Tips on the proper use of livestock antibiotics

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.
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  • 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.

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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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