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Antibiotics In Cow-Calf Operations: Which, When, & Why?

There are a lot of different opinions regarding which antibiotics are best for treating common infections – for example, pneumonia and footrot.

There are a lot of different opinions regarding which antibiotics are best for treating common infections – for example, pneumonia and footrot. How can a cow-calf producer make the best decision about which product to use and when?

First, a brief clarification of terms: An antibiotic is a naturally-occurring drug that has the capacity to inhibit and/or kill bacteria. Antimicrobials possess the same capabilities, but this term includes not only naturally occurring drugs as well as synthetic drugs. I’ll use the latter term in the discussion below.

The most appropriate antimicrobial drug to use for any given situation is a very complex matter that will vary according to the animal, its value and intended use, the infection, and the stage of infection. Most importantly, even though a short list of causative bacteria can be defined for many common infections, the truth is, infections do appear to respond differently to different treatments on different premises. This likely reflects differences among premises in management and environment, as well as differences in the relative role that certain bacteria may play on different ranches. Simply put, what works well on Ranch A may not on Ranch B.

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