Tips on the proper use of livestock antibiotics

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Here are Dr. Craig Dorin’s recommendations for using antimicrobials effectively.

  • Don’t use antimicrobials for diseases that they are not indicated for. For example, abscesses are a common problem, but these are localized infections. If the animal does not have a fever and the infection is not systemic, it doesn’t need an antibiotic. Similarly, don’t use antibiotics for injuries.
  • Understand the classes of antibiotics and choose those furthest away from ones of high importance to human medicine. Talk to your vet to learn what individual antibiotics are suited for.
  • Diagnose disease properly so you know which antibiotic to use. Get a lab diagnosis if necessary.
  • Use antibiotics for the proper duration.
  • Proper nutrition is the foundation of any health program. Inadequate mineral and vitamin supplementation is often a problem.
  • Maintain proper vaccination protocols and have a good vaccination program for the prevention of bovine respiratory disease.
  • A pre-weaning vaccination program can help cattle develop stronger immunity.
  • Use low-stress weaning.
  • Calve later. Calve on green grass and clean ground. Using a calving rotation system can reduce diseases.
  • Have good biosecurity. Don’t allow dirty trucks, find out where visitors have been, and know the vaccination record and disease history of every animal you bring onto your farm.
  • Don’t bring dairy animals onto your farm because of the threat of Johne’s disease, which can be transmitted through milk. If you need colostrum, get it from a beef operation.
  • Rely less on auction marts and have more direct farm-to-feedlot sales. Send health information with the animals when they go to a feedlot.

About the author


Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."



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