As I was drinking my coffee this morning, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I listened to my girls playing . . .
With three little princesses, our home is full of glitter, sparkle and everything pink (my husband especially loves when he finds glitter on himself ). And we have more than our fair share of Barbie “stuff.”
But, in our house, Barbie is usually doing chores or sorting cattle . . . in hot pink high heels and a tiara no less.
I love their combination of girly-girl and farm girl all in one (at least for now).
Lately these little princesses have been plagued with sickness. Unfortunately, it’s not glitter that they’ve been dispersing all over the house if you catch my drift. It’s been going through our local school and daycare as it does every year. With three little kids, it seems inevitable. Our livestock go through the same thing. We do the best we can to take care of them and keep them healthy. But at the end of the day, they are living beings that get sick.
It’s important that I don’t only talk about the fun, positive things that happen on our farm. After all, that would not be realistic. There are hardships and challenges that occur and that’s real life isn’t it?
When my kids go to their check-ups, I have them vaccinated. When they get an ear infection, I give them antibiotics. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that’s what I choose to do. We do the same with our livestock. When a calf is born, we vaccinate them to protect them from common illnesses just like my pediatrician does for my kids. The same is true when we get a barn full of new baby pigs.
As of January 1, in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration, farmers must now obtain a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) from their local veterinarian before they can use antibiotics that are important to human medicine in any feed. Along with this VFD, it must be specified in the prescription the specie of livestock, number of head to be treated, approximate weight of the animals and the length of time that it will be administered to them.
Having a large group of animals living in one common space makes it nearly impossible to prevent an outbreak of sickness at some point. If a group of cattle break out with an illness, we work with our veterinarian to diagnose the situation and determine the best treatment plan. That plan could include the use of antibiotics. If it does, we must get a prescription from our vet to use feed-grade antibiotics or an inject-able form to treat the group. Feed-grade antibiotics means that they are getting the antibiotics through the feed they eat. The benefit of using feed-grade antibiotics is that we’re able to treat a large group without creating more stress for the animals. The alternative is to send the group through a working facility and give each one an injection. We do this as well but it can be stressful on the already sick animals. Our hogs will get antibiotics through the water they drink when necessary. In the summertime, we often fight pink-eye in our cattle out on pasture and we’ll give them an injection of antibiotics.
It’s important to know that the antibiotics we use are regulated and we have to get a prescription to use them for our animals just like you have to go to a doctor and then a pharmacist to use prescription medications for yourself or your loved ones.
I don’t like to give medicine to my children anymore than absolutely necessary. I myself try not to take medication unless I’m really miserable. The same is true with our animals. We don’t use medication in our livestock anymore than necessary. After all, it’s not free. But it’s not fun to watch your loved ones suffer when they are sick. Without using antibiotics in livestock, we would lose many animals that could have been treated and saved. The folks who are advocating for the elimination of antibiotics in livestock need to go visit a facility that has been forced to stop using them . . . and they should also help the farmer carry out the hundreds of dead animals while they are there. Because that is what happens when there is an outbreak of illness and we’re not able to treat the sick animals. It’s not pleasant to think about, but that’s the reality for the farmer. Not only is it a shame because it’s a preventable loss of life but it’s also detrimental to the farmer’s profitability.
The use of antibiotics in livestock is being taken very seriously and that is a good thing. It’s critical that regulators and farmers are able to work together so that we can all enjoy safe food and animals can have the best life possible before becoming that food.
That got pretty serious there . . . let’s go back to glitter and tutus.
I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about our farm. Now go eat some beef!