On the Ranch–Vaccinating and Using Antibiotics

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In some groups and communities there seems to be a misconception of the use of vaccinations and antibiotics in particular with cattle. Perhaps it’s the same groups that have issues with vaccinating their own families or using prescribed antibiotics when they get sick, I don’t know.

Many people seem to think that cattle get hopped up on antibiotics from the day they are calved until the day they die. After listening to the ranchers and hearing what the vets had to say, I do know that on the ranch they are used to manage herd health but not in an irresponsible way.

Those of us who vaccinate our children do so for their continued well being, when they get sick and the doctor prescribes antibiotics we get the script filled and follow the instructions for dosage, hoping that our children get better soon. The ranchers do likewise for their cattle.

Some parts of Nebraska are considered “a branding state” which means that the ranchers need to brand their cattle. J.W. Simonson and his ranch hand Brett branded one of their calves while we were there. Before the procedure Lowell Minert gave the calf a vaccination. 

(If for some reason you can’t view this Vimeo video in FireFox it’s a known issue; to fix it  – in your address bar type  about:config {click the I’ll be careful I promise – there is no warranty on FireFox…}  then a filter bar will show up; in there put dom.ipc.plugins.enable then you just double click on it to change it from false to true then restart FireFox and it should work)

One problem cattle are susceptible to is Foot Rot. When prevented or treated early it can be cleared up. If Foot Rot isn’t treated in its early stages it can be chronic. This is a case where ranchers safely use antibiotics by mixing it into the ‘salt licks’ that they put out in the grazing pastures.

Salt is needed for the proper development and maintenance of bones, muscles, circulatory and nervous systems. Since the cattle may not be getting the amount they need from the pasture grasses they’re grazing on, ranchers make sure they can get that by placing salt licks out for the cattle. See cattle will only ingest the amount of salt they need, so when the antibiotics are needed the rancher will mix in the correct proportion of antibiotic to salt. If it’s not needed…well it’s not added.

Antibiotics and their delivery may differ depending on the illness, but cattlemen believe in using the smallest and most effective dose of antibiotics that are made specifically for cattle.

But what does this mean for you? For the beef you consume?

Before an antibiotic may be used in beef cattle, it gets reviewed and approved by the FDA. The FDA also establishes a withdrawal period, so that the beef that enters the food market doesn’t contain antibiotic residue that violate FDA standards. Detailed records are kept on each head that is given any kind of vaccination or antibiotic, so before any of them can be sent to end up on your plate its medical history would be looked up to ensure all safety standards are met.

Questions? Concerns? Leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer it!

Next up…Cattle Ranching and the Environment. Are they hurting it, helping it, indifferent about it? Read the next On the Ranch post to find out!

I was taken on a tour sponsored by the Beef Checkoff with a group of influencers and experts to get a first hand look at where consumer’s beef comes from. All expenses were paid, however all opinions in the posts are my own and were not swayed by that.

18 thoughts on “On the Ranch–Vaccinating and Using Antibiotics

  1. this is very informative, and interesting. Because I was brought up on a farm where we raised pigs, I do understand the need for meds for the livestock.

  2. Would eating too much vaccinated beef cause somebody to become imune to people antibiotics?

  3. Great question – the answer to that would be no.
    The cattlemen follow guidelines that specifically call for avoiding the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine. That combined with the withdrawal period that is enforced before cattle can be sent to a processing plant to become beef cuts for consumption ensure that we people couldn't become immune to the antibiotics we use to prevent illness.

  4. I'm happy to hear that the ranchers try to use the smallest amounts of antibiotics possible.

  5. great post…Antibiotics, hormones & such, is partly what is making me becoming vegetarian

  6. The over use of antibiotics and vaccinations in our animals is very concerning as some "bugs" can be transmitted to humans as well, and what if those bugs have become immune to the antibiotics ? Antibiotics are meant to be used to treat a specific infection/condition, not as a preventative. Also, putting antibiotics into a salt lick certainly doesn't guarantee that the right amount of the med is consumed.

  7. Thanks for explaining. I think it's important to look after the health of livestock in a responsible way.

  8. Michelle S; thanks for coming by and commenting. It makes me glad that a discussion can occur even when people have a difference of opinion.

    I understand your concerns, but am not sure I completely agree with you.

    I have a PFO that 'theoretically' could cause blood poisoning in my system if bacteria is introduced, because the blood can flow between the right and left side of the heart. On recommendation of my doctors and dental professionals I take antibiotics prior to any dental procedures just in case it should happen, to already guard my system before any foreign agents are introduced.

    So I think there are reasons to introduce antibiotics prior to actual infection or disease.

  9. Thanks for explaining more about the conservative way you are utilizing antibiotics.

  10. I'm a strong believer in safe consumption and safe antibiotics for animals. We are what we eat. I love the information you provided. Really adds perspective and value to a topic we rarely discuss.

  11. I think the FDA doesn't do it's job anyway!
    Where food comes from…is a complete mystery here in California!!
    We just trust the mass grocery stores hoping they do the checking.

  12. The foot bacteria also cause a form of diptheria in cattle which can destroy lungs or larynx. Reducing the risk of foot rot also helps the Minert's avoid even more serious problems. Very few ranchers add antibiotics to the mineral mix to prevent foot rot.

    Your blog is well done.

  13. @Rex Peterson – thank you for weighing in and for the clarification –

    We learned so much in the two days, and it was tough to remember everything that was said. I appreciate the extra information.

  14. My hope is always that the animals we end up consuming are treated with much respect. I am sure that includes antibiotics at times.

  15. Thanks for taking the time to talk about this, I feel fervently about this and I take pleasure in learning more about this topic. Please, as you gain information, please update this post. I have found it very useful.

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