Speak Up is a series of blogs where CommonGround volunteers from all over the U.S. speak up to answer questions from consumers.

Question: While approved antibiotic use protects animals from disease, does it encourage the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could be harmful to the human population?

Response from Teresa Brandenburg, CommonGround volunteer and beef cattle farmer in Russell, Kansas

We manage about 85 head of beef cattle each year on our farm – momma cows and their calves. It’s really important that we keep every one of them healthy. I also have a three year old son. If my son gets sick and his doctor tells me that he needs antibiotics, I make sure he gets what he needs right away. I sure want those antibiotics to work for him! His health is the utmost importance to me.

The same thing goes for our beef cows. Antibiotics given to our cattle are always prescribed by a veterinarian. We work very close with our vet to be sure everything is being used properly and in the right dosage. We also keep good records to make sure that anytime we give an animal medicine they remain on our farm long enough for that medicine to leave their bodies before they ever have the chance to enter the food system.

We have to adhere to that very specific regulation. When I take my livestock to market, I sign a paper that says I have met the medicine withdrawal regulations. Every medicine we use has the date clearly printed on the package. It lists how many days the treated animal has to stay on our farm after we’ve given them that medicine. We are legally bound to follow those regulations. We can get in a lot of trouble if we don’t. So we take those things very seriously.

Overall, you should know that our animals are on a stringent herd health program. We give them vaccinations to prevent disease and only use antibiotics to treat them when there is a problem.

People should follow the same practices. We need to take responsibility for antibiotic resistance too. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention program called Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work says that if your doctor prescribes antibiotics, you should make sure you follow the directions and take the right doses at the right times for the right number of days.

From my farm perspective, that’s how I would answer your question. In addition, part of what the CommonGround program does is provide more sources of information on food topics.

For example, you may be interested in the following quote from Steven D. Vaughn, D.V.M., director of the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

“The judicious use of all drugs in animals, particularly food-producing animals, is very important. The use of medicated feeds in food-producing animals is evaluated and regulated to prevent harmful effects on both animal and human health.”

In addition to FDA, the American Veterinary Medical Association website is a great resource for additional information about the use of antibiotics in food producing animals. Visit the AVMA website by clicking here.

You’ll find answers to the following questions on this website:

  • Are the antimicrobials used in animals the same ones used in people?
  • What is antimicrobial resistance and how does it happen?
  • What causes antimicrobial resistance?
  • Is all antimicrobial resistance a threat to public health?
  • How are antimicrobials used in animals?
  • How does antimicrobial use in animals differ from that in humans?
  • How frequently are antimicrobials used in food production?
  • What’s the bigger risk for causing antimicrobial resistance – antimicrobial use in humans or use in livestock?
  • Should I be concerned about antimicrobial resistance?
  • Why can’t we just stop using antimicrobials in food-producing animals?

Please let me know if I can provide you additional information about antibiotics in meat-producing animals. If you’re ever near Russell, Kansas, contact me through CommonGround for a closer look at our farm.

Teresa Brandenburg
CommonGround volunteer and beef cattle farmer in Russell, Kansas

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