Dave McClellan
Dave McClellan

We are now approaching the first month of implementing the Veterinarian Feed Directive (VFD) and obviously there are still questions and issues arising.  The things I’ve heard as I make my client visits, attend industry meetings and interact with others in the Beef industry more often than not center around Aureomycin usage.  Common questions center around “Why can’t we do what we’ve been doing the way we’ve been doing it?”  Such as:

1.       “Why can’t I feed it with Rumensin in a TMR or top dress it?” It may not be fed in a TMR with Rumensin or top dressed on a Rumensin containing ration because there are no concomitant clearances for those two drugs to be used together.

2.       “Why can’t I use Aureo to treat a foot rot or pink eye outbreak?” Aureo’s label has never nor does it now include usages for these diseases.

3.       “Well, I’ll find a Vet who will write a VFD based on what I tell him and then I’ll do what I have always done!”

4.       “Aureo is legal in a TMR with Bovatec.”

There is a persistent attitude among some producers, and I fear among some veterinarians and nutritionists, that number three will be a good enough answer to all their questions.  I, like most of you, think not, but we know that most of us will get tested at least once. 

Why not practice unannounced or unscheduled visits to operations where you have been asked to provide a VFD or have one or more in place?  Your presence alone might go a long way in stopping the nonsense.  We as professionals need to visit with and instruct feed truck drivers, loader operators, and mill employees to avoid improper, illegal ingredient additions. 

I have several clients using micro-ingredient machines for the addition of Aureo, Deccox, Rumensin, Bovatec, MGA, trace minerals, vitamins, and eubotic packages.  The iterations of the receiving/starting Ration are now multiple:

·         Rumensin, vitamins, trace minerals and eubiotics.

·         Aureo, vitamins, and trace minerals.

·         Deccox, vitamins, trace minerals and eubiotics.

·         Vitamins, trace minerals, and eubiotics to be used as the situation with a particular set of cattle dictates. 

Where not having a micro machine doesn’t allow a small producer this flexibility, a separate starter supplement with no medication might be a way to gain easier use of Aureo when you need it. 

As stated in my last column I am very much in favor of exploring the use of eubiotics (pre and probiotics), enzymes, essential oils, organic acids, plant extracts, etc. to avoid or greatly reduce our need for antibiotic use in all stages of production.

As I interact with clients and suppliers it has become apparent to me that most of us are resistant to change.  I don’t think we fear it as much as we just don’t like to have to adapt, especially when in our opinion it doesn’t make sense or costs more.  Lately it seems that reading one’s emails or any industry or professional publication confronts us with consumer preferences for less or no antibiotic use. PETA, HSUS, GAP (Global Animal Practices), Whole Foods, Chipotle or some other entity, with their own agendas, are telling us how to raise animals.

The poultry and swine sectors of animal livestock have responded to all these outside factors much quicker than the beef sector, perhaps in large part due to the massive amount of vertical integration that exists there.  We all realize that the massive amount of time, land, and capital that would be required might never allow the beef sector to follow suit.

The most disturbing part of this consumer led (?) movement is that science doesn’t appear to matter unless it aligns with the bias of these outside influencers.  It need not be good science, bad science, or non-science as long as it aligns with the agenda.  Sounds like politics to me.

There is a strongly held opinion among Beef producers that we are the protein of choice and yet we see declining per capita consumption.  Exports are a critical part of our income stream, but what are we doing to enhance our access to foreign markets or increased domestic use? 

There is wailing and gnashing of teeth at now President Trump’s promise to dump TPP and renegotiate NAFTA. My understanding of TPP is that it would take several years to level the import tariffs on American goods, including beef, while American producers are forced to take less and quite possibly not survive.  My years in coaching taught me to learn from a loss, but repeating the same mistakes makes losing a habit and should get people fired, so why do we continue to negotiate from a position of weakness.  We can’t dictate but we can do a better job of negotiating a win-win instead of a lose-win.  Perhaps some agriculture people, who really are ag people, need to be at the forefront of some of these trade deals.

If the consumer wants a “Never Ever Three” GAP certified Rib Eye and is willing to pay $26 per lb. great, but how much of that flows back to the feeder or the cow man?   The required inspections, audits, record keeping, lost performance, etc. required to produce that steak are not free.  Niche programs are popping up almost daily, but few of them really reward the people doing the work for the same reasons as above.  Vertical integration carries the day for poultry and pork because if there is a dollar made it stays in the same pocket and isn’t chopped into multiple miniscule bits, not to mention the speed at which these two entities can respond to supply and demand fluctuations.

You are now wondering “What the heck is this guy carrying on about?” and what does it have to do with bovine veterinary medicine or ruminant nutrition?  Just this – we are resistant to change.  We’re unwilling to consider most change as we look first and foremost for the negatives in every new idea.  Why do we think we shouldn’t use fewer antibiotics, why can’t we balance the ration and read the bunk well enough to not need an antibiotic to lessen liver abscesses, or use another drug to suppress estrus? 

Maybe the answer to some of these is that’s our only option, but not always.  Are we trying to educate and expose our clients to other options and alternatives that might meet with greater consumer acceptance?  I fear that some of us are far more interested in our income stream and not opening ourselves up to questions like “Why do we do it this way Doc?”  It’s time for all of us “old dogs” to learn some new tricks.

The customers, domestic or foreign, are always right, and they’re telling us that we need to greatly reduce or eliminate antibiotic use.  Become a thinker, innovator, and questioner instead of embracing the status quo.  “Better Fed for Better Beef”, how about that for a new industry byline!