The Truth About Antibiotics in Milk

milk in a bottleConsumers are increasingly worried about what they eat and drink. One of the main concerns is if there are antibiotics present in milk. I, and dairy farmers in the U.S., can guarantee that there are NO antibiotics present in the milk we buy from the grocery store. How? Let me tell you.

 

Testing

The FDA has strict rules about antibiotic residues, because of this milk is tested multiple times. At the farm and on the truck. If there are even trace amounts of antibiotics found on one tractor-trailer of milk, the entire truckload will be discarded. If this happens the farm has to pay upwards of $10,000 for the discarded milk. There is also a time period where the milk at the farm will not be picked up until the FDA has inspected the farm and ran tests.

So antibiotics in milk is detrimental to one farmer’s bank account, but also to their reputation and to other farmers. Most tractor-trailers transport milk from multiple farms, so it’s not just one person’s livelihood being thrown away, it’s multiple. This is incentive for farmers to test their own milk at the farm and follow protocol to prevent antibiotic residues.

On-farm prevention

cow udder

Cow being milked at Gilmer Dairy Farm

There are also protocols on individual dairy farms that prevent antibiotics from getting in our milk supply. Detailed records must be kept so that all employees know which cows are receiving antibiotics. Those cows are then milked into a separate tank, sometimes called a dump tank, for a specific period of time. That time frame is called the withdrawal period, or how long it takes medicine to leave an animal’s system.

All farmers follow the posted withdrawal period to make sure that the antibiotic is completely out of their system before they put the milk in the regular tank. Some farmers even wait a few more days just to be safe and then run a test to check for antibiotic residues. Dairy farmers drink the milk the produce, just like you do, so they want it to be as safe as possible for their families and yours.

Why use antibiotics?

Cow udder with mastitis

Cow udder with mastitis.

You may be wondering if it is so much work, time and potential money why even use antibiotics. Well because farmers love their cows and want them to be happy and healthy If you or your child is sick what do you do? Usually you go to the doctor and get antibiotics. Why? Because you don’t want to be sick anymore. The same is true for these cows. The dairy farmer would much rather put in the effort to milk into separate tanks and test for antibiotic residue than see their cows in terrible pain from a treatable disease.

One common disease that occurs in dairy cattle is mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland in the udder, typically due to bacterial infection. The only way to treat mastitis is through antibiotics. Respiratory diseases are also common and can be fatal if left untreated.

You don’t have to worry about antibiotics being in the milk we buy from the grocery store, the FDA and dairy farmers make sure that’s not a problem.

The Truth About Feedlots

Feedlots are depicted as gross, dirty, small and dangerous. That is not the case at all.A feedlot is a type of animal feeding operation, or AFO. Feedlots actually allow for 125 to 250 square feet of space per animal. This may not sound like a lot, but cattle are gregarious animals. They enjoy the company of other animals. Even cattle in large pastures will group together.

How confining are feedlots?Feedlot pens allow for 125 to 250 square feet of space for animal

Here are some numbers that a farmer who runs a concentrated animal feeding operation calculated.

New York City, NY spans 302.64 square miles and is home to 8,405,837 people which equals 27,775 people per square mile.

Manhattan, New York spans 22.96 square miles and is home to 1,626,159 people which equals 70,825 people per square mile.

The feedlot portion of her farm spans 0.156 square miles and is home to 2,772 bovines which equals 17,769 cattle per square mile.

Cattle are more confined in a feedlot than they would be in a pasture, but that does not automatically mean that they are unhappy and unhealthy.

Why/How are feedlots used?

A feedlot in Texas

A feedlot in Texas.

Feedlots are used to help cattle put on weight quickly. At feedlots cattle are fed grain with varying levels of protein that are adjusted over time. The lowest level of protein and grain is fed when the cattle first come into the feed yard. This provides the cattle’s digestive system with time to adjust to their new diet. This is necessary, not because grain is bad for a cow’s diet, but because completely changing a diet in any animal, including humans, can be unhealthy.

This type of diet allows the cattle to grow quicker than if they had lived off grass for the rest of their life. This provides for the delicious marbling that we love in our steaks. How is this possible? Because “..we focus on providing a readily digestible, high-energy diet; reducing the amount of energy expended to find food, directing more toward growth, and managing the cattle to minimize stress and health problems,” explain Ryan Goodman, in his blog.

The cattle that come to feedlots come from green pastures. That means that all cattle are grass-fed at one time, they just are not finished on grass.

How are cattle treated? Cow horses in a feedlot.

Cattle are not abused at feedlots, they are actually cared for extremely well. In feedlots there are cowboys whose only job is riding around and checking each pen multiple times a day. This means that cattle in feedlots are constantly being looked at, so if any problem arises it is easily noticed and fixed. Some people might even argue that cattle are treated better in feedlots, because they have constant supervision and care.

I have personally seen many feed yards, mainly out west, that proved to me they’re similar to other farmers and ranchers; they care for their cattle every day, no matter the weather.

If you are interested in touring a cattle feedlot, feel free to contact me and I will put you in contact with someone that can help. Or you can visit this website for a virtual tour! After seeing the truth about feedlots, first-hand or virtually, I hope you better understand why and how they are used. Just because there is a higher concentration of animals does not mean that abuse occurs. 

The Truth About “Agvocating”

44f9172d1c2a1a2acfc895e2730594e6Four generations, two percent and fifty-eight. These are all numbers that apply to the agriculture industry. How so?

Four Generations: Most people are four generations removed from the family farm. This means they are not involved in the day to day operations of raising or growing food.

Two percent: Only two percent of Americans are farmers. This means that 98% use a farmer every day, but they probably do not know one. This combined with the average person being four generations removed from the farm raises issues where people could have unanswered questions about their food. But they don’t know how to get their questions answered because they do not know a farmer.

Fifty-eight: This is the average age of most farmers in the United States. While that is not old by any means, they are not the people most commonly sharing what they’re doing on social media.
These numbers are just a few of the reasons we should advocate for agriculture. Now what is advocating for agriculture? Well it might be easier to explain what it is not.

Agvocating is Not:

It is not bashing organic, conventional or even vegetarianism. It is not telling people they are stupid because they do not understand or agree with you. It is not just blindly sharing articles and statuses without reading or responding. It is not you marketing your farm, ranch or brand.

Agvocating Is:

Being open with your friends and followers about what is happening on your farm. Being willing and ready to answer questions about hot topic
issues (like subway’s antibiotic free statement). Being aware of what is being said about the industry and explaining why you do what you do. Untitled copy

How to Advocate for Agriculture:

A picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures better illustrate the truth of what is happening on your farm. A picture inside your hog barn, showing the cleanliness. A video of you moving cattle to show that it’s done humanely. Share a status about why antibiotics are used on your farm. Allow people to get involved in your everyday practices. I’ve seen farms ask people to name calves through social media, people love that because they feel important and valued in the process. Invite people to your farm, be willing to be transparent and honest.

“If you care about ag being accurately represented, know that we need every voice in the conversation.”

The most important part of advocating is like Nike says, to just do it. There are lots of anti-agriculture groups out there that are bashing agriculture. We need to start standing up for ourselves.

The next most important part of advocating is to not bash other farmers or non-farmers, we have plenty of others doing that for us. People are curious about where their food is coming from, be willing to intelligently, honestly and transparently answer their questions. Join the conversation and share the truth about the agriculture industry.

The Truth About #RealPigFarming

Inhospitable. Dangerous. Inhumane. Abysmal. Uncomfortable. All of these are words used by the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States to describe a modern swine farm. I’m here to tell you that none of these words describe the truth.

Housing 

“At just two to tpighree weeks old, piglets are removed from their mothers and placed in large, windowless sheds without fresh air, sunlight or outdoor access. Their pens are too small and crowded for adequate movement and exercise. Ammonia fumes rise to dangerous, uncomfortable levels due to the pigs’ waste.” This excerpt is from an ASPCA article.

The above depiction is not the case of most pig farms in the United States. A lot of them have some sort of natural light, either through curtains or windows. Air flow from the outside is also required to make sure that ammonia fumes or anything else does not build up. In colder climates this is done by pulling air from attics. In warmer climates the air is pulled through cool cells (like radiators) to cool it down.  This is a necessity to help keep the pigs comfortable.

Raising pigs indoors allows feed and water to be monitored and protects them from disease and predators. Pens are cleaned usually every day to keep the pigs clean and further prevent disease. As for the pens being overly crowded pigs are naturally social, so they enjoy being in a large group.

Most swine farms are extremely biosecure to further protect the pigs. Visitors have to shower in and out and any tools must be cleaned before entering the facility. Farmers truly care about their animals or they would not go to such extreme lengths to keep them safe and healthy.

Picture contributed by a swine unit worker.

Picture contributed by a swine unit worker.

Treatment

ASPCA also goes on to say that pigs are castrated and have their tails docked with no painkillers. That is the truth, but the part they are leaving out is that both of these things are done within 10 days of birth, so the nerve endings have not fully developed.The tails are docked because when left alone, pigs will bite, chew and gnaw on each others tails causing pain and infections.

Here is a video that features an Ohio pig farm and shows you exactly what pigs at their farm go through every day. You may think they changed their behaviors and cleaned their facility for the video, but that is not the case. Stalls on most farms are cleaned every day and pigs are interacted with every single day.

 

 

real pig farming swine humaneIf you google pig/swine farming, some disturbing things come up and reading/watching the horrible things online about pig farming is upsetting to a lot of people. But realize that those depictions are not #RealPigFarming. #RealPigFarming is a social group that unites pig farmers, academics, youth, veterinarians and allied industry members to discuss how modern pork production really works. Check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Remember if you ever have questions about how animals are raised or how crops are grown, be sure to ask a farmer!