First, keeping cows healthy and selling wholesome milk are primary goals of all dairy producers.

Secondly, some breeds of dairy cows are healthier on average than other breeds and are great for crossbreeding.

When are antibiotics used?
Here’s some straight talk from a Dairy Vet, Dr. Fred Gingrich on how antibiotics are used. Click here for his 1:47 minute video on this subject.

• “Appropriate antibiotic use does not mean don’t use antibiotics. It means if a cow is sick and needs antibiotics, we give it to her.”
• Why? – – “We make a choice to use an antibiotic on a cow if she has an infectious disease that will respond to that antibiotic, just like a doctor does with their human patient.”
• Who? – – “Sometimes the veterinarian makes that decision and sometimes the dairy farmer makes that decision based on the training and the treatment protocols that the veterinarian has established for him.”
• “We want to decrease the likelihood that anything we are doing causes resistance to antibiotics, because we want the antibiotics to work on our patients, too.”

Is milk free from antibiotics?
Krista Stauffer, as a mother and farmer, answers this in her July 7, 2017 blog” The Farmer’s Wife” that “Food Safety Starts on Our Farm.”

Our milk is picked up every day on the farm… The milk truck driver takes a sample of our milk prior to loading the milk on the truck (with the milk from other farms).

At the plant, the entire truck of milk is tested for antibiotics prior to entering the plant. If the truck tests negative (no antibiotics detected), the milk is unloaded to become awesome dairy products in the local grocery store. If the test comes back positive, the entire truck full of milk has to be disposed of. It never enters the plant.

The milk samples taken at the farms are sent to the lab to be tested for overall quality, components and antibiotics. This test will also be used if a truck of milk tests positive and that farm will have to pay for all the milk damaged (positive for antibiotics) as well as face possible fines.” A $10,000 mistake!*

What does this have to do with crossbreeding? A lot or nothing depending on the breed chosen as a complementary breed that a farmer uses for crossbreeding. A significantly healthier breed can infuse health benefits not seen for decades by purebred breeders and this results in less antibiotic usage. There are significant hybrid vigor gains for health traits, too.

Here are some facts from Dr. Bjorg Heringstad about the decrease in use of antibiotics in the Norwegian Red breed in Norway in “Norwegians are well ahead of the field in antibiotic resistance“:

• The number of veterinary treatments per cow has more than halved in the past 25 years due to a targeted approach to genetic selection for health (and fertility) within the Norwegian Red breed (95% of dairy cows in Norway) combined with the establishment of a national dairy cattle health database.
• Over the same period the average number of cases of clinical mastitis per cow per year has dropped from 0.35 and now stands at (breed average) 0.15 cases/cow/year.
• A considerable part of the reduction in veterinary treatments is due to genetic improvement. Today’s Norwegian Red cows are healthier and have better genes for disease resistance than the cows did 25 years ago.
• The national herd average somatic cell count is running at 127,000 cells/ml.

“The Norwegian Red breed has shown what can be achieved in the quest for healthy cows and I firmly believe that selection for improved health holds the key to reducing the use of antibiotics,” Dr. Heringstad points out. “The benefits from breeding are permanent, cumulative and a long-term solution.”

A Millennial’s viewpoint
Paul Keener overcame an almost insurmountable challenge in today’s economy – – he started his own 580-cow dairy in Ohio from scratch. His number one priority: “The most important thing about running this farm is keeping the cow healthy. Everything we do here on the farm is to take care of the cow and in return the cow will take care of us.” Here is his story in a 1:52 minute video.

Taking care of cows includes appropriate and prudent use of antibiotics. Maybe a serious look at crossbreeding with the Norwegian Red is in order, too.

View the online sire catalog for Norwegian Red bulls available internationally. These bulls have breeding values** for multiple health traits including Udder Health (includes Cell Count and Resistance to Clinical Mastitis), Resistance to Diseases Other than Mastitis*** and Claw Health that allow producers to key in on specific health traits needing improvement.

*How Milk is Tested for Antibiotics, DairyGood, May 20, 2014.
**Relative breeding values (BV) where breed average is 100, 110+ indicates a bull is in the top 16% for a trait and 120+ indicates a bull is in the top 3% for a trait.
***The trait Other Disease Resistance (or Resistance to Diseases Other than Mastitis) includes ketosis, milk fever, retained placenta, cystic ovaries, metritis and silent heat.


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