I can’t believe I’ve let a month go by and haven’t updated the blog on my travels in and around Montana. (So I better catch up!) Work has definitely kept me busy and on the go. But I guess that is a good thing!
In early November, I had the great opportunity to travel to Sun Valley, Idaho to speak at the Idaho Cattle Association’s annual convention. Sun Valley is an extremely nice place in the mountains and home to folks like Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Tom Hanks. I certainly couldn’t afford to stay there long, especially during ski season.
The Idaho Cattlemen and women were great hosts as Lauren Chase and I presented 2 different workshops on the value of social media in the cattle community. One of the big questions we address is “Why do ranchers need to be on social media?” There’s a lot of value to being involved in the conversations that are already occurring, both on- and off-line. We would love to be able to direct folks who have food questions to the farmers and ranchers who have the most experience with the issues at hand, but it is kind of difficult if those farmers/ranchers are not making themselves more available to the conversations.
We had a great turnout to our workshops, standing room only both days. It was great to see such interest and interaction with the Idaho ranchers. While at the Convention, we had the opportunity to pull a few folks aside and ask their perspectives on why social media is important in the ranching community. Lauren captured their thoughts in this video.
So I ask you the same question. How can ranchers utilize social media to reach out to consumers who want to engage in conversations about how their beef is raised?
The trip also marked the first opportunity for me to board a plane by walking out on the tarmac. Good thing it was decent weather! (I may not have such good luck for this week’s trip, but more on that Thursday.) But it’s something I better get used to here in Montana. Alaska Airlines was great and the boarding process was much easier than the normal jetway on larger planes. I got to fly into Seattle, then to Boise. Both great airports, but I think my favorite part was watching the changes in landscapes. The drive from Boise to Sun Valley was really neat. I’m very glad I got to make the trip and hope to make it back to Idaho sometime. But I was definitely glad to make it back on the ground after an expected windy landing back in Great Falls.
Check out more photos from our #SocialBeef workshops on Facebook! Lauren and I look forward to more opportunities like these workshops in the future!
- #SocialBeef Workshop at Idaho Cattle Convention (mtstockgrowersblog.wordpress.com)
Over the past several years, I have been engaged in several conversations about transparency, animal welfare, and requests for more information about how livestock make it to our plates. Recently, American Meat Institute has teamed up with Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-know animal scientist who focuses on improving animal welfare practices, especially during slaughter. The group has put together a series of videos that explain what happens prior to and during the slaughter process and shows views what Best Management Practices look like in this process. I think these videos are a great insight to help us visualize how livestock are turned into the meat on our plates.
From a Turkey Farmer: Everything you wanted to know about Turkeys
Previously I have shared videos from AMI that walk us through the Beef and Pork slaughter processes. Just in time to learn more about the food on our tables for Thanksgiving, AMI and the National Turkey Federation released a video where Dr. Grandin walks us through the process of getting turkeys to the slaughterhouse and shows us how that happens. Take 13 minutes to watch the video.
Grandin guides the viewing public with an expert eye on the growth and delivery of 253 million turkeys each year. In the video, the viewer gets an up-close look as Grandin interacts with a flock of 15,000 birds roaming easily down the football-field length of a climate-controlled turkey house. When readied for market, those turkeys ride up into conveyor loading trucks and to an orderly delivery at the processing plant.
There, the process of humanely stunning the birds renders them unconscious before processing under the watchful presence of USDA government inspectors enforcing safe and sanitary preparation. At each step along the methodical movement of rinsing, cleaning and separating the meat from the carcass, Grandin provides context and common sense explanations. The reality of raising and preparing turkeys for market is revealed in the video for what it is: a modern process that is humane, safe and efficient. — from National Turkey Federation
This video is a part of the Glass Walls Project from AMI to improve transparency efforts from large-scale animal processors. For more information on animal slaughter, AMI has this PDF available. There are also many great resources related to animal welfare and handling at animalhandling.org.
We may not all be able to visit slaughter houses, and I don’t expect these videos to make people remove their distrust of meat industries, but opportunities to learn from a distance are extremely important. I do hope folks will receive them as a move toward better transparency.
Want to connect with a Turkey farmer? Check out these pages
#1: Winter actually happens. My #BigSkyMove kicked things off right with a little snow and ice. Might as well get the first one out of the way so I can move on with things.
#2: Flights out of Helena aren’t that out-of-this-world expensive, except for when I’m trying to fly home. I could buy a flight to England cheaper. But I did manage to find an affordable flight home for Christmas by flying on the holidays (Christmas Eve and NYE) and switching from Little Rock (Hill Billy National) to Memphis destinations.
#3: Distance to any town is measured in hours driving at 75 mph. And you are expected to maintain that speed by other drivers on the road. And yes mom, I do take it easier when there is white stuff on the road.
#4: 30% chance of snow showers means you just might wake up to everything covered in white. But it’s not really that bad because Montana actually has the equipment to move that stuff off the roads quickly.
#5: Not only is sweet tea not served here, I have to be careful to clarify that I want ‘iced’ tea, not hot. Learned that lesson the hard way.
#6: Be careful who you say ma’am or sir to. Not everyone responds to it as well up here. Apparently people don’t take to kindly to it if they assume you’re inferring their old. To me, it’s a sign of respect. Can’t help I was raised that way.
#7: Get used to walking out on the tarmac to board planes with propellers on the side. But on a good note, Alaska Airlines allows me to book with Delta SkyMiles!
#8: I will survive. With a low so far of 3 and a wind chill as low as -8 at one point in the day, this was officially the coldest day I’ve ever seen in my life. And it wasn’t that bad. It could have been much worse with the snow and wind. A humid cold feels much colder. (Update: My phone said -6 when I woke up this morning.)
#9: Driving a little white Ford Taurus across the state in all sorts of weather (even ice and snow) makes you realize you’ve really made it in life. (My boss actually said something to that effect.) On the bright side, I made a few hours round trip to a meeting and only spent $20 in gas.
#10: Montanans are very hospitable. I have had more than a dozen requests from folks that I join them for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone wants to make sure I am fed. I should have started taking notes from the beginning on which one had the most beef at the table. But no, really. I am very thankful for that.
After only 3 weeks of living in Helena, I can honestly say driving home last night after a day of cold and ice, it really felt satisfying to be driving home. I think this place might be growing on me rather quickly…
- #BigSkyMove – Cross Country Trip – Part 2 (agricultureproud.com)
Last week, I brought forward some Food For Thought on the issue of antibiotic use in livestock. The concerns surrounding an increase in antibiotic resistance seem to raise a lot of emotion and controversy around our food supply, just as the use of other feed additives, chemicals, herbicides, and countless other technologies and applications of science. I have addressed some of these subjects as they relate to beef cattle production in my Ask A Farmer series.
When I asked others involved in livestock production to share their experience with the use of antibiotics, I had a few replies. Andrew Goodrich was one of the first to respond with a lengthy answer, so I will share some of his responses. We haven’t agreed during more than a few conversations online, but I have to respect his experience in the field. Andrew has worked on several cattle feedlots in the Northwest and Canada and has a first-hand point of view on how antibiotics are used in cattle production.
I have spent much of my life doing business with and working in the cattle feedlots, as explained in many previous posts, but I think it will be good to share another perspective from someone else involved in the business.
Are feedlot cattle given antibiotics through their feed?
Ionophores are probably the most commonly used. You will find them in yards that feed 100,000 head and yards that feed 50 head. They are growth promotants, but the advantages to animal health are often overlooked. They prevent bloat and acidosis. Both of these events happen incredibly fast and are often fatal to cattle. The worst wreck I’ve ever experienced happened when 5,000 yearlings were put on hot ration without monensin. In the end, we lost 50 animals to grain overload. Ionophores also prevent coccidiosis, which can be detrimental to an animals and performance.
Ionophores are classified as an antibiotic, but they are not therapeutic antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is an increasing concern in public discourse. However, the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a result of ionophore use is not well supported for a number of reasons: ionophores have never been (nor are likely to be) used as antimicrobials for humans and ionophores have a very different mode of action from therapeutic antibiotics. Read more from University of Florida.
Medicated feed (Chlorotetracycline; CTC) is another tool we use to treat cattle. We can use it to extend antibiotic coverage in fresh calves, treat illness associated with ration transitions, and to aid in the treatment of a large number of sick animals at any time during feeding period.
Do all cattle in the feedlot receive CTC medicated feeds?
In some yards, all cattle receive CTC. It really depends on the type of cattle, time of year, and how an outfit decides to use it. When I worked in Washington, all cattle received it once as they went through the ration transitions. If at any time during the feeding period we noticed excessive coughing and nasal discharge, we would use CTC again, as well as exercise to turn them around.
Do feedlot cattle receive any injections of antibiotics as a preventative measure?
Antibiotics are also used for the prevention of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD). Cattle are prey animals and incredibly stoic. They survive by hiding illness from anything the perceive as a threat. Combine this with a lack of pen riders, and the need for metaphylaxis on arrival becomes very necessary. In our yard, all high risk fall and winter placed calves receive tulathromycin on arrival to help get them through the most stressful time of the feeding period.
What do you mean by “high risk” cattle?
We define high risk calves as freshly weaned animals sourced through a sale barn. They are stressed from weaning and are exposed to bacteria and viruses from many different operations. These are prime conditions to create a sick animal.
When do feedlot cattle receive antibiotic treatments for sickness?
The last way we use antibiotics is for individual animal treatment. This could be for anything from BRD to footrot or acidosis. In our yard, sick cattle are pulled by cowboys and brought to the hospital, where we use a thermometer, stethoscope, and visual assessment to diagnose and determine the severity of an animals illness.
How do you determine which antibiotic treatment feedlot cattle receive?
We also use diagnostic trees to pinpoint lameness in the animals. After the appropriate antibiotic is administered, the animals either return to their home pen or stay in a recovery pen, depending on their condition. We have about 10 different antibiotics in our selection, although about 90% of critters respond to one treatment.
What is the maximum number of times an animal will get treated with antibiotics? When do you decide to stop treating the animal?
Typically, an animal will receive no more than 3 or 4 treatments (only 1% of animals ever get to this point). However, if we think the animal will respond and improve, we will treat as many times as necessary. When we hear consolidation and referred sounds in the lungs, an animal is determined to be chronic and treatment is either ceased or altered, depending on treatment history, condition, and amount of consolidation in the lung.
Cattle feedlots are the last step in beef production before slaughter. How do you make sure antibiotics do not end up in our beef supply?
Regardless of how an animal receives antibiotics, they are entered into the computerized record keeping system. This helps administer the proper dosage, track an animals progress, and observe proper withdrawal times. Every antibiotic has its withdrawal right on the bottle. We enter it in the computer and every time an animal receives treatment, its “clear date” is displayed on the treatment, movement, and shipping programs. Before a pen is harvested, we check withdrawals and remove any animals if necessary.
One last question. I often get the response of “Well, if you didn’t have these animals in such a crowded place, they wouldn’t have to receive antibiotics.” How would you respond to someone saying that?
I love cattle, but they are one of the most poorly designed creatures on the face of the Earth. A vet once described them to me as a car with 4 engines and one radiator. There will be animals that get sick and require antibiotics regardless of where they are. Also, land is valuable and scarce. Around here, 160 acres goes for 1.4 million dollars. We can produce much more protein sowing that to corn or barley and feeding that to cattle than we could turning cattle out on that land.
I hope that Andrew’s insight has given you a glimpse of the complexity that goes into taking care of cattle in a feedlot. It is important to note that many conditions seen inside a feedlot (CAFO) are also seen when cattle are raised on pasture. As a person who has been there and worked alongside feedlot pen riders and veterinary crews, it is not an easy task and is hard work in all the weather elements mother nature brings. Taking care of their cattle is also first priority among most of these men and women and I cannot even begin to understand some of the misperceptions and hatred that exist toward the folks who dedicate their lives to raising cattle for our beef supply. The feedlots are the last step in raising cattle for beef prior to slaughter and a sector of the business which is underrepresented in food dialogues occurring today. Thank you Andrew for sharing your experience with us.
Do you have questions about antibiotics, feed additives, or any other aspects of livestock production? Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a private message through the Contact page.
Are you a livestock producer? When was the last time you took the opportunity to share your experiences on using antibiotics or other tools in livestock production? Please, send me a note or an entire guest post. I am more than willing to share your experience with my readers.
- Is Antibiotic Resistance due to Livestock drug use? (agricultureproud.com)
One of the most frequent questions I receive relative to livestock production often includes some aspect of antibiotic use. This has been a hot-topic in the food and farm dialogues over the past few years and one that draws a lot of criticism from consumers concerned about antibiotic resistance. Are farmers and ranchers going to step up and share how they use antibiotics? Or will they continue letting someone else share that story?
The one thing that most of us can agree on is that this leads to a complex conversation that is difficult to understand. Antibiotic resistance is also something the science and medical communities have been investigating for some time. Below is a release from the National Institute for Animal Agriculture following a recent symposium on the subject at hand in Kansas City.
I have talked about antibiotic use previously on my blog using my experience working with cattle on ranches and in feedlots. There was also a great discussion on the topic on my Facebook page. I encourage you to take a look and to the farmers: Ask yourself, when was the last time you made an effort to explain to concerned consumers why and how you utilize antibiotics in livestock production. Consider this an invitation to send me a guest post. My readers would love to hear your side of the story.
Antibiotic Resistance Complex, Open to Misinterpretation
KANSAS CITY, MO.—The sharing of science-based antibiotic use and resistance information continued among experts and leaders from the animal, human and public health communities during the “Bridging the Gap Between Animal Health and Human Health” symposium sponsored by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture and conducted Nov. 12-14, in Kansas City, Mo. Adding to the symposium’s insightful, transparent discussions were presentations by media and consumer advocacy group representatives as well as questions generated by symposium attendees.
“Antibiotic resistance has been called the single most complex problem in public health, and this symposium provided respective health communities and disciplines a platform where they shared their latest research findings,” states Dr. Nevil Speer, co-chair of the symposium and a professor at Western Kentucky University.
“This year’s antibiotic use and resistance symposium not only shed additional light on this often polarized topic but we identified common ground so a collective path forward that serves the best interests of all parties can be forged.”
The 170-plus symposium participants from across animal, human and environmental health heard a wealth of information, including the following 11 points:
- The science behind the emergence, amplification, persistence and transfer of antibiotic resistance is highly complex and open to misinterpretation and misuse. If you think you understand antimicrobial resistance, it hasn’t been explained properly.
- The extremely complex relationship between animal health, human health and environmental health is driven by two premises: 1) Antimicrobial resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is present with or without the use of antimicrobials; and 2) Anytime an antibiotic enters the ecosystem, it contributes to the presence of antibiotic resistance.
- Antibiotic resistance is not just transferred from animals to humans; resistance is also transferred from humans to animals.
- Antibiotic resistance is not just a U.S. challenge; it’s an international issue that requires a strategic global One Health approach.
- Evaluating antimicrobial resistance involves balancing risks vs. needs while constantly recognizing the importance of maintaining an efficacious arsenal of human antibiotics.
- New tools that address food animal infectious diseases must be developed, whether they are in the field of prevention or new molecules for therapeutics.
- Research studies and findings are often viewed through different lenses. Individuals can look at the same study and obtain different interpretation of the results and what the study infers based on their own biases.
- Decisions should be based on science, and policy should be based on science. The question, however, is who decides what constitutes evidence that is considered when making those decisions and policies.
- Significant efforts are being led by the public health community to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in human health and reduce hospital-acquired infections. Agriculture needs to be open to change as well.
- Change will happen. Open dialogue must continue, with animal agriculture at the table or change will be drastic and by statute and will not be a deliberative policy change.
- Solving antibiotic resistance requires collaboration and raises the question “How does human medicine, environmental health and animal medicine work together to address antibiotic use and resistance?”.
You can hear and view “Bridging the Gap between Animal Health and Human Health” symposium presentations—PowerPoints® with voice-over—online within the next two weeks at www.animalagriculture.org. A White Paper summarizing the symposium will be released and available online around Dec. 31.
The National Institute for Animal Agriculture provides a forum for building consensus and advancing proactive solutions for animal agriculture—the beef, dairy, swine, sheep, goats, equine, poultry and aquaculture industries—and provides continuing education and communication linkages for animal agriculture professionals. NIAA is dedicated to programs that work toward the eradication of disease that pose risk to the health of animals, wildlife and humans; promote a safe and wholesome food supply for our nation and abroad; and promote best practices in environmental stewardship, animal health and well-being. NIAA members represent all facets of animal agriculture.
Where does your favorite cut of steak come from?
During my #BigSkyMove, I had the opportunity to visit Manhattan, Kansas, specifically my friends Brandon and Jodi Oleen. Jodi works for the Kansas Pork Association and Brandon with one of the Beef Cattle units at Kansas State University. Talk about house divided when it comes to protein choices?!? Actually, Jodi is a big beef eater and Brandon loves his bacon, so all is well.
After driving for 8 hours into town, I jumped in the pickup with Brandon to do his afternoon cow chores (Yes, I am that guy who drives across 2 states to check cows!), before joining several friends in the area for a meal. I made the unfortunate decision to show up in MHK on Homecoming weekend. Our original plans to meet at Little Apple Brewery were scraped, but we were saved with a great meal at Rambler’s Steakhouse. Great food. Fun times.
I’ve been to several steakhouses and often times the menu has some sort of history and good reading. Ramblers has a sheet dedicated to showing where our favorite cuts of meat comes from.
I thought that was a pretty cool inclusion in the menu. I figure many folks want to know which steaks are the best choice as they’re sitting down for a meal. It also helps with a little AgFacts 101 to acquaint the steak a specific location on the animal. After a little searching, I found a more-detailed diagram for the location of our favorite cuts of beef.
There are several great places for a conversation about beef and steaks on social media.
- Reddit has it’s own stream of recipes and conversation about steaks. – /r/Steak
- Janeal Yancey is a meat scientist at the University of Arkansas and answers a lot of concern from moms on her blog – Mom At The Meat Counter. She’s also found easily on Twitter – @MeatCounterMom.
- Amy Sipes owns a family meat shop in Kentucky. She’s sure to tell you exactly what she thinks – @KYFarmersMatter.
- David Hayden is a fellow Oklahoma State alumnus and works in the meat industry, though he comes from a family farm background. He shares many great viewpoints on his blog, Farming America, as well as on Twitter – @DavidHayden7.
- The American Meat Institute makes some great resources available online for consumers wanting to learn more about where our meat comes from. I’ve shared before some of their videos from inside beef and pork slaughter facilities. Follow their blog and Twitter – @MeatAMI.
There are many more folks online discussing where our meat comes from. What resources do you utilize?