Tag Archives: antibiotic resistance

Metrics and Antibiotics…

My favorite blonde cowgirl writes an inspirational quote each week on the white board on the office wall. This white board primarily serves as an organizational tool for us at the feed yard listing the upcoming cattle schedule, but over the years my crew has also learned to look to it for Megan’s Weekly Inspirational Message. I love to watch what she comes up with for her weekly mantra – it is an awesome way for me to see my parenting lessons come back through the eyes of my teenage daughter.MetricsMeg.jpg

A couple of weeks ago, Megan shared a quote from Galileo Galilei that voices one of the most important lessons that I have learned running a farm: Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so. I cannot improve what I cannot measure, so metrics provide the basis as I strive to get better each and every day.

Almost five months have passed since I wrote the Subway post that garnered half a million reads in a matter of days. In light of the continuing conversation regarding antibiotic use in food animals, I want to take a moment to share how I continually work to reduce the antibiotic footprint of my farm.

Metrics (a system of measuring) provide the key…

When I first began trying to reduce antibiotic use at the feed yard more than a decade ago, I realized that I needed to understand — the what, the when, the why and the how much – I needed to establish a benchmark set of metrics to determine our current use, and then use those numbers to brainstorm and search for ways to reduce them.

The metrics enabled me to see patterns of use and work to develop new management practices in my search for reduction.  Some of these include:

  • I implemented a holistic system of low stress cattle care.
  • I began tracing my animals from birth to harvest – working directly with the ranchers that provided me with cattle in a system of vertical collaboration. This increased teamwork enabled us to more effectively consult with our veterinarians. Together, we did additional research on vaccine health history in order to make changes that better protect our animals against disease.
  • I consulted with my ruminant nutritionist looking for the best feed combinations to create a nutrient rich and appropriate diet for my animals while also efficiently making use of the feed resources that my favorite farmer grows.
  • My crew and I tenaciously worked toward a daily animal care system that consistently and optimally provides for our animals’ needs.

Metriccalf2.jpgThese sound like simple and easy steps, but the beef chain is so complex that it has taken me most of a decade to create a cross-production system that meaningfully reduces the amount of antibiotics used on my farm. Today, the number of animals that get sick on our farm and have to be treated with an antibiotic is less than half of what it was a decade ago. I reported in the Subway post that my yearly treatment rate for August 2014-July 2015 was 7.8%.

Metrics for the seven months since then show another downward trend from 7.8% to 5.54%. I am especially proud of that trend given the recent environmental stress of winter storm Kayla. We tend to have the highest rate of sickness in the late fall and winter, so I am looking forward to seeing the 12 month number next summer. In addition to lowering the number of sick animals on my farm, our death loss currently sits at only 0.54%.

Looking critically at my farm — the way we source our animals as well as the type and quality of care that we give them — I can continually put the pieces of the puzzle together in modified ways in order to accomplish my ultimate goal.

2014_10_06_mr_Will Feed-3

As notated by the wise words of Galileo Galilei, measuring provides the key to improvement. I love it that Megan has learned the need to quantify in order to improve.   Good cattle care requires both brains and brawn 🙂







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

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

Straight To The Source…

My father-in-law is notorious for always striving to multi-task…He wants to accomplish as much as possible all of the time.  I have to admit that, most of the time, I share this sentiment.

My original invitation to travel to Washington DC last week came from the Academy of Veterinary Consultants (AVC).  The AVC is a group of veterinarians that spend the majority of their professional time caring for cattle.  They are the professionals that help me to offer the best possible care to my cattle which ensures that you receive the best possible beef.

My Veterinarians play an important role helping me to raise safe and nutritious beef...

The AVC and its veterinary members get together three times per year for professional training and continuing education relative to cattle care.  I was asked to speak to their group about the Holistic Animal Care program that I use at my cattle feed yard to ensure optimal animal health and performance.  It was a tremendous honor for me to be asked to speak to this group.

A beautiful sight outside of the Capitol...

Because I wanted to maximize my trip, I asked my cattlemen’s organization (there are professional organizations made up of cattle farmers like me) if I could help them with anything on Capitol Hill while I was in Washington DC.  The Hill was officially on recess but I participated in a Beef 101 educational seminar for Congressional Staff both on the House and Senate sides.  During the seminar, I shared how I care for cattle and raise beef with interested staff members.  This time, I was lucky to be able to work with Dr. Guy Loneragan of Texas Tech University.

Dr. Loneragan and I right before the first Beef 101 seminar...

We specifically talked about the daily care of cattle, and the role that antibiotics play on cattle farms.  Dr. Loneragan shared with our audience the scientific complexity of the antibiotic resistance issue.  It was an appropriate topic given that the Federal Drug Administration made a couple of big announcements regarding the use of antibiotics in food animals while we were in Washington DC.

This is the beautiful House Agricultural Committee room where one of the Beef 101 seminars took place...

I did a lengthy series of posts late last fall on antibiotic use and the subsequent risk of resistance that comes with that use.  I encourage you all to read them as I believe them to be both accurate and applicable: https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/the-balancer/




I care about them and for them every day...I think that I am an accurate source of information regarding their health and the role that antibiotics play or do not play...

It always disappoints me when the AP news story reporting on new FDA antibiotic guidance documents reads something like this:  The FDA cracked down this week on the irresponsible use of antibiotics by farmers who overcrowd their animals and fill them with important human antibiotics to make them grow faster and enable them to survive horrible and crowded living conditions.

Quite honestly, as I read a passage such as that, I want to subsequently cry and beat my head against the wall!  Statements such as the one above do not represent what occurs on my cattle farm and I can say with confidence that they do not represent what occurs on most cattle farms. To set the record straight, I would like to make the following personal statements:

  • I do not use important human antibiotics to improve the growth of my animals.
  • I only use antibiotics to control disease and treat ill animals.
  • I make it a priority to keep the living conditions of my animals conducive to animal comfort.  My cattle pens are spacious and allow for normal bovine interaction.
  • I do everything in my power to ensure that my cattle are “set up for success” so that they naturally prosper and make safe beef.
  • I realize as both a mom and a cattle caregiver the incredible importance of judiciously using antibiotics whether it is in my home with my children or on the farm with my cattle.  I share that responsibility with every other American and I take it very seriously.


Filed under Foodie Work!, General

The Conversationalist Take 2: Bovine Respiratory Antibiotic Use Relative to Human Antibiotic Resistance…

For my sixteenth birthday I went for a glider plane ride with one of my swimming teammates, Bill.  Bill’s birthday was just a few days away from mine, and we decided to do something “daring” to celebrate my 16th birthday and his 23rdbirthday.  Bill had graduated from college and was taking a year off to train for the Olympic Trials, and we became “training buddies”.  As “training buddies”, we spent about 30 hours a week together swimming and lifting weights.  In between training sessions, I went to high school and Bill worked as a lifeguard.

Here I am with our Coach, and Bill can be seen in the background. As part of our training, we competed in 1 mile ocean races. If my memory serves me right, this was right after Bill and I took 1st and 2nd places in the race...

I am not a naturally “daring” person, so my parents were pretty much astounded when I told them what Bill and I had planned.  In fact, I believe the looks shared by my parents when they heard our plan distinctly resembled the looks that they shared when I told them that I was getting married and moving to Nebraska to work at a cattle feed yard.

An aerial photo of my cattle feed yard...

Twenty years later and 2000 miles apart, Bill and I are still friends.  He is one of Feed Yard Foodie’s most loyal readers, and he left an interesting comment last week regarding the correlation between antibiotic use in humans and cattle relative to pneumonia infections.  I would like to take a moment to address the topic.  The information that I am going to share with you comes from Dr. Mike Apley DVM, PhD, DACVCP who teaches Pharmacology at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  Dr. Apley is an expert on the topic of antibiotic use and resistance.

The Truths of Antibiotic Use and Resistance Relative to Respiratory Infections in Cattle and Humans:

  1. Respiratory pathogens (like pneumonia) in humans and cattle are different.  When we get ill, the “bugs” that cause the infection in humans are different from the “bugs” that cause the infection in cattle.  There is a species difference in pathogens causing respiratory illness.
  2. Cattle farmers (like me) use the Beef Producers Guide for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials in Cattle that were created by Dr. Apley and other veterinarians and animal scientists.  They are:
  • Prevent Problems: Emphasize appropriate husbandry and hygiene, routine health examinations, and vaccinations.
  • Select and Use Antibiotics Carefully: Consult with your veterinarian on the selection and use of antibiotics. Have a valid reason to use an antibiotic. Therapeutic alternatives should be considered prior to using antimicrobial therapy.
  • Avoid Using Antibiotics Important In Human Medicine As First Line Therapy: Avoid using as the first antibiotic those medications that are important to treating strategic human or animal infections.
  •  Use the Laboratory to Help You Select Antibiotics: Cultures and susceptibility test results should be used to aid in the selection of antimicrobials, whenever possible.
  •  Combination Antibiotic Therapy Is Discouraged Unless There Is Clear Evidence The Specific Practice Is Beneficial: select and dose an antibiotic to affect a cure.
  •  Avoid Inappropriate Antibiotic Use: Confine therapeutic antimicrobial use to proven clinical indications, avoiding inappropriate uses such as for viral infections without bacterial complication.
  • Treatment Programs Should Reflect Best Use Principles: Regimens for therapeutic antimicrobial use should be optimized using current pharmacological information and principles.
  • Treat the Fewest Number of Animals Possible: Limit antibiotic use to sick or at risk animals.
  • Treat for the Recommended Time Period: To minimize the potential for bacteria to become resistant to antimicrobials.
  • Avoid Environmental Contamination with Antibiotics: Steps should be taken to minimize antimicrobials reaching the environment through spillage, contaminated ground run off, or aerosolization.
  • Keep Records of Antibiotic Use: Accurate records of treatment and outcome should be used to evaluate therapeutic regimens and always follow proper withdrawal times.
  • Follow Label Directions: Follow label instructions and never use antibiotics other than as labeled without a valid veterinary prescription.
  • Extra label Antibiotic Use Must follow FDA Regulations: Prescriptions, including extra label use of medications must meet the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA) amendments to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its regulations.  This includes having a valid Veterinary-Client-Relationship.
  • Sub therapeutic Antibiotic Use Is Discouraged: Antibiotic use should be limited to prevent or control disease and should not be used if the principle intent is to improve performance.

 3. In order for antibiotic resistance in human drugs to develop from antibiotic use in food animals ALL of the following steps must occur:

  • Bacterial populations in the bovine animal are exposed to antimicrobials (antibiotics) on the farm.   A bovine animals gets sick with a bacterial infection and is then treated with antibiotics on the farm.
  • Selection for resistant organisms due to the antimicrobial treatment occurs in the bovine animal. Instead of the antibiotic curing the infection and killing all of the bugs, some bugs are left and become resistant to the antibiotic.   (If the antibiotic is administered correctly according to veterinarian and drug label instructions, this should not occur.)
  • After selection occurs (which should not happen—see above), there must then be an increased incidence of resistant organisms in the bovine animal.  The number of resistant organisms must grow.
  • Then, a transfer of these resistant organisms must occur through the food chain or through direct transfer to a human.  In other words, the “bug” must make the jump from the bovine to a human.
  • Then, a presence of food animal derived resistant bacteria must occur in a human.  The resistant bug must survive the “jump” and grow in the new human host.
  • Then, the food animal derived resistant bacteria must contribute to a human disease infection. In other words, the resistant bovine respiratory “bug” must make the human sick. (Another unlikely occurrence because the respiratory “bugs” that affect humans and bovines are not the same).
  • Finally, treatment failure or prolonged disease must occur due to pathogen (infectious bug) resistance.

Completion of all seven of these steps is highly unlikely, and therefore, it is believed by experts (like Dr. Apley) that when I use a cephalosporin antibiotic to treat a bovine with a pneumonia infection that it is NOT contributing to antibiotic resistance in human pneumonia pathogens.  When I use a cephalosporin at the feed yard to treat respiratory illness, it is highly effective at treating the disease.  This demonstrates that step 2 (of the 7 steps) is not attained, and consequently steps 3-7 cannot occur.  This means that the use of antibiotics to fight respiratory infections in my cattle do not contribute to antibiotic resistance in the human population.

Therefore, Dr. Apley reports that no scientific data exists to support the idea that a correlation exists between the uses of antibiotics in the treatment of respiratory illness in bovines with an emergence of an antibiotic resistant respiratory “super bug” in humans.

You can feel good about serving this to your family: it is safe and healthy and tastes great too!

Bill, I am sure that by now, you are wishing that Coach Andersen would give me a really long swimming work out so that I was forced to stop talking.  Some things never change, and I still am an opinionated female!  I have, however, done a lot of homework on this incredibly complex issue and hope that you find this post insightful…


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