Category Archives: Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants…

Following Up On Subway…

I am a cattle farmer who blogs. This combination leads to an interesting life, but yesterday’s blog experience surpasses anything that I could have imagined. There are times when I wonder if anyone reads what I write – I did not have to wonder yesterday as my email box filled with hundreds of messages as I did my normal “cowgirl” chores.


The huge outpouring of comments and the just short of 500,000 reads renews my faith that Americans are willing to engage with a farmer to learn about where food comes from.

This afternoon, Subway issued a revised statement which brings me hope that we can work together to form meaningful change. I have copied the relevant verbiage in the below paragraph which came directly from their website. The bold green portion is the additional language that appears in the revised statement as of today.  Subway states:

Our goal is to reduce and eliminate the use of antibiotics in the food we serve. Elimination of antibiotics use in our supply chain will take time, but we are working diligently with our suppliers to find quality solutions that also ensure our high quality and food safety standards are upheld and not compromised in any way. Our plan is to eliminate the use of antibiotics in phases with the initial focus on the poultry products that we serve in the U.S. We are in the process of transitioning to chicken products made from chicken raised without antibiotics and expect this transition to be completed by the end of 2016. In addition, turkey products made from turkey raised without antibiotics will be introduced in 2016. The transition is expected to take 2-3 years. Supply of pork and beef products from animals raised without antibiotics in the U.S. is extremely limited. We expect our transition to take place by 2025. That said, we recognize that antibiotics are critical tools for keeping animals healthy and that they should be used responsibly to preserve their effectiveness in veterinary and human medicine. Our policy is that antibiotics can be used to treat, control and prevent disease, but not for growth promotion of farm animals. Accordingly, we are asking our suppliers to do the following:

  • Adopt, implement and comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) guidance for industry 209 and 213, which requires that medically important antibiotics not be used for growth promotion. Visit the FDA site to learn more.
  • Assure that all antibiotics use is overseen, pre-approved and authorized by a licensed veterinarian before they are administered to any animal.
  • Keep accurate and complete records to track use of all antibiotics.
  • Adhere at all times to all legal requirements governing antibiotic withdrawal times. This assures that antibiotics have been eliminated from the animals’ systems at the time of slaughter.
  • Actively encourage, support and participate in research efforts focused on improving animal health while reducing antibiotics use.

I view Subway’s revised statement as a victory for all of us.  I am incredibly thankful to everyone who read my post and contributed to the discussion.

I went through the comments from yesterday’s post and grouped them into a few different categories that require further explanation:

  1. The Title: I gave a lot of thought to what to call my blog post, and the chosen title demonstrated how I felt (as a cattle farmer) when I read Subway’s first announcement. The title was a reflection of my feelings – something that I think is appropriate on a personal blog site. I view the scenario painted by the title as a very real possibility in the future of food production if farmers are not included in the discussion of “how food animals are raised”.
  2. Today, there exists a diverse food production system in the United States that includes both conventionally raised animals, and “niche market” animals such as organic and cattle that have never received an antibiotic. I think that this is a valuable system. Within this current system, organic and never treated animals can be moved out of niche market production and into the regular markets when they become sick and require treatment. While there are logistics involved to ensure that withdrawal times are adhered to before these animals are marketed, the system is relatively seamless. I think that Subway’s initial statements threatened rather than enhanced the current diverse system. The company was quoted as saying that the time line for beef and pork was elongated in order to allow the meat industry to change its practices while keeping the cost of their meat supply stable. This tells me that the premium for niche market animals would fall by the wayside with the creation of a new system where niche market beef sells for regular prices, and meat from animals that have been treated with antibiotics would sell at a discount (with the eventual possibility of being deemed worthless).
  3. Someone asked what makes animals get sick: Animals get sick when they come in contact with either a bacteria or a virus that penetrates their immune system. Stressful events caused by weather, movement, or coming in contact with other animals outside of the home herd are common contributors. I have worked hard over the past 15+ years to find ways to lower stress on my animals, and I have been successful in reducing the number of animals that require treatment. I mentioned in my post that last year I treated 7.8% of the animals in my feedyard. I would like to get that figure under 5% and am working with both my veterinarian and my rancher partners to accomplish this.
  4. Sub Therapeutic use: I serve on multiple national committees made up of scientists (including veterinarians) and farmers that are currently working to eliminate sub therapeutic antibiotic use in food animal production. Antibiotics necessary in human medicine are no longer used for growth promotion, and veterinarians play a key role in preventing and diagnosing illnesses so that they can be effective when necessary. I believe that we are moving the right direction.
  5. I think that further research on antibiotic resistance is critical as we all search for continuous improvement (both on the human and the animal side). Each and every one of us has a “footprint”, and it will take a team effort to make meaningful improvement. I am committed to this. I also think that we all need to be committed to being good stewards: to each other, to our animals, and to our planet. As someone pointed out, there are “bad actors” that exist in every industry – we need to turn those people into stewards so that positive improvement can be attained.

This is getting long, so I will wrap it up. It has always been my intent to be a positive instigator for continuous improvement in this journey we call food production. I put in long hours on my farm offering care to my animals, and additional hours reaching out to each of you to share how I grow beef. While I will never achieve perfection, I try to make up for it with hard work and sincerity.Annealley.jpg

Thank you for traveling along with me.


Filed under Animal Welfare, Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants...

Reviewing the Topic Of Antibiotics…

I have received many requests for information over the past week relative to antibiotic use in cattle feed yards.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, I am going to share the links to a series of blog posts that I wrote a few years ago, as well as an updated post from the fall of 2013.  For those of you with questions regarding this topic, hopefully reading these posts will help you out.


I am also including a short update on my favorite 10 year old whose struggle with pneumonia instigated the antibiotic posts three years ago.

Really, one could argue that I am taking the opportunity to brag about my awesome daughter who (over the past three and half years) over came a series of complications from a nasty illness event with a maturity and tenacity that makes this Mama proud.

She is a rock star runner and swimmer, and maintains a daily fitness level that would leave most people exhausted.  Yesterday, during her mile swimming workout she completed her first 50 meter freestyle swim without breathing (that’s two laps of a 25 meter pool with a flip turn and no oxygen intake) — using those lungs that she has worked so very hard to strengthen. Perhaps what makes me most proud is that this journey is one that we have taken together: allowing me to serve as both her coach and training partner 🙂

You can read here how she is living proof that  “drugs can be traded for fitness” with the right work ethic and a little bit of faith…

Below is the antibiotic series.  I have written a brief explanation of each post immediately following the underlined link.

If you are still interested in more of the day to day workings of a feed yard relative to antibiotic use and cattle health, then I encourage you to click on either the category labeled Animal Welfare or Antibiotics, Hormones and other Growth Promotants that are listed on the right side of the home page.  Those categories will take you to other posts written on this issue. Or, you can visit Facts About Beef and read their post Antibiotics 101.

calendar raceAs both a mom and a cattle caregiver, I do my best to be a responsible user of antibiotics.  I know how very important they are, and I strive to get better with each day that passes.  Appropriate antibiotic use is a journey that we all travel together — One that must be based on a dedication to continuous improvement.


Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General



We shared a love and respect for animals and the outdoors…

My family traveled to Florida last week to celebrate my dad’s life at a beautiful Memorial Service.  As I stood in the airport waiting to board the first plane of the journey, I fielded a phone call from a Wall Street Journal reporter.

The FDA had announced earlier that morning that it intended to issue Guidance Document 213 to the Federal Registrar.  This action renewed media interest in the topic of antibiotic use in food animals.  Guidance 213 and its accompanying Feed Veterinary Directive implement the FDA’s policy of judicious antimicrobial use in food producing animals by two mechanisms:

  1. An extension of veterinary oversight in the care of food animals.
  2. The elimination of the sub-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in food animals.DSC04922

Guidance 213 establishes a three-year timeframe for accomplishing these two important goals.  In a nutshell, it creates a documented paper trail for veterinary oversight of all antibiotics (eliminating all Over The Counter usage) while at the same time completely phasing out the use of antibiotics that are important to human medicine for growth promotion purposes.

The first question that the reporter asked me was,

“Anne, how will Guidance 213 affect your farm?”

The short answer to this question is “not much”.  I followed this up with a more detailed response… Because, as my girls are quick to remind me, I enjoy pontificating on topics that I am passionate about!

Administering a prescription antibiotic to a sick calf...

Administering a prescription antibiotic to a sick calf…

  1.  My veterinarian plays a key role in every animal health issue that I have at the feed yard.  He is on site at least once a month and we remain in contact via telephone or email in between those visits.  There is already close veterinarian oversight on my farm.  As such, the only change that Guidance 213 brings to me is that my vet will have additional paperwork to fill out certifying this oversight.
  2. I do not use medically important antibiotics for growth promotion purposes.  I only use those antibiotics for the control/treatment/prevention of disease; therefore, there will be no changes relative to mechanism #2.

    Giving vaccinations to newly arrived animals which keep them healthy and reduces the amount  of antibiotics that I use on my farm...

    Giving vaccinations to newly arrived animals which keep them healthy and reduces the amount of antibiotics that I use on my farm…

Those of you that have followed Feed Yard Foodie for a long time will perhaps remember a detailed series of FYF posts relative to antibiotic use.  I wrote this series when my youngest daughter was hospitalized with a virulent strain of pneumonia two years ago.  This issue is one that is near and dear to my heart.

Keeping all of them healthy is my daily focus...

Keeping all of them healthy is my daily focus…

I invite all of you to reread these posts, and ask any questions that you might have relative to the issue.


Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

Checking Cattle…

Including myself, I have a crew of four that cares for our cattle at the feed yard.  My foreman is in charge of our feeding program as well as being an awesome resource for just about anything else that goes on at the feed yard.  In addition to him, I have a cowboy who is in charge of daily cattle health and also another hired man (Jared) who fixes equipment, helps to feed cattle, is in charge of home pen cleaning as well as filling in wherever necessary in terms of cattle care and chores.

Riding in the feed truck with my foreman, Doug, is a special time for her.  She learns "hands on" problem solving and focus while also having a great time...

My foreman, Doug, in a feed truck with my youngest daughter Karyn.

Throughout my professional life, one of my greatest blessings has been the dedication of my crew.  Day in and day out they give of themselves in order to offer high quality animal care.  Their loyalty and hard work is nothing short of amazing, and I am immensely proud of all of them.

Two weeks out of every year, my cowboy goes on vacation.  When he is gone, I try to fill in Checking CattleChecking Cattle is another term for Riding Pens,
and it consists of looking individually at every animal in the feed yard to make sure that they have optimal health.  I view this job as absolutely critical as I care for cattle and raise beef.

Studly and I, Checkin Cattle...

Studly and I, Checking Cattle…

Studly is my partner when I am Checking Cattle as I think that I can do a better job evaluating the health of my animals on the back of a horse.  This likely stems from the fact that I am height challenged, so being on top of a horse gives me a better view point from which to see my animals.

We do not have a large number of animals get sick at the feed yard, but it is important to me that I offer the appropriate care when one of them becomes compromised by illness.  When I am checking cattle, I look for any type of bovine behavior that does not appear normal.  Because I look at my animals everyday, I have a good mental picture of what normal looks like.  When I notice something abnormal, then I need to more closely assess the animal.

Can you tell which two of these four animals are sick?

Can you tell which two of these four animals are sick?

If I determine that an animal needs individual sick treatment, I take him out of the home pen and down to our main corral area.  There, I can place him in our squeeze chute which immobilizes the animal so that I can get a temperature reading and give a shot of antibiotics if I believe it is necessary.

I work with my veterinarian to create animal health protocols which include a plan of what to do when an animal gets sick.  The symptoms displayed by the animal determine the treatment that he is given.

Jared, treating one of those sick animals with a carefully chosen antibiotic to help him to recover his good health...

Jared, treating one of those sick animals with a carefully chosen antibiotic while he is immobilized in our squeeze chute…

After treatment, the animal is then either placed in one of our hospital pens or taken back to the home pen.  The caregiver makes a judgement call depending on the health of the animal which location is most beneficial.  If the animal spends some time in the hospital pen recovering, then he will be placed back in the home pen after he has once again attained optimal health.


Taking the time to care–that’s always my goal, and it goes along with a promise to provide you and your families with wholesome and delicious beef!

Our daily check of cattle health is one of the most important things that we do at the feed yard.  I truly enjoy the two weeks out of the year when it is my primary responsibility.  I am also very thankful to Jared for his assistance with this chore!


Filed under Animal Welfare, Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

The Practical Application of Math…

I’ll never forget the day in 3rd grade that my oldest daughter announced that she did not understand why she had to learn math because it was not anything that she would ever use in real life…

She is now in 7th grade and learning pre-algebra...

She is now in 7th grade and learning pre-algebra…

Ever since that moment, I have made it my mission to constantly point out to my girls the use of math in daily life.  Perhaps that is why they are all such good chefs (what better way to learn to use fractions!).

One of the girls' favorites are sliced home grown tomatoes with a touch of butter and Parmesan cheese...

One of the girls’ favorites are sliced home grown tomatoes with a touch of butter and Parmesan cheese…

I am surrounded by math at the feed yard.  From reading bunks and figuring out pounds of feed—to estimating cattle weights—to deciding how many trucks I need to transport my animals—to determining the proper withdrawal times for the animal health products that I use on my cattle.  Math is everywhere and I have to remember not to gloat every time that I proudly show my girls another practical use for it!

I know that I have been successful when they start to point it out to me!

I know that I have been successful when they start to point it out to me!

I use several different animal health products at the feed yard.  By animal health products, I mean both preventative care products (like vaccines) and treatment medications (like antibiotics) for sick animals. The last two core topics for Beef Quality Assurance are Injection Site Management, and Feed Additives and Medications.

These two BQA components exist because my cattle are food animals, and their meat will be used to nourish my family and yours.  As I use animal health products, I must always remember to protect the safety of the food that my animals make.

Here I am giving an injection in the neck of a calf just underneath the skin...

Here I am giving an injection in the neck of a calf just underneath the skin…

Almost all animal health products have withdrawal periods—this is the number of days that must pass before a treated animal can be shipped to harvest.  The withdrawal period insures that there are no residues of any animal health products in the meat that you purchase at the grocery store.

Here I am filling a syringe to treat a sick calf that I found Sunday morning.  I weigh the animal so that I can figure an accurate and appropriate dose.  I also take the temperature of the animal to help me with my diagnosis.

Here I am filling a syringe to treat a sick calf that I found last Sunday morning in Pen 15. I weigh the animal so that I can figure an accurate and appropriate dose. I also take the temperature of the animal to help me with my diagnosis.

It is illegal for me to send a bovine to harvest who has not passed the proper withdrawal time following a treatment (like the one that I administered in the picture above).  Every single time that we give an animal health product to a calf, we write down the animal’s identification number, the product that was given to him, and then figure the date that the animal has cleared withdrawal and is eligible for harvest.

Megan was my helper last weekend.  Here she is writing down the identification numbers of the animal, its temperature, what I treated him with, and then the date that the animal will clear withdrawal...

Megan was my helper last weekend. Here she is writing down the identification numbers of the animal, its temperature, the antibiotic that I treated him with, and then the date that the animal will clear withdrawal…

There is an effective system in place to ensure that beef that you purchase is residue free!  FDA (federal drug administration )mandates it, BQA ensures it, cattle veterinarians and caregivers take many steps every day to make it a reality!DSC03959

So, how often do my cattle receive injections (shots)?   As a part of my protocol to ensure good health, every animal in my feed yard receives at least two vaccinations (given to prevent common bovine illnesses—think of them as the bovine equivalent of the Flu Shot), and one deworming shot.  In addition, somewhere between 2-5% of my animals receive an injection of an antibiotic when they become clinically ill.

Here I am giving a vaccination to a newly arrived animal.  This vaccine will help him to stay healthy and plays an important role in my preventative health plan...

Here I am giving a vaccination to a newly arrived animal. This vaccine will help him to stay healthy and plays an important role in my preventative health plan…

The goal is to do all of the holistic animal welfare practices correctly so that only a very small number of my animals get sick and require an antibiotic treatment.

In addition to motivating her husband and the other "beef boys" to achieve greatness, here she teaches her granddaughter how to cook!

30 years ago this wonderful lady motivated her husband and the other “beef boys” to achieve zero residues in beef, today she teaches her granddaughter how to cook!

Perhaps Dr. Griffin’s wife (pictured above) said it best when she reminded him 30 years ago that it was never acceptable to feed her children meat that contained residues.  I am pleased to report today that the percentage of finished cattle that go to harvest with a residue is 0.000017% which statistically equates to zero.

Dr. Griffin took his wife's message to heart and has dedicated his life to educating cattlemen and achieving the necessary "zero"...

Dr. Griffin took his wife’s message to heart and has dedicated his life to educating cattlemen and achieving the necessary “zero”…

For more information on the topic of antibiotics, take a minute to read this post from December of last year regarding antibiotic use at the feed yard.

Or, the USFRA just did a dialog on the use of antibiotics in food animals recently in New York City.  You can view the hour and a half long conversation at


Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

The Great Puzzle: What role does a beta agonist play on my farm?

My farm is like a huge jigsaw puzzle.  There are many pieces that must be put together in the correct way in order to make the best beef in the most sustainable way.  I have a road sign along the highway with my farm’s mission statement: Protecting the Environment and Caring For Our Animals To Bring You Safe, Great-tasting, High Quality Nebraska Beef.  All of the decisions that I make at my cattle feed yard are made with this mission statement in mind.

Archie and I standing by the words that rule our lives…

I wake up every day asking myself how I can do a better job—how can I be a more responsible animal caregiver and grower of food?  Sometimes it is a question of paying closer attention to detail and sometimes it is a question of looking into new science / technology which will allow my animals to be more efficient producers of food.

We talked last week about how every action or choice has a consequence.  I think about this every time that I make a decision about how to care for my animals at the feed yard.  I talk with my veterinarian and my PhD nutritionist, I do personal research, I rely on personal experience, and I make a decision by weighing the positives against the negatives—knowing that every choice has a consequence.

I teach her how to care for cattle and raise beef. I also feed her that beef—good care and healthy beef is my priority.

I began feeding a beta agonist called ractopamine hydrochloride about four years ago.  I started feeding it to only a few of my animals and have slowly increased to feeding it to every one of my animals as I gained personal experience and confidence in the product.

This steer is in the final finishing phase at the feed yard. He is currently receiving ractopamine in his feed to help him continue to put on muscle as he is prepared for harvest…

Beta agonists work by activating either the beta 1 or the beta 2 receptor on the muscles of my cattle.  This affects protein synthesis and muscle growth.  What does this mean exactly?

  1. As animals grow larger and get close to the time of harvest, their bodies tend to turn nutrients into fat instead of lean muscle.  For example, ractopamine encourages or repartitions those nutrients into muscle growth through protein synthesis rather than fat deposition.
  2. This allows the animal to make more lean muscle (what we want to eat), and less fatty tissue (what we do not want to eat).
  3. By making more muscle and less fat from nutrients, the animal becomes a more efficient user of its food thereby reducing the total environmental footprint of its food production.

    Another steer receiving ractopamine and in the final stages of growth prior to harvest…

Here is a list of questions that I worked through prior to making the decision to feed ractopamine to my animals:.

  1. Does ractopamine affect the well-being or health of my animals? Good animal welfare is important to me and I want to ensure cattle comfort on my farm.  It has been my observation that cattle fed ractopamine on my farm remain comfortable and healthy.
  2. Does ractopamine affect the quality of the beef that my animals grow?  I follow my animals from birth to harvest and there is no impact on the quality or taste of the beef (I eat it too!). However, ractopamine does have a positive change on the leanness of my beef product:  it makes my beef leaner with less fat that must be trimmed off at the harvest level.
  3. Why feed ractopamine to cattle?  I feed it because it allows them to be more efficient convertors of my natural resources, while also allowing them to produce a leaner product with less fat trim at harvest.
  4. Would I feed beef from cattle that had been fed ractopamine to my children?  Absolutely, I do it every day.

    Two more “big boys” that are close to being “put on the bus”…

As with any practice that I employ on my farm, I constantly watch and evaluate its use.  I will continue to research and study the product ractopamine as well as to continue to evaluate its effectiveness.  Taking care of my animals, my farm, and producing wholesome beef are my top priorities—everything that I do on my farm must help me to successfully fulfill my mission statement.

While one beta agonist helps Karyn to get more oxygen to her lungs while she participates in athletics, a different one helps me to grow the beef that feeds her…Each one plays an important role in our family.

Do you have more questions about the use of beta agonists in cattle?  If so, please share them.


Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

What is a Beta Agonist?

A beta agonist works to relax smooth muscle tissue.  In humans, it is used to treat or prevent breathing problems that result from asthma or other airway diseases.  My daughter, Karyn, uses an albuterol inhaler before athletic events—this is an example of a beta agonist.  By relaxing the smooth muscle tissue in the airway, albuterol allows air to flow in and out of her lungs more easily.

Yes, it was cold enough Friday to warrant the stocking cap…Especially since she had just finished swimming practice 🙂

The use of an albuterol inhaler is new for Karyn.  Those of you that followed Feed Yard Foodie last November and December will remember that she became very ill and was hospitalized with pneumonia over Thanksgiving weekend.  My baby (she may be 7, but she’s still my baby!) got very sick, and her respiratory system still has not fully healed.  While there appears to be no permanent damage to her lungs, the tissue in her airway has not fully recovered which impedes her ability to move oxygen in and out of her lungs.

Go Kare-Bear Go!

Because she is such a tremendous little athlete, this challenges her.  She is my most “stoic” child, and never complains.  But, as I watched her run early this spring when athletics started up again after a winter hiatus, I could see her struggle to breathe.  When I initially took her to the doctor, she was only getting a 60% supply of oxygen into her lungs.  After an intensive two week treatment, we got her up to 80%.  She is on the right track, but it will take time for her to fully heal.  Until then, her albuterol inhaler will be a part of our athletic routine.

Setting the meet record in the 200M Saturday in Hastings, Nebraska…

Modern medicine and medical technology is amazing.  The first beta agonist became available for human use in 1968, and it has revolutionized the lives of asthma patients or other people like Karyn that have a temporary condition which impedes oxygen flow.

Animal scientists often look to human medical advancements for new ideas.  Animal scientists and food animal caregivers are constantly looking for ways to improve.  Whether you are talking about improvement in animal care, improvement in food quality and safety, or improvement in the use of resources necessary to grow that food; we constantly search for ways to get better.

I raise them to make beef—I am always looking for ways to do a better job. That sets both my animals up for success and also, you, the consumer of my beef.

A couple of decades after the first beta agonist became available for use in human medicine, animal researchers began looking for ways that they could be beneficial on farms growing food.  They discovered that a beta agonist could allow cattle to increase lean muscle (what we want to eat), and decrease fat deposition (what we do not want to eat) all while enabling them to use fewer pounds of feed to make more pounds of human food.

It is my job to be a responsible grower of food…Technology helps me to do this!

Thursday’s post will talk in more depth about the role that beta agonists play in improving the beef that I grow on my farm.  Which one do I use?—Why do I choose to use it?—How does it work?—How does it affect my animals and the beef that they make?

Family time on the track last Saturday—minus my favorite 12 year old who was competing in Tennessee at the Global Finals for Destination Imagination…

Beta agonists play an important role on my farm—Just as they play an important role in allowing my youngest daughter to continue with her love of athletics while her respiratory tract completes the healing process.


Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

The Misunderstood…

I hope that I teach my children the same love for training animals that my dad introduced to me...

As a child, I was first introduced to the art of training animals watching my dad train his hunting dogs.  When I moved to Nebraska and went to work at our cattle feed yard, my interest in working with animals blossomed.  Over the past 15 years, I have devoted my life to understanding and training my animals.  In a feed yard setting, this is critical for reducing the stress level of my animals and also for ensuring safe cattle handling for myself and my crew.

Dandy and I have a very special relationship that is built on a unique communication system...

Training animals absolutely fascinates me, and I spend my spare time training and working with my horses.  I winter my horses on the alfalfa field behind my house.  They graze all day, and then I bring them in at night into the corral.  My communication system with my horses is so subtle that all I need to do to bring them into the corral from the alfalfa field at the end of the day is to point my finger at the gate.

Grazing in the alfalfa field at dawn...

I am a good communicator with my animals because it is what I do every day.  Like many other cattlemen, my communication skills with my animals are better than my communication skills with people.  While my horses may know what I mean when I point my finger at something; that is certainly not an effective way for me to communicate with you: my beef consumer.  You have a right to know and understand where your beef comes from, so it is my job to figure out a way to explain it with words.

The last couple of weeks, I have spent a lot of time talking about antibiotic use (both human and bovine).  As I read through your comments and questions to me regarding this topic, I realized that I needed to address a couple more things for clarification purposes before I leave the subject for a while to talk about other things relative to cattle care and beef production.

  1.      How does the beef industry regulate itself relative to antibiotic use?  Cattlemen rely heavily on their consulting veterinarian for cattle health issues.  I am in close contact with my vet and he guides me on animal health issues (both on preventative health programs and in the treatment of clinically sick animals).  The Beef Quality Assurance program fosters this incredibly important relationship between cattle farmers and their vets, as well as providing further education on properly administering animal health products.  Finally, all of the antibiotics that I use at the feed yard are licensed and regulated by the FDA and I am required by law to administer them according to the label instructions.
  2. How can consumers know that their beef contains no remnants or traces of antibiotics? It is illegal to send a food animal to harvest with any trace of an antibiotic in their system.  You can feel confident that the beef that you are eating does not contain any antibiotic residues because cattle are tested at harvest for these residues, and if one does contain a residue then it is not allowed to enter the food chain.  The percentage of cattle coming out of cattle finishing feed yards (like mine) containing residues is 0.000017% which statistically equates to zero.
  3.       Are antibiotics routinely used as feed additives in cattle rations for the express purpose of growth promotion?  I do not feed antibiotics to my cattle for growth promoting purposes.  I do, however, use a feed additive that is an ionophore to improve the health of the rumen (cattle are ruminate animals and have a digestive tract that includes a system of four stomachs).  Ionophores are not classified by the FDA as antibiotics, and there is no product used in human health that contains anything remotely similar to an ionophore.  It is, therefore, irrelevant in the discussion of antibiotic resistance.  An ionophore modifies the fermentation process in the rumen which allows the bovine to capture more energy from its feedstuffs while also reducing the amount of methane that it secretes.  This is a very important part of reducing the environmental footprint of my cattle (fewer resources are necessary to produce beef while the amount of methane that they secrete into the environment is also reduced).
  4.      The explanation of ionophores brings me to the last question to address: Why is antibiotic use in cattle misunderstood by many consumers? I believe that there are two reasons that such a large misunderstanding exists regarding antibiotic use in cattle: 1. cattlemen (like me) do not do a good job communicating with you (the consumer) about the products that we use and the way that we use them, and 2. political activist groups incorrectly use statistics to scare consumers regarding antibiotic use in cattle.  The bottom line is that I follow the Judicious Use of Antimicrobials that I listed in my recent post , I do my homework so that I understand the consequences of the decisions that I make regarding antibiotic use in my bovines, and I care about the issue of antibiotic resistance.

I encourage anyone that did not read the above mentioned post to read it carefully.  Both the Judicious Use of Antimicrobials and the seven part explanation of Dr. Mike Apley regarding the scientific process of antibiotic resistence development related to the use of antibiotics in food animals are incredibly important components to having a truthful and science based discussion about antibiotic use in cattle.

I feed my family the beef that I raise...The safety and healthiness of it is my top priority...

In the meantime, I will continue to work on my communication skills so that you all can develop a better understanding of how I care for my animals.


Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., Foodie Work!, General