Management Over Medication Field Day - Stewardship of Antibiotics and Animal Health on a Michigan Dairy Farm
October 26, 2021
Hi, I'm Phil Durst with Michigan State University Extension. Hi, I'm Ciarra LaHuis, I study cows in the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State. And we're here, with Jack Jeppson, with partners of Black Lucas farms. Jack, ah, it's great to be here with you. Thanks a lot for having us out. Tell us a little bit about the dairy operation you have here. Our dairy operation was started in 1923 by our grandparents. I'm in a partnership now with my brother, it's a limited liability company and we're milking about 240 through the parlor every day. We've got close to 30 or 40 dry animals. And then we also have our young stock. We're running probably close to 220 young stock, from baby calves all the way to breed heifers. So if I did the math right, that's about 500 head of cattle on the farm? Yep, and 500 head of cattle that that that you want to keep healthy. Correct, Yeah, we we put a lot of effort into keeping our animals healthy in different different ways of doing it. So you put a lot of effort into keeping your cattle healthy. In a lot of different ways. Lets just talk about some of those ways. What are what are some things that you do specifically for animal well-being and health? Sure. We have several different fields that we look at. Ventilation is one in the summertime and in the wintertime you want to keep their flowing with them. Hense the fans right here, that we shut off for the video, right. Yep, yep, Right. Yeah. Barnes have curtains on them. We open the curtains up as much as we can to keep the ventilation and the air flowing. The sanitary, we try to keep the stalls as clean as we can and I'm sure, you know, we could do better, but we do the best we can with the manpower we've got. Nutrition is a big thing. Let me just fall back, just for a minute on the ventilation and the stalls, and the sanitation, because we know that there's bacteria that, and viruses that do get, that are environmental and, and some of them are even in the air. So ventilation is moving outside air in, inside air out to get those bacteria out of here. Dryness and cleanliness obviously reduces the life of bacteria. And so those things really keep animals healthier because it's getting bacteria away from them and therefore lowering the exposure. Right. Yep, yep. Yep and some of the the lactating animals, we bed on sand, which is a non-organic bedding, which organisms can't live that well and in that kind of an environment. So again its about reducing exposure, even in choice a bedding. So then I interrupted you at nutrition. You'll talked about that yet. Nutrition, we feel that you've got to have a good balanced diet for your animals to keep them healthy. We work really close with our nutritionist. She comes maybe once every two weeks, looks at the feed. We keep feed samples up to date and balance, a good balance diet through our nutritionist. Yeah. In speaking in terms of nutrition, and with your nutritionist coming, would you say that you work with a large team to help you know, improve overall health? Yeah, good question. Actually, today we are having our, I call it our consulting team. Our nutritionist is involved, are veterinarian is involved. We have some agronomist people. Phil usually comes. We've got grad students and things like that that come. So yeah, we've got a really good team of professionals that we deal with. And what we do at those meetings is we, we talked about the progress of the operation. We look for ways the operation could improve. And we identify things that are going well and things that maybe aren't going as well as possible and lay out a course of action. Right. Yeah, and another thing, well maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here a little bit, but we've talked about different fields that we use for health of the animal. This last spring, we made an investment on the, on our dairy, with a program called cow manager. And some of the animals have orange tags in their ears and they're transmitters. And we've got a mode on that transmitter that is a health mode. Okay. So if a cow is starting to get sick, It will relay a message to our phones. Then we need to go out and then track that animal down and see just what her problem is. Right and the way that's doing it is, it's by monitor monitoring her behavior, monitoring her rumination. It's it's saying this animal is not normal and her behavior not normal, rumination and therefore she may, she may be sick, I think monitors her temperature too. Right. Yep, yep. Yeah. So it's a great way to pick up disease problems early. And as you say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yeah, absolutely. So what we want, what you do here on the farm is, is a lot of the ounces of prevention. Right. You pile on the prevention. Because that's worth a whole lot more than just coming back and trying to cure things. Yep, And if the animals aren't healthy, that affects our bottom line tremendously because right now the margin and dairy is very tight. And so you want to keep your animals good and healthy, so you don't have to buy into antibiotics, which there is a place for antibiotics on every farm. If you can't keep them healthy with your nutrition and all your other practices, then you have to refer back to an antibiotic. Right. So the first, the first course of action for health is of course all the prevention stuff we do, you got good management of taking care of the animal and the environment the animals in and reduce exposure to pathogens. But at times in any population of individuals, whether it's humans or whether it's animals, individuals get sick. Correct. And, and when an animal is sick? Well. We talked about detection, early detection that's really important. And when an animal is sick, you can do nothing or you can, you can do something. Right. And we don't use, our philosophy is that we don't use anymore antibiotics, anymore drugs then we absolutely have to to keep our animals going in the best health that they can and it's just added cost, and with the, the profit margins were there at, you just can't spend the money foolishly. So you have setup with your veterinarian, a plan for dealing with sick animals. Right. We've got a game plan with our vet, on different ways to go about treating animals, and what kind of drugs to use and such as that. Yep, and that relationship with your vet is, is really an important relationship. We call that the, the the VCPR, the veterinary client patient relationship. And that's something that you really do a lot with here. Yeah. You have a really good relationship with your veterinarian and she's very familiar with your with your management and their recommendations are are tailored to your operation. Yeah. Yeah. We've got the owner of the clinic and then two of her co-workers or her workers, we're real close with them. They actually come out every week. We do our herd health every week. They check the animals, look them over. Check for pregnancies and in such as that and if they need to have some treatments, then we go ahead and treat them. And she joins us here at these consulting meetings to, to meet with the overall team and discuss overall welfare of the animal. Right. We have, our vet is real good at looking over our records along with the rest of our team and they crunch numbers and we find out where we gotta do better at. And I think that's an important point to bring up is that records is a part of management. And you use your records not just, you just don't keep records, but you use your records, you look at, has the animal been treated before? You look at, you know, what what sickness the animal has had and what have we done in the past to the animal. And so as your veterinarian sits down and looks over your records and consults with you, those records become a management tool as well. Right. Yeah. And, you know, other areas that we look at too , for the herd health is we have a hoof trimmer that comes once a month to make sure the animals I have good feet underneath them. If they don't have good feet to be up on to eat, to go through the parlor, they're usually laying down and if they're laying down they're not eating what they should be. And then they can turn sick that way. So a lot of things that you do to, to to keep animals well. When you use antibiotics, what are the safeguards that would keep that antibiotic from ever getting into the milk? Real good question. If we treat an animal that's lactating, usually we put leg bands on them. So whoever is milking can actually see the animal that's been treated and her milk will be discarded, goes down the drain, doesn't get anywhere near the, the tank, the actual milk that's sold. And then after the withdrawal period from the, the antibiotic, we usually test the animal individually and she has to clear the test on the farm before her milk goes into the tank. Once the milks in the tank, every day the milk truck picks the milk up, take samples, and then they go to the dairy. And when when the truck gets to the dairy, the truck is sampled. As long as the truck is good with no antibiotic showing, than the milk is processed for the consumer. If the truck is tested positive for antibiotic, then they go back to each one of the individual samples from the farm and then they find out who the person is that contaminated the truck. But we've in the past we have um. Every farm is not perfect and we're one of them. We have had a sample of the tank that we felt was positive antibiotic. Because there was a cow that was misidentified or they got in the group and she milked into the tank. And nobody caught it in time. Correct. Until she was milked into the tank. Correct. In that instance, we have our milk co-op, they come out and take a sample of the tank, and if it is positive tank, then we usually dump that milk down the drain and it gets nowhere near the, the milk that goes to the consumer. So you go to great lengths. I mean, dumping a tank load of milk down the drain is not something that we want to do. No, No it's not. But it's, it's so important that we ensure that the milk supply is is wholesome and antibiotic-free that your willing to do that. This the milk on our farm, I would drink it before it would go to the consumer any day. It's, it's the most pure product that you can get. So consumers can have confidence that that there's not going to be antibiotics in the milk. And the antibiotics are used responsibly. I think that's one of the things that consumers that have really shifted now to say, okay, we believe the milk is safe, but are the antibiotics being use responsibly on the farm? And your response to that would? Sure. You know our vet prescribes certain drugs and she puts confidence in us to use them the way she's prescribed them. You know and if something happens and we don't and we get caught and then, you know, we have a consequence to pay, but no, we're responsible for drugs that we get. So when we talk about stewardship of antibiotics of steward, we talk about stewardship. And I came out and I say are we being good stewards of the antibiotics and you tell me Yes. But also we're being good stewards of the cows to. Yeah. How does that plan out? You can see our animals behind us. Some of them are pets. We've sold some animals before that, they went out the driveway and my gosh, I didn't think it would ever bother me to see one of them go down the road. And when she went out the driveway, it's kinda like, wow, that was pet that just went down the road so, you know, as baby calves, you treat them good and usually they turn into pets once they get older. Yeah. And you know its obviously it's important that that calves being, that we be good stewards of antibiotics and calves as well too. And first of all, again, we go back to the prevention part because prevention is critical. And we were just looking at the calves in the hutches and that's, that's great environment for violation standpoint. They're fed well, there on a higher plan of nutrition so that they again have the ability to fight off disease. And we know that, that sometimes calves get sick, but you know, it's been a good steward of antibiotics and yet being a good steward of the animals as well. Right, Yeah. That's a that's a good good point. When the new baby calves are born. There's three things that we do to them as soon as possible. Actually, I guess there's four. We dip their navels with the iodine solution. They get an injection of a, I guess it's called Bo-Se It's selenium and selenium, yeah. And then they get a bolus of another type of stimulate for their, their immune system in like that. And then they actually, as soon as we can, we get colostrum or a colostrum substitute into them, to get, to get them up and going as fast as we can because colostrum has antibodies that the mom was carrying And then we get those into the calf right away and that's just a great way to protect the calves health. So we need to try to get it into them within four hours of birth because they don't get the total benefit from the, the immune, the immune globulins. They're I screwed that up, didn't I? Immunoglobulin. There you go. Yeah. That but yeah. So we take good pride in our calves. We take as much good care of them as we can. So what I'm hearing is, is that you as represented the dairy industry today. Because we're talking about other farmers as well to. That management is so important in health and the health is a cornerstone of the dairy. Right. You know, it's, it's, just a critical aspect. Antibiotics or tool that we use. But they're used in a, in a way that is, is responsible and judicious and certainly not overused because that just doesn't make any sense from anybody's point of view. And the antibiotics is one of the last sources that we want to use just because of the costs and such. But if it gets to the point where we do treat the animal and the animal ends up doesn't make it if the animal does die. A lot of times we go to Michigan State University to actually see what the disease or what the culprit was of them dying and we work close with MSU. Actually our dairy farm right now is in a couple studies that they're pretty in-depth studies. The one has been going on for about 5, 6 years, something like that. We just started a couple new ones this last year. So you're involved in health-related research, animal health research And that's great. It's a great way to learn, Its great way to be able to have more information to managed with. And I feel that whatever we can do here on our farm will help the whole dairy industry as a whole. You know, that's, that's what we're here for is to help everyone else out in the dairy industry. Yeah, One of the things I really appreciate about the dairy industry is a sense of community. The farmers are part of a community of farmers and they, they feel the link to each other and their responsibility, if you will, to each other as well. Jack. Thank you very much. It's been great talking with you and looked forward to meeting you this afternoon. Thank you.