antibiotic-free meat policy, it’s a new wave of farmers publicly sharing more about how they use antibiotics on farms and ranches across the country. While many consumers may be concerned about the use of sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock, such as feeding antibiotics to cattle, it is important we learn the Why, When and How of antibiotics use for most ranchers treating sick cattle.

Farmers and ranchers have taken to Facebook and blogs during the past week, sharing how they use antibiotics to treat sick cattle. They’re including information about why they use the medications to treat sick cattle, how they go about choosing the appropriate treatment according to veterinary prescription and when they administer the treatment, including observance of withdrawal requirements to ensure a food product that is safe to eat.

This is awesome! I encourage more farmers and ranchers to take this initiative and continue to share more of the How-to posts to explain our everyday work in agriculture and growing food! Good hashtags to use when sharing these stories include #AskAFarmer and #AgProud.

Treating Foot Rot in Cattle

dusty hahn treating steer antibiotics foot rot
Image via Dusty Hahn, Facebook

Local rancher, Dusty Hahn from Townsend, Montana, shared his story of Dave the steer, was received antibiotics to treat foot rot. This steer was weaned from the cowherd on Dusty’s ranch, then brought to his feedlot. The calf is identified as 0609, because that is its mothers name, but has been nicknamed Dave.

The steer had contracted foot rot out in the pasture, as Dusty describes “athlete’s foot”, but worse. Foot rot is a bacterial infection (infectious pododermatitis) that can occur after the pad of the hoof is cut or bruised (by rocks or other sharp objects), and easily treated with antibiotics. If not treated quickly, foot rot may continue to damage the animal’s hoof.

Dusty has previously worked with his veterinarian for a prescribed treatment for foot rot. He put the steer in the chute, cleaned infection and debris out of the hoof, and gave an antibiotic called oxytetracycline that is FDA approved for the treatment of cases such as foot rot.

Dusty described how he administered the antibiotic. “The product I use is called Bio-Mycin 200. It has an approved dosage amount, which is conveniently on the label. So, since Dave weighs 550#, he gets 25 milliliters of antibiotic. But, according to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines, he can’t have more than 10 milliliters of antibiotic in any injection site. Furthermore, Bio-Mycin is labeled, and again approved by the FDA, for administration by intramuscular (in the muscle tissue), subcutaneous (under the skin, between skin and muscle tissue), or intravenous (in a vein, directly into the blood stream) injection. Since I’m a BQA guy, I always opt for the sub Q (under the skin) route whenever possible.”

“Dave got 3 injections of about 8 milliliters of oxytet under his skin in the neck area. No antibiotic went into the muscle tissue, and even if it did, Dave’s going to be living with me for the next 150 days. The withdrawal period on oxytet is a whopping 28 days. Which means that his system will clear the antibiotic out in a MONTH! That means Dave will be drug-free for over 4 months when he leaves my ranch!”

Shortly following the initial post, Dusty shared this update. “Update: it’s only been a couple of days since Dave the calf got treated, and he’s already feeling a lot better and barely limping! He appreciates everyone’s concern about his health and well-being,,, And, that is why I will continue to use antibiotics responsibly and judiciously at my ranch.”

View Dusty’s post on Facebook and share your stories of How, Why and When antibiotics are used in your livestock.

Antibiotics Use in Livestock Can Be Expensive

The Peterson Farm Brothers shared a post describing their use of a medication called Draxxin to treat sick cattle, which may cost more than $2,000 per bottle, emphasizing how expensive it can be to treat sick cattle. View their post on Facebook.

Image via Peterson Farm Brothers
Image via Peterson Farm Brothers Facebook

Draxxin is one of the more expensive medicines used commonly in cattle, but it is effective. This means treating cattle fewer time with less medicine. There are a variety of drugs on the market, different types of medicines may be prescribed for use depending on type of cattle, where they are in their life cycle, time of year, or known context of their surroundings and environment that may impact their response to treatment.

 Antibiotics Use in Feedlot Cattle

I’ve frequently written about antibiotics use in livestock from experience in feedlots and on ranches. Not all cattle receive antibiotics and they are not required for cattle to stay healthy. However, antibiotics are an important tool in treating sick cattle. When an animal becomes sick, it is important to receive a quick diagnosis and treatment for rapid recovery. The following video depicts antibiotics well and reflects my experience. Veterinarians describe antibiotics are used, how sick cattle are identified and the steps involved to treat those sick cattle.

Have more questions about antibiotics use in cattle? Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter or use my Contact Form. Be sure to check out previous posts in this series by visiting the Ask A Farmer page.

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