SUGARCREEK, Ohio — U.S. milk and dairy products have long been considered some of the safest, most wholesome foods available. But to maintain such a positive reputation, farmers and milk handlers need to give increased attention to how they medicate their animals and use modern technology.
That was part of the message at a Feb. 15 dairy information event sponsored by Sugarcreek Veterinary Clinic, Pfizer Animal Health and OSU Extension, on the importance of proper antibiotic use on livestock.
“At this point, we have a great trust by our customers. Almost anybody you ask on the street — milk is the most wholesome food we have,” said Pfizer veterinarian Gregory Edwards. “We need to keep that; we can’t risk that at all.”
“It’s very important that you follow the label when treating animals so that the residue potential is not going to be there for humans,” he said.
In addition to following the label, Edwards said producers should use medications only with a veterinarian’s guidance, administer all drugs properly and identify animals treated, maintain and use proper treatment records and promote proper drug use among farm workers.
He said the top sources of beef carcass residue are dairy cows that have been culled, and veal calves. The company’s literature says dairy cows are 400 times more likely than feedlot cattle to be flagged for a carcass residue.
Good records and employee training help ensure drugs are administered safely for the animals and our food supply.
“You need to make sure that they (farm workers) have training on how it has to be done; not what they think or what they want,” he said.
More than 150 attended the event, held in a banquet room at Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek. In the morning, Chris Zoller, Tuscarawas County OSU Extension educator, talked about the importance of dairy planning and management.
Jerry Lahmers, a farmer from Newcomerstown and a member of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, gave an update on new animal care rules.
Telling the truth
In the afternoon, featured speaker Greg Quakenbush, a Pfizer veterinarian, presented Truth and Agriculture — an entertaining look at what is true about agriculture, and what consumers believe.
Despite concerns about hormones in dairy milk, particularly estrogen, Quakenbush said milk is surprisingly healthier than many other foods. For instance, 3 ounces of milk non-BST contains the same amount of estrogen as milk from BST-enhanced cows — about 11 nanograms.
And, milk contains far less estrogen than popular vegetables, he said, and considerable less than soy milk, which contains 30,000 nanograms per cup. Beef contains 1.2 nanograms, and beef from cattle given implants contain 1.6 nanograms.
He estimated one birth control pill to contain the same amount of estrogen as 125,000 pounds of implanted beef.
“Our culture picks some of the dangedest things to get freaked out about,” he said.
But Quakenbush still stressed the importance of proper medication use, which determines the safety of milk and meat. He warned farmers about not following labels and veterinary recommendations.
“The most expensive thing you can do to yourself or to us as an industry is to try and save a nickel. … Don’t go out and trip any triggers over residues. It’s the last thing we need.”
Seek the truth
Quakenbush said the truth about agriculture is encouraging, but the public has been frightened by activists and so-called scientists and who do not understand truth.
“I believe science has been hijacked,” he said. “It’s overrun by pseudo-science.”
He encouraged farmers to become more critical thinkers and find the truth in arguments, not just the politically correct view.
“Find your ethical voice and begin to speak out because there’s a freight train coming of people who never even stepped in a cow pie — they have no concept,” he said.
Absolute truth does exist, he said, and in a world full of lies and misinformation, farmers should seek to defend truth as much as possible. It’s what should determine our ethics and morals, he said, and how farmers should run their business.