Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Truth about Antibiotic Use

Cows in the milking parlor at our dairy
Antibiotic use on livestock farms has been a hot topic in the news recently. News stories and campaigns by special interest groups try to convince consumers that meat and milk products contain harmful levels of antibiotics. I want to provide some facts about how antibiotics are actually used and regulated in the dairy industry.

Dairy cows are not fed antibiotics. If a cow gets sick on our farm, she goes to the hospital pen where she receives special care and is treated with antibiotics if necessary. Milk from hospital cows is discarded.

For example, if one cow is being treated with antibiotics at our farm and her milk accidentally gets into our 4,000 gallon bulk milk tank, that entire tank load of milk will test positive for antibiotics and it will be dumped. As a result, we would not be paid for that tank load of milk and would face disciplinary action from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Contrary to mainstream news reports, there is no economic advantage to overusing antibiotics.

The U.S. milk industry has an excellent record for managing antibiotics. Under a program administered by state regulatory authorities and overseen by FDA, the U.S. dairy industry conducts nearly 4 million tests each year to ensure that antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. Consistently, less than half a percent of samples tested positive, and in those very rare cases, the milk is not sold to the public.

Veterinarians and farmers have a shared goal of producing a safe milk supply. Just as you may be treated with antibiotics if you get sick, we sometimes treat a cow with antibiotics when she is sick. As dairy farmers, we are responsible and accountable for the use of antibiotics on our animals. These products are expensive and only used as necessary as prescribed by a veterinarian.

Every single tank load of milk entering a dairy processing plant in the United States is strictly tested for animal drug residues and disposed of if it tests positive. Therefore, no milk you purchase in the store contains antibiotics - not “regular” conventional milk, not rBST free milk and not organic milk. When you purchase dairy for your family, you can feel confident you are serving a safe and nutritious product.


11 comments:

  1. Fantastic commentary! I try to tell people this all the time. Glad you're out there telling the truth and working in a great industry.

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  2. Well said!! Keep up the good work.

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  3. Couldn't have said it better myself! I hope this blog entry gets wide-spread readership--I just posted the link on my Facebook page.

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  4. Thanks for enlightening me on antibiotic use! I would love to know more about hormone levels in dairy products.

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  5. Great blog post. I wish the media/public would at least try to be more educated & understand all of this...

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  6. Thanks for this post. It's easy to get swept up in the latest scare tactic (from either side of many debates), especially when raising small children. I think though, that this is the first time I've seen an actual face of a large scale dairy farmer and information about their specific operation. Thanks again for starting this and I look forward to reading more!

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  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I correct this all the time in WA. Not only does the milk get dumped, butit is hauled back to YOUR own farm where it is dumped into YOUR lagoon....it wastes money and space. It's just not economically feesable. It is perfectly safe.

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  8. Being a Dairy Herdsman in UK, Australia and now Norway .. the testing of the milk is as stringent in these places as in the US.
    What I find a little unnecessary is the accuracy of these tests which detect 'other' chemical residues other than antibiotics. Which in most cases are no danger to human consumption but could help the cow as an alternative treatment in a lot of diseases. Antibiotics haven't come along way in the last 30 years and the only solution is to increase the doseage as the bacteria or the cow becomes immune. Any new promising drugs are removed and given over to the human testing and useage. sorry went off topic but thankyou for my little whinge. The more drugs that need to used the more milk that has to be thrown away the more it cost the farmer!!
    Ian Robinson

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  9. Thanks for the post. For those that want a deeper dive into the science around antibiotics, Randall Singer, Ph.D, DVM, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, University of Minnesota, presented information at the 2010 Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholder's Summit (audio + slides at http://agtoday.us/bllADu ).

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  10. Thank you for taking time to publish the facts. I found this blog while doing a search regarding antibiotic use in milk, which I love and was afraid I would have to give up. Yet another strike against our "don't confuse me with facts or annoy me with reality" media, who seem to live to find as much drama and conflict as they can to upset people. Now I can drink my beloved moo juice with peace of mind...gratefully, Sharon.

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  11. I'm so glad you took the time to research this topic on your own! There is lots of misinformation out there about antibiotic use in food animals. Thank you for drinking milk! You can be confident the dairy you are consuming is safe and healthy.

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Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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