I’m grateful for antibiotics. I’m even more grateful when I don’t need them. I try hard to keep my kids out of the doctor’s office, but when my son came down with scarlet fever, I was grateful to live in a century where a quick stop at the pharmacy dealt with a once life-threatening condition.
Same goes for the animals in my care. First I’ll take good care of them– food, water, shelter, etc.. But when they get sick– really, truly sick, they get medication.
For Lizzie it happened when she was just a few weeks old. It was super cold out and the poor little lamb got so, so sad. See the heartbreaking eyes.
And just a few weeks ago Harriett started limping. At first it was minor, but a day or two later it took her ten minutes to stand up. So she got a shot.
Then there are the baby chicks who get starter feed with a low level of medication. Baby chicks die seemingly without cause and I’m not happy about loosing a single one.
These are backyard animals, but the same principles apply for livestock producers.
This may surprise you, but healthy animals are good for the farmer too. Sick animals require more time and money. If you don’t like co-pays for your family of four or five imagine vet bills for herds of four or five hundred (or thousand!).
That doesn’t mean antibiotics are never used. But perhaps understanding when they are used will help you make the right choices for your family.
For one rancher it might make the most sense to give all the animals some level of medication in their feed when they are weaned from their mothers. This is a decision a producer/friend of ours makes because 10-12 days after this transition the calves often become sick, even die.
A friend whose calves are born in the fall rather than the spring gives medication when they are young to help them through crazy temperature changes—you know, the ones that make everyone sick.
Here’s the nice thing though. Repeatedly I heard from livestock producers that keeping an animal from getting sick resulted in an animal more likely to stay healthy later. Then they can grow for the next 9 months to a year before butchering with very little need for more medication.
Did you also know there are regulations about how soon after being given antibiotics a steer can be butchered or milk from a dairy cow can be sold?
But every farm is unique, every farmer different. If you’re a farmer leave a comment about what works on your farm. If you’re not, resolve to learn about antibiotics and join the conversation. Maybe you’ll come to a better understanding of what it takes to get food to the table.