Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Our government has made an official announcement.  For the year 2009 we have used almost 29 million pounds of antibiotics in our animals.  Most of these animals wind up as food.  Therefore, my guess is that much of this antibiotic use has been run through our fellow Americans.  Which by the way, my grandchildren are part of that group as well.  For some, this seams to be of no consequence.  The many reasons why this is a disgrace is obvious to anyone with a conscience.  We have well over 1000 animals on the ranch.  I used an antibiotic one time this year, and the animal died anyway.  It was in the form of an injection.  Most of the usage referred to in the government announcement was in the form of an ionophore.  This is now a very common practice of feeding livestock an antibiotic in the solid form mixed in with their grain.  This solidified antibiotic is referred to as an ionophore.  Most all feed stores sell standard feeds with these ionophores.  Years ago, before I became concerned about who was eating my meats, I used these ionophores by the ton.

The use of these harmful drugs in masses comes about because of the way we choose to manage our livestock operations.  What I'm saying is we can stop this abusive, inconsiderate sloppy management practice of mass medication by simply improving our livestock management skills.  When I was using those old methods I thought it was necessary and that it was OK because many other ranchers used ionophores as well.  Using ionophores as a weight gain tool is unconscionable.  Even if you don't have a concern about who eats your meats once they leave your farm, this use of mass feeding antibiotics reduces its effectiveness.  This is because of resistance built up in the very bugs we fight.  This makes it even more difficult for those of us on the ranch who use antibiotics only conservatively to have a high degree of success.  I see this as a very selfish attitude.  I hope it is more of a lack of education.   


  1. Although we only feed grass/hay to our cattle & sheep and refuse to knowingly feed ionophores to any of our other animals, thanks for the post. We feel as you do. The use of these products is irresponsible and believe that one day it will be criminal.

  2. This kind of thing makes me nervous about the feed I have mixed at the feed mill for my dairy goats. I know they don't clean the large mixers before they put my order in to mix and bag it. There might be antibiotic residue left in the mixers from previous orders.

    As a requirement of the State Milk Board, I have to test the milk for antibiotics every day whether or not I have knowingly administered antibiotics. Now I'm wondering if the Delvo-P test can detect antibiotics in the form of ionophores. This is something I'll have to look further into. Thanks for the info.

  3. Mr. Holmes, I have spent a fair bit of time reading through your thoughts on food animal production practices. And I'll reiterate what I've said before, I think many of your concerns hold water. I strongly disagree with you on the ionophore issue. Ionophores are not absorbed by the animal, they stay in the gut. They work by poking holes in certain types of microbe cell walls. I tell you these things, because you have demonstrated in your post that you have no knowledge of ionophores other than that they are "dangerous chemicals". Ionophores have no human risk unless you eat them out of the bag. They make no siginficant contribution to antibiotic resistance and they prevent a great deal of animal suffering through their use. You are correct in saying that ionophores are used to improve feed efficiency, but I am going to assume that is not a priority to you. I would argue for their use in other areas, for example, you can prevent bloat in cattle during the spring when you turn you cows/calves out on lush green pastures. You can also prevent the damaging and extremely painful condition of coccidiosis using ionophores. I would like you to educate me, because I am not familiar with your system. How do you deal with parasites, pathogens, and other health related disasters. One of my biggest criticisms of folks who produce livestock as you do, is that your message is more important than you animals. You choose not to adulterate an animal with poisonous antibiotics ever, or until you have no other choice, then the animal gets to die a painful preventable death. Plenty of animals die in conventional agriculture systems, but I would argue that both sides need to meet in the middle. Can big producers work on improving their stockmanship to reduce the need for solutions in a bottle? Can you work to identify proper, safe uses of modern interventions that make the lives of your animals better? More food for thought.


I welcome your comments, questions and discussion!