For those of you following the saga that is George the cow, I wanted to update you and let you know little George has passed away. He was very weak from day one after being abandoned by his mom and the odds were stacked against him. Despite our best efforts he has now passed on.
There are some misconceptions about "no antibiotic" grassfed farmers. Lots of farmers think that we simply let our cows die of preventable diseases if they get sick. This simply isn't the case. In the rare instance that our veterinarian recommends antibiotics for a sick cow, we administer them once isolating that cow from others. We are not going to allow an animal to suffer unnecessarily! Rest assured, however, that cows that we administer antibiotics to are not sold direct to consumer as antibiotic free. We remove that cow from our herd, but only once it is healthy. This has actually only happened to us once, and George is the only calf we have ever lost even after giving antibiotics so it was sad.
Why are antibiotics bad for cows? The answer is the commercial beef industry is using antibiotics inappropriately. Cows in feed lots are given high doses of prophylactic antibiotics because the living conditions are cramped and the type of high protein grain feed they are given to make them gain weight faster disrupts their immune system and can release bacteria into the bloodstream. This bacteria can cause liver abscesses in the cows--hence the antibiotics. A cow with a liver abscess doesn't gain weight well, which doesn't bode well for a farmer trying to grow cows quick.
Also, the antibiotic most commonly used in cows this way, called "tylosin", is basically erythromycin---an antibiotic that is used in humans. Antibiotic overuse in livestock could cause antibiotic resistant super bugs that antibiotics can't kill--bugs that could infect humans (see image from CDC below). That is a potential public health risk.
There is a lot of pressure on the beef industry to stop using tylosin, but that would cost millions. Most people don't understand where their food comes from. Until the consumer takes the time to learn and the demand for natural beef goes up, things won't change. We believe there is a better way, and we are living that dream with our farm.
We are so blessed to be able to raise our cows the way we do--where they have time to eat and fatten up safely on our pastures. A happy cow is a delicious steak (I need to trademark that).