Ontario Agriculture

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Which is Better-Livestock or Deadstock?

If you are going to have livestock, you are going to have deadstock.

I don’t know who coined that term, but every farmer knows it’s the truth. But that doesn’t mean you leave anything sick to die.

That would appear to be what some folks rather we do. As noted in an article in TIME Magazine and the New York Times, the world seems to have something against antibiotics.

I’m going to use our small dairy farm as an example. It’s been a tough couple of weeks. After months of no mastitis or major illness we’ve had five come up mastitis in the last two weeks and one with hardware (ill from eating foreign objects like metal). For a farm of 40 cows milking, that’s not a nice percentage. But, it happens.

So what are we to do? If we are to turn our back on antibiotics, all six of those cows would either be dead or under extreme discomfort with little milk to give. Is that a better option than using antibiotics to improve their health? Or we can treat those animals with the necessary medication to get them feeling better. Keep in mind after they have been treated, any milk they produce goes down the drain (usually for the next 4 days) to ensure that the antibiotics don’t end up in your ice cream cone. For animals in the meat chain, withdrawal periods exist as well, sometimes for a number of weeks.

Now I can hear the naysayers already - what about the antibiotics used to treat an animal before they are sick? Well if I recall, I’ve been treated for mumps, measles, tetanus, hepatitis and more – but have never fallen ill from those diseases. Then again if I ever got some of those, I might not be here to write this article. Animals are the same. There are ferociously viral diseases that are better to be prevented than treated after the fact.

So how about we take it easy on this antibiotic debate. The industry will continue to work to see how they can reduce antibiotic use in the first place. After all medication is expensive so it’s in our best interest to use them sparingly. But until we have animals that don’t get sick, we are going to need medication.

Besides, I prefer the livestock to the deadstock.

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