I get asked all the time if we use antibiotics. The answer is Yes! Absolutely! When NEEDED! If an animal gets sick or injured, it's getting treated in the most efficient way possible. (Now to be fair, we do observe double the withdrawal time and animals requiring treatment get a tag in their ear with a reference # on it so we can easily see when, where, why and what medication was used.) Not all animals require treatment, shoot it's probably less than 1% of the entire herd or flock that needs help in the course of a year, but if anyone says they don't treat, they are snowing you.
NO ONE is going to let an animal suffer nor are they going to risk losing an animal to a problem that is easily treated.
I think that a more accurate claim would be "No Sub-Clinical Antibiotics" that means that livestock doesn't get low dose antibiotics to boost feed efficiency. The practice usually occurs in grain feeding scenarios and really isn't applicable to grass fed and finished ruminants. I'm going to give you a couple of examples of where Antibiotics are a good idea:
I have a ewe that tripled this year and got mastitis in one teat, Now I could have let that go and risked the lambs getting an infection from sucking on her bad side, or the entire teat could have become non functional. Making the ewe essentially worthless. OR I could put a basket on her bad side and treat it with a local antibiotic that is inserted into the teat three times a day for 5 days. I'm going to have to supplement the lambs no matter what, but I would sure rather they be healthy and that ewe stand a chance of continuing to produce.
Another instance we had this year was a first time heifer with a partially retained placenta, Now am I going to risk losing the cow? NO. Am I going to risk losing the calf? NO. I'm going to treat her and clear up the infection.
We supply our Whole and half animal buyers with a complete chart of the animals life from "Conception to Consumption"(tm) so they know just about every move that animal made on it's journey to their plate. (Thanks CattleMax(tm) and S.I D(tm) These are some of the best traceability software programs out there and they sure are great! Small operations may not need the full scale programs and I will be happy to share a couple of our herd/ flock management books with anyone that would like one. Next time: Back to FUN STUFF!