The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Antibiotics Are A Necessary Tool

Antibiotics Are A Necessary Tool

From the Farmer's Tractor

March 26, 2015

by guest columnist Katie Sawyer

I am first and foremost a mother. My two-year-old son is the light of my life and the center of my attention. I would do anything for him and do everything I can to keep him happy and healthy.

That same attitude extends to our farm animals. Right now we have multiple calves born on our farm every day. Our mother calves began delivering their calves in early January with the hopes that all 2015 calves are born by the end of March. 

Because we calve during cold, wet weather, we pay close attention to all of our mothers and babies – checking on them around the clock and taking extra steps to help newborns get on their feet and follow their mothers. 

But, if we find a calf that is lethargic or showing signs of illness – lowered ears and diarrhea are common symptoms – we will step in and help. We care first and foremost for the health of our animals. 

Some consumers want to deprive ranchers the ability to use antibiotics in their animals. That would basically mean we would have to watch our sick calves die from regular and treatable conditions. That’s not humane and certainly doesn’t make us good stewards of our animals and industry. 

Over the years we have added several preventative measures to keep sickness and infection at bay. That includes more open-space calving – meaning we will let the mothers deliver their babies in the open pasture instead of keeping them in the barn to deliver. We also treat sick calves with electrolytes to re-energize the body and have purchased several warming stations to help cold calves restore their normal body temperature and re-gain their strength. But sometimes antibiotics are the only tool to solve an illness and when necessary, we do not hesitate to step in and help our calves back to full health.

Many of the antibiotics we use on our farm are not “shared-use” drugs, meaning they are not prescribed to humans. In fact, industry-wide, nearly three-fourths of all antibiotics used in animals are never or rarely used in humans. 

We use the highest level of prudence and care when nursing calves back to health. Antibiotics are an important and necessary tool in maintaining a healthy and productive herd. 

Katie Sawyer and her husband, Derek, farm and raise cattle outside McPherson, Kan. Katie works full-time off the farm but advocates for her farm and the agriculture industry. She is a member of CommonGround Kansas, Kansas Farm Bureau and is the host of That’s My Farm, which airs each Friday as part of Ag Am in Kansas. Follow her at and on Twitter and Tumblr at @SawyerFarm.