Antibiotics are a tool when disease attacks.

He’d spotted a sick calf up at the Adams County pasture. A cough. A little slow. He returned the next day with a rope and doctoring supplies. Shook out a loop, sailed it through the air, settled around the neck, and – kerplunk – calf fell over dead.

This happened to my brother not too long ago. Best heifer calf in that bunch. The day after that, he found the top steer calf pushing up daisies.

BRD – bovine respiratory disease. Pneumonia. Calf killer, ranch wrecker, make your hair gray, whatever you want to call it, it isn’t good.

I talked to dad Sunday evening, and they have 25 head in their sick pen. Any more than 5 or 6 is unusual. Wild swings in temperature with rain, snow and everything in between has bred a hotbed of disease, and the calves are succumbing to it.

Thankfully the tide is starting to turn, due in part to some colder weather and the double-packed punch of EXCEDE and micotil.

There is a lot of controversy on the use of antibiotics in food animals. I am in favor of their use when circumstances require it. Deadly diseases like the BRD rampage on my dad’s ranch are certainly circumstances that require the use of antibiotics.

I am also a supporter of correct administration, proper dosages and ensuring that withdrawal times are met prior to slaughter.

Mucus in a calf's nose, indicative of bovine respiratory disease

(cc) Nottingham Vet School

I believe that we have a responsibility to care for our animals to the best of our abilities while they are under our watch. Providing top-notch care from birth is the first line of defense against deadly diseases, but when diseases do rally the troops and invade a healthy herd, it is necessary to do what we can to help the animals wage war.

In a perfect world, animals – and you and I – wouldn’t get sick. They – and we – wouldn’t need a doctor.

Until that perfect world comes along, I am thankful we have tools like antibiotics to help maintain herd health.

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    Antibiotics are a tool when disease attacks. — PNW Rancher

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