Dairy Antibiotics – The truth might surprise you
Cows are a lot like humans. Most of the time, we notice when they aren’t feeling well. Cold ears, glassy eyes and lack of appetite can all be signals that a cow, or human, isn’t healthy.
Farmers tend to spot these signals quickly, making illness easy to detect. We are always watching to make sure the cows are comfortable and feeling well.
Our milk cows receive the most attention. We feed them several times a day, including right before we go to bed at night. If we notice a cow doesn’t get up to eat, we check on them – just like you would a child. While milking, we are able to monitor the cow’s body temperature and how much milk they are giving. This can help us detect illness before any physical symptoms show.
We feed the younger animals twice daily and walk through them about mid-day, every day. Any cows close to giving birth get checked every few hours or more. If we notice anything out of the ordinary, we may check their breathing, take their temperature or feel their ears. We care a lot about our animals and do everything in our power to make sure they’re in tip-top shape.
We work closely with our veterinarian for this reason. We have the luxury of calling her any time – day or night – to come out to the farm. We can also FaceTime her for quick solutions and tips. Our cows have quicker access to the doctor than we do!
She has provided us with protocols we can follow to help cure cows ourselves and in some cases, talked us through treatment plans before she even arrived.
We treat cows with common medications. These include aspirin, laxatives, anti-diarrhea pills and electrolytes. These medicines do not affect the milk. Sometimes, we get lucky and this is all a cow needs.
However, if a cow needs antibiotics, we do not hesitate to administer them. We only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary, which isn’t as often as you may think.
We always consult with our veterinarian to see which antibiotic is best. When using an antibiotic, we mark the cow with chalk. A large, orange letter “B” is placed on both sides of the animal. The “B” stands for “bucket,” which is where the cow’s milk will go until she is healthy again.
The milk produced during treatment is dumped. This ensures it doesn’t end up in the milk tank with the supply produced by healthy cows. Lucky for us, the antibiotics we use are labeled with the number of days the milk must be dumped. When those days are up, we test the milk several times to confirm that it is free of any antibiotics.
Taking good care of our cows is our number one priority. We pride ourselves on keeping them comfortable through all stages of life, including illness. Just like humans, cows can come down with an infection only treatable with the help of antibiotics. However, we take the appropriate steps to guarantee your milk remains free of any medications. This way, they can live a healthy, happy life and so can you.