Lessening the use of antibiotics in a cow-calf operation
Preventing illness is as important as treatment when it comes to herd health.
New antimicrobial regulations have come into effect to encourage prudent use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Reducing our use of antibiotics is a best practice and can be achieved through a variety of ways.
Good nutrition - The cornerstone of herd health is a good nutrition program. Analyzing your feed and utilizing the services of a nutritionist will ensure the needs of your cattle are met and their immune systems are fully functional. Livestock and Feed Extension Specialists with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture can assist with interpretation of feed test results and ration formulation. Water quality should also be measured as it can affect absorption of important nutrients.
Prebiotics and Probiotics - A healthy rumen is important for good digestion, performance and immune function. Prebiotics and probiotics are products that work to improve digestive function. Probiotics introduce beneficial microbes, and prebiotics provide food for them.
Vaccination Protocols - Outbreaks of many common diseases can be prevented or controlled through the use of vaccines. Vaccinations for blackleg, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), bovine respiratory disease (BRD), scours, etc. are important tools that may directly reduce the requirement for antibiotic use in vaccinated versus nonvaccinated cattle. Work with your veterinarian to develop a vaccination protocol for your herd.
Calving Management - Newborn calves have a four to six-hour window whereby the cow’s colostrum is most effective. If you suspect a newborn calf has not received much or any colostrum during this time, then intervene. It is best if colostrum can be obtained from the cow, as the dam will provide antibodies common to the bacteria already present in your herd, but purchased colostrum is a good substitute. Replacement colostrum must have 100 grams of IGG; lower levels are for supplemental purposes only. Clean the stomach tube well between uses.
Biosecurity - Practicing good biosecurity aims to prevent the introduction of diseases not already present in your herd and restrict the spread of outbreaks when they do occur. Isolate animals that are sick and require treatment, as well as any animals that are brought into the herd. Visitors should wear clean clothing and footwear should be disinfected. Funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) program is available to assist producers with the purchase of equipment or materials to assist with biosecurity. Contact your local Ministry of Agriculture Regional Office for more information.
Veterinarian-clientpatient-relationship - As stated in the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of
Beef Cattle, producers should establish an ongoing working relationship (VCPR) with a licensed practicing veterinarian and develop a strategy for disease prevention and herd health. The VCPR is required to purchase antimicrobials, but this relationship is of much greater benefit than just access to medications.
Changes to antimicrobial regulation in Canada should not negatively impact the overall health and productivity of our beef industry. Implementing strategies such as these are helpful in maintaining good health and reducing the requirement to use antibiotics. Enrolling in programs such as Verified Beef Production Plus can also assist producers in adopting these practices.
For more information on this or other livestock related topics, contact your local Regional Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.