Agriculture and Environment: Beef

Better Management Practices: Chemicals & Antibiotics

Many feedlot operations use antibiotics routinely.

This happens both when animals are first introduced to feedlot operations as well as at various times throughout the feeding operation. Prophylactic use of such medicines should be prohibited. Not only do they tend to reduce resistance in the animals treated, they can also have a more widespread impact on organisms in the environment.

The use and cost of medications can be reduced with improved overall management. Emphasis should be shifted to preventing diseases rather than curing them. Close observation is the key.

Some of the better practices are quite simple. For example, people have significant impacts on the stress and well-being of cattle.

If employees come to feedlots in a highly stressed frame of mind, it is better to send them home rather than have their mood affect the animals. Fast movement also stresses animals and should be avoided.

One operation in Canada found that adopting these simple practices in feedlot operations reduced the death rate to less than 1%. In addition, the drug bill for the feedlot fell from $20,000 per month to less than $200 (Nations 1997).

Finally, the drugs used were more effective as vaccines are less effective with stressed animals or when overused.


Extracts from "World Agriculture & Environment" by Jason Clay - buy the book online from Island Press

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