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One of the calves this winter wasn't doing well. With Dr. Nord's help, the calf is on the mend and doing well. (Marytina Lawrence/Special to Agweek)

The health and well-being of animals comes first on the farm

I was thinking about the health craze that has swept our society over the past few years the other day and the revolution that has taken place in the mind of consumers. In the world of today, many think about the origin of their food prior to purchase more than ever before.

As producers of a major commodity, it has been a game changer in the realm of perception and forces us to be much more deliberate and transparent in the way we do things around the farm.

However, with the exception of modern convenience and technology, I was realizing just how constant our practices have remained throughout the years. What we do and why we do it have stayed the same. When modifications have been needed to improve the health and well-being of the cattle, we modify, but general practices have been successful. The thing that has changed more than anything is the need to share what we do with others.

As our society becomes more removed from food production, the need to ensure it's safety by the consumer has increased exponentially. They are not on the farm experiencing it first hand, and for that reason they demand more information on the end product and the journey it took to get there. I was reminded of this reality the other day based upon an errand my husband had me do while out and about.

We have been experiencing some slight sickness in our calves this winter. Nothing major, just a bit of stomach upset, but if not monitored and cared for it can become acute and cause some major sickness for newborns. My husband has been tirelessly working night and day to care for his sick babies and monitor their condition making sure no one gets any sicker.

A few nights ago, he decided that one of the calves was not doing well and was going to need additional care. In these instances the veterinarian is called and the special care will come directly from the vet with my husbands assistance. Dr. Nord was familiar with the issues we had been dealing with and came right away despite the late hour of the day. With IV fluids and additional antibiotics, the calf has been on the mend and doing well.

This brings me to my big thought. One of the most discussed issues in animal agriculture today is the use of antibiotics. The concern being that they are being overused, unmonitored and dumped into the food chain. It made me pause and consider that maybe it is important to reiterate the process we take in treating sick cattle and the rules we are required to follow.

First, we do not treat animals unless they are sick and require a prescribed antibiotic that is recommended by our veterinarian.

Second, once administered, the animal is monitored closely and only give additional treatment if they are not getting better.

Last, all antibiotics have a regulated withdrawal time that requires an animal be free of treatment for a minimum of 45 days prior to entering the food chain. All animals entering the food chain are tested for residue and if any is found the animal is discarded and the farmer is fined

We, of course, were treating calves and for that reason they are not entering the food chain anytime soon. But the consultative relationship we maintain with our vet is essential to the health and well-being of our herd. He has become our partner and it is his dedication and commitment to us as farmers that keeps our herd healthy. Our desire is always centered around healthy animals and no matter what the consumer demands from us in the future their health will always come first.