Cows, Antibiotics, and You

See this happy, healthy cow chowing down on some TMR?  Well, last week she wasn’t so happy…or healthy; she had mastitis.  Mastitis is an inflammatory response to infection causing visibly abnormal milk (clots, off-color). As the extent of the inflammation increases, changes in the udder (swelling, heat, pain, redness) may also occur. Mastitis is caused any bacterial or mycotic organism that can invade tissue and cause infection.  We do our best to keep our cows and their environment clean and dry, but occasionally mastitis occurs.  Especially in the summer months when warmer weather allows bacteria to grow and spread at a more rapid rate.  On average, we have a couple of cases of mastitis per month; some more or less severe than others.  Either way, it is no fun.  Last week, this gal was in rough shape and we were working extra hours to fight the infection and make her feel better.

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Luckily, we had antibiotics to help us.  We use antibiotics only when warranted and find them to be a great tool when it comes to a sick animal.  Antibiotics, plenty of fluids and a little TLC brought this cow back to health and I am happy to report that she is back to her old self!  Without antibiotics to fight the infection, I am not sure if this girl would have made it.

Do you have to worry about the antibiotics given to this cow invading your dairy products? Absolutely not.  When a cow is given antibiotics, she is identified with a colored leg band and her milk is discarded.  Her milk cannot and will not enter the general milk supply.  This is a mandatory practice on every dairy farm.   On our dairy farm, we identify cows treated with antibiotics by placing two pink leg bands around each hind leg and moving the cow into the hospital pen.  These leg bands signal to everyone on the farm that this cow must  be milked into a bucket so that the milk can be disposed.  The leg bands will stay on the  cow and her milk will continue to be dumped until her milk tests negative for antibiotics.  We sample the cow’s milk and test it using this handy, little contraption and special test strips.

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Now, what if someone makes a mistake?  What if someone has their head in their butt and milks the cow with the rest of the herd? You still don’t need to worry.  Every load of milk that leaves our dairy is tested for antibiotics when it reaches the creamery.  If the load tests positive for antibiotics, the ENTIRE load of milk will be disposed of and the farm will be out a lot of money.  No dairy farmer wants to lose thousands of dollars or produce an unsafe product, so farmers take antibiotics very seriously.  We use antibiotics when necessary and follow the label’s instructions.  Farmers use antibiotics to help sick animals, while still producing a safe, quality product. Farmers are extremely careful when it comes to cows, antibiotics and you.  Long story-short, all dairy products are safe and nutritious.  No matter what your choice is in the dairy case, know it is safe.

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6 thoughts on “Cows, Antibiotics, and You

  1. Pingback: Three Myths About Food & Farming | Modern-day Farm Chick

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