Please take a moment to read Anne’s post today, and sign up for her blog if you do not yet follow it. Anne is a very well respected cattle feedlot owner and operator, who is very hands-on with all day-to-day activities. Anne spends a lot of time sharing what she does on her feedlot via this blog and through various public venues. Thanks Anne for what you do!
Jenny does a nice job of discussing a white paper that was produced by UNL and where growth in Nebraska may/may not be able to increase. Do your states have agricultural expansion plans? Have these conversations happened in your state?
This week, I’d like to share some information that came out in a white paper from the UNL Agricultural Economics Department on the special relationship we have here in Nebraska between crops, livestock, and biofuel production capacity not found in other parts of the U.S. to the extent we have here. It’s called the “Nebraska Advantage”.
I think it’s important for all of ag industry to realize we need each other as it seems we sometimes forget how inter-dependent we are. Crop producers need the livestock and ethanol industries as they are a high percentage of our end users. Yet many times I hear of crop producers fighting livestock expansion or livestock coming into an area. The purpose of the white paper was to share the numbers of where Nebraska livestock, grain production, and ethanol production currently stands, and what Nebraska could gain if we worked to increase livestock production…
Several pieces of media have crossed my path on the genetic engineering (GE) of animals. I have a folder started with these types of things, but I thought I would just start making them available online for all of you too, in case we ever need to reference them.
Please take the time to read and listen to these stories. Do GE animals have the potential to provide human health benefits? To provide benefits to other animals? Or to protect our natural resources?
Listen to Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, U.C. Davis Cooperative Extension Specialist – Animal Genomics and Biology, discuss GE animals via UNL Market Journal.
I am excited to see where the science and technology of genetic engineering will go; there is tremendous potential and we are just in the infancy stages. I also believe research needs to continue to ensure if and when these projects come to fruition they are safe.
Do these stories excite you or make you nervous? If you had a magic wand, what would genetically engineered animals do for you?
When I read the Carnivore’s Dilemma by National Geographic I was pleased to see that it was fairly written, discussing both sides of meat production. I thought it also did a good job of presenting information about growth promoting hormones, antibiotics, feedlots, humane harvest, and more. I think Anne’s message about the article is spot on and I encourage you to read her blog post.
When I was back in Florida a couple of weeks ago for my grandmother’s funeral, my Godmother asked me if I had read the November issue of National Geographic. In it is a lengthy article entitled, “Carnivore’s Dilemma” written by scientific journalist Robert Kunzig. Following her advice, I tracked down a copy of the issue and spent some time last weekend reading it.
I’ll admit that when I first heard that an environmental journalist had written an article in National Geographic magazine highlighting cattle feedyards, I envisioned a pejorative rhetoric belittling the method that my farm uses to complete the final step of traditional beef production.
That is not at all what I found…I found a very balanced article that discusses the complex issue of responsible food production.
I commend Mr. Kunzig for his detailed personal research as well as bringing an open mind to an often heated debate. You…
The heat and humidity of summer are arriving in many parts of Nebraska, as well as the rest of the country. Today I will share with you some of things beef farmers and ranchers do to help make their cattle as comfortable as possible during these weather events.
Heat stress is hard on cattle and other livestock (and people!), especially when combined with high humidity and low wind speeds. Heat stress can reduce an animal’s feed intake, weight gain, reproductive efficiency, and milk production, while increasing their susceptibility to diseases (due to increased stress on their overall body system).
Signs of heat stress can include animals bunching, seeking shade, panting, slobbering or excessive salivation, foaming around the mouth, open mouth breathing, and/or lack of coordination and trembling.
If beef farmers and ranchers see such symptoms they will assume the animal is suffering from too much heat and immediately try to minimize the stress to the animal, especially by reducing handling or movement of the animal. Additionally, the previous health of individual animals is an important risk factor, as animals with past health problems will be more affected by heat stress than animals with no prior health problems. These animals will generally be the first to exhibit signs of heat stress and be the most severely affected.
The heat index commonly reported by media outlets is a good place to start in understanding animal heat stress.
If the heat index is above 100 degrees, animals can tolerate it if shade is available and/or wind speed is at least 10 miles per hour. Shade can be provided by trees, buildings or other sunshades. If providing shade is not an option, you may see beef farmers or ranchers move cattle to outside or parameter pens where the airflow is the greatest or to a higher spot where there may be more airflow. If animals are inside a building that is not climate controlled, it is important that airflow through the building is created (opening windows, having fans, open sides,etc). In addition, the temperature can be lowered by spraying cool water on the roof and walls of buildings where the animals are being housed.
If the index gets above 110 degrees, animals will be stressed regardless of wind speed. If possible, market ready animals should have access to shade and airflow. ALL animals should have plenty of access to cool, clean water. Sometimes you may see beef animals standing in water in an attempt to cool down. This can help them stay comfortable, but it can also be risky if they get down in the water and cannot get up. If a heat index above 110 is predicted, livestock that need to be moved or transported should be out of the facilities by early morning but certainly by noon, if possible.
If the heat index is above 115 degrees, market ready animals should not be moved or handled at all!
If the heat index is above 120 degrees, no activity should occur for animals or humans!
During the heat of summer, beef farmers and ranchers may provide: shade (not always an option), ventilation and air flow, plenty of clean and cool water, skin wetting (if possible) with sprinklers and hoses, and cool water drench (if the animal becomes very distressed – a veterinarian may have to assist with this procedure). If used, sunshades would be high enough off the ground (10 feet or more) to allow for adequate air movement.
If animals are wetted down, the droplet size needs to be large enough to wet their skin, not just the hair. A small droplet size will usually just wet the hair creating more humidity for the animal, thus not helping at all.
During these high heat, high humidity events the best time of day to work beef animals is in the very early morning hours when it is still relatively cool. Beef animals will be hot during the day, and will need several hours in the cooler evening temperatures to get their body temperature to a level that is not distressful.
Beef farmers and ranchers do their best to make sure their animals are as comfortable as possible during these high heat, high humidity weather conditions. The best scenario is a nice breeze and cool evenings!
Yesterday was a busy, fun, productive day; and one that is fairly common for me in the summer months. I was able to get a few “office” things done in the morning. At the 2014 Nebraska State Fair the Nebraska Agriculture Experience will debut, which will be a year round exhibit featuring many aspects of agriculture. Yesterday I was interviewed as an “expert” and provided facts on antibiotic and growth hormone use in beef animals, meat labels, heat stress in cattle, and more! It will be interesting to see myself on camera in August 🙂 We also hosted the International Society of Health and Safety conference group, where participants learned more about how agricultural accidents can happen (so they are better prepared to handle these injuries in rural communities) and what we can do to prevent them. And finally, we were blessed with cooler temperatures and beautiful skies.
What does a normal day look like in your life right now?
Today, in Part 4, we will discuss some consumer perception research about antibiotic use.
Why do we still have concerns? Let’s take a look at some of the consumer research…
Recently Midan Marketing and Danette Amstein released a consumer survey called Consumers and Antibiotic Use: Perspectives and Marketing. Consumers are hearing about antibiotic use in livestock through many sources (respondents could select more than one source): 46% from national news, 34% from local news, 27% from social media, 27% from friends/colleagues/relatives, and 26% from t.v. talk shows, respectively.Twenty three percent of consumers indicated their primary concern with antibiotics was the effect it could have on their family.
It should not be a secret that livestock get antibiotics. Just like us, animals get sick sometimes and they need antibiotics to get better.
From the following statements, which do you think are true?
Antibiotics are administered when livestock are susceptible to getting sick, are exposed to illness, or show specific signs of being sick.
Livestock antibiotics make our food supply safer.
There are no antibiotics in fresh meat sold at the grocery store.
The U.S. government monitors antibiotic resistance and mandates that meat entering the food supply can have no signs of antibiotic use (residue) exceeding FDA standards.
Like doctors and their patients, veterinarians and their farmer/rancher clients share responsibility for the proper use of antibiotics.
All antibiotics used to treat animals are approved by the FDA, and are safe with regard to human health, animal health, and the environment.
All of these statements are true! But according to the research by Midan Marketing, consumers had varying levels of agreement to these statements.
I know this blog post just barely skims the surface of the antibiotic resistance problem, but I hope it has provided you with an overview of why cattle are fed antibiotics and the responsible use of antibiotics by beef farmers. Trust me, beef farmers do not want a resistance problem anymore than you or me, so they are doing all they can do to ensure that doesn’t happen! Next time you hear about antibiotic residue in meat, I hope you will remember that livestock farmers follow antibiotic withdrawal dates very seriously and that there are several government agencies tasked with guaranteeing a safe food supply. I truly believe the U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, and I have no hesitations about consuming products produced here or feeding them to my family.
Antibiotic resistance is a big topic, hence the reason I decided to break this blog post into four pieces. In case you have missed them, check out Part 1 which provides a little overview of feeding antibiotics to cattle, Part 2 talks about what else is regularly fed to cattle. Today, in Part 3 I will go over who monitors the livestock antibiotic world, and why that is important to you and I.
Who monitors antibiotic and drug use in livestock?
All antibiotics used to treat animals have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is responsible for protecting public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable and by helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to maintain and improve their health.
Did you know that the Food Safety and Inspection Service National Residue Program (FSIS NRP) (yes, there is an entire division dedicated to monitoring drug resistance!!) tests all domestic and international meat, milk, and egg products for antibiotic residue? The U.S. government says that NO (meaning zero tolerance) beef (as well as other species including pork, poultry, etc.) with antibiotic residues exceeding the FDA standards will be allowed in the food supply!
Dr. Dee Griffin, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) says that in addition to these samples, a USDA veterinarian will take samples of “suspicious” animals at the packing plant. “Suspicious” animals may include animals with a disease lesion, or animals that look like they have been treated for illness recently. If the tissue from these animals tests positive for drug residue the carcass will be condemned and NOT allowed in the food supply! Interestingly, in 2012, approximately 200,000 tissue samples were taken from beef alone! Of those less than 1,000 tested positive for a residue, that is one half of one percent testing positive for a residue. And while we hope to get that number to zero someday, we are thrilled that testing is occurring, and those that do test positive are being condemned and not allowed in the food chain!
The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) regulates the manufacture and distribution of food additives and drugs that will be given to animals. These include animals from which human foods are derived, as well as food additives and drugs for pet (or companion) animals. The CVM is also responsible for regulating drugs, devices, and food additives given to, or used on, over one hundred million companion animals, plus millions of poultry, cattle, swine, and minor animal species.
Have you ever heard of the Generic Animal Drug and Patent Restoration Act? This Act requires that each sponsor of an approved animal drug must submit to the FDA certain information regarding patents held for the animal drug or its method of use. The Act also requires that this information, as well as a list of all animal drug products approved for safety and effectiveness, be made available to the public. This list must be updated monthly under the provisions of the Act. The list, known as the “Green Book,” was first published in January 1989. Updates have been added monthly since then. Each January, the list is published in its entirety.
“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”
I think it is clear and maybe we can all begin to agree there are many regulatory bodies in place to protect us and our food supply.
Stay tuned for the fourth and final (for now) installment of the antibiotic resistance discussion tomorrow.
Blog reader, AW, left this message: The grass vs. grain article and follow up, while touching on things most people don’t know, seems to avoid the most common issue in consumers’ minds: Thinking that grain-fed cattle must be given antibiotics because they are not “built” to consume corn, and that this contributes to antibiotics resistance.
Now before you read this I should tell you that even though I am definitely pro-Ag, but I am very against the misuse and irresponsible use of antibiotics! I very strongly believe that if/when antibiotics are needed and used, that they are administered judiciously with great responsibility. In many cases, when an animal becomes ill enough to need an antibiotic, it is life and death. If the animal does not receive the antibiotic it may suffer and die! So it is the responsibility of the livestock farmer to ensure an animal receives a quick diagnosis and the proper treatment! Just like you, I do not want to eat meat, or consume other livestock products where the withdrawal period was not followed! I think AW makes a good point. Many people are concerned about antibiotic resistance, and becoming resistant to antibiotics through the meat they eat. So let’s take a look at the facts and gain a better understanding of antibiotic resistance together.
What is antibiotic resistance? Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic loses its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth. Why is this concerning? The bacteria become “resistant” to an antibiotic and will multiply. The next time illness occurs (in human or animal); it may take a different antibiotic or a stronger dose of an antibiotic to see a difference.
South Dakota State University Extension put together a nice antibiotic fact sheet. Antibiotics are given to people and animals to treat or prevent illnesses caused by bacteria. Antibiotics are given to livestock to relieve the pain and/or distress from the illness, to make them feel better, and recover. Just like with people, antibiotics have no effect on diseases caused by viruses or parasites. Antibiotics can be administered several ways, including an injection under the skin, via a pill (aka bolus), or mixed in the feed or water. When an animal is very sick an injectable antibiotic is the quickest route to get the animal on the road to recovery. It should also be mentioned that if animals are sick, like us, they don’t feel like eating or drinking, so mixing an antibiotic into the feed or water is not always effective. All livestock antibiotics approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) since 1988 require a prescription from a veterinarian who has developed a relationship with the livestock producer and can help determine the best options for disease prevention and treatment. Feedlot co-owner and operator, Anne Burkholder of Will Feed, Inc., Cozad, NE, exemplifies what a responsible antibiotic user looks like in this blog post on Feedyard Foodie.
A common myth is that antibiotics are mixed into ALL livestock rations. That is untrue. There are certain times in an animal’s life where things are more stressful than others, and antibiotics in the feed can make good sense. For example, if animals are co-mingled at a young age they are more likely to transmit bacteria back and forth (just like your kid’s daycare or school classroom). It is hard on their little bodies, and being sick can take a toll on them and make recovery harder. Also, when animals are weaned from their mothers there can be a lot of stress. High levels of stress often result in weakened and susceptible immunity which opens the door for bacterial infections. Weather conditions may also take a toll on livestock. Extreme fluctuations in temperature and the inability to get dry or warm can result in illness or pneumonia. Finally, as an animal approaches its final weight, antibiotics may be fed to help prevent liver abscesses, which may be caused from a high ration of grain in the diet. (I believe this is what AW was referring to, and I will elaborate more).
The use of antibiotics in feed or water is totally at the discretion of the livestock farmers. Some beef farmers do not feed antibiotics during these times of stress, and will just treat animals that may get sick, and some may treat all the animals to keep them all healthy. Also, animals that are fed for a niche market (i.e. organic, naturally raised, or no antibiotics used systems) will not have received an antibiotic (in these programs if they receive an antibiotic, then they are completely removed from the program). Geographically, there are some locations in the U.S. (Midwest – Iowa and Eastern Nebraska, South Texas, and Desert Southwest – Arizona and California) that feed fewer antibiotics in the feed because of a diet higher in roughages and fewer fluctuations in weather. There is no right or wrong method, each beef farmer weighs the advantages and disadvantages of the cost (antibiotics are expensive to manufacture and purchase), labor, time, efficiency, withdrawal period, and animal’s health to make a decision that is best. And just like people, some animals can handle stress better than others. Some animals may never get sick, while others may get sick multiple times.
Let’s talk more about cattle being fed antibiotics to control liver abscesses. Liver abscesses are caused by grain intake and consumption; these high energy diets require intense feeding management and can be associated with acidosis. A liver abscess is caused when cattle have an episode of acidosis. Acidosis is the most common nutritional disorder in the feedlot and can occur when cattle are fed high amount of grains in a short time, or when cattle overeat (regardless of the feedstuff). This results in the production of more lactic acid than can be buffered by the rumen, water from the circulatory system is drawn into the rumen, resulting in a change in pH. Dr. Dee Griffin, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), says there are many reasons cattle overeat, but one of the more common reasons is a decrease in barometric pressure. Cattle can sense a storm coming, and will eat more than usual, if that diet is high in energy (i.e. grain) it may result in an acidosis event. Dr. Griffin says that when the pH in the rumen falls below five, certain bacteria can cross the rumen into the liver resulting in a liver abscess. To help control the abscesses, an antibiotic called Tylan can be fed to cattle in their feed. It is estimated that at least 75% of cattle in feedlots are fed Tylan. Tylan helps reduce liver abscesses by 40-70%! As I mentioned above, this is an individual beef farmer’s decision.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Antibiotic Resistance discussion…