However, one thing I’ve noticed is: All responses share a couple of commonalities. It means we’re doing everything possible to care for the health and well-being of cattle. And it means we’re all working together to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics used in both humans and animals.

For example, here’s how I answer the question: Antibiotic stewardship is preserving antibiotics to help make sure the response we get today is the same response we’ll get in 10 years.

The good news: These are likely things you’re already doing.

  • You are working closely with your veterinarian

Working closely and regularly with your veterinarian will help you make the best decisions for the health and well-being of your animals and the responsible use of antibiotics. Veterinarians strive to prescribe antibiotics in a responsible way to not only help treat infections but also help reduce the unintended risk of antimicrobial resistance.

Your veterinarian can help you better understand the course of a disease, what solutions are needed to help manage the problem and the proper use of antibiotics and other medicines, including the route of administration and correct dose.


The relationships I see that are the most successful are where both parties take the time to learn about each other. Your veterinarian needs to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, the bigger picture, so they can make the recommendations that fit your goals.

This takes a lot of communication between the producer and the veterinarian. It takes observation. It takes consideration of records. Where are your cattle coming from? What management protocols do you follow when you get cattle?

So much of it is related to your individual operation, and an outside perspective helping oversee all of this is essential in continuing to responsibly care for cattle and the responsible use of antibiotics when needed.

  • You’re focused on health

Antibiotics are just one part of the equation for cattle health and well-being; they can be used to help control and treat a disease, but they work best as part of a sound management program. The earlier you intervene in a disease process, whether that’s a vaccine, a change in management practices, an antibiotic or other innovations, the better chance you have to impact the disease process in the first place.

The key is early identification of disease through use of records, your veterinarian’s advice and your own experiences. What are you doing the first day you own a calf to help prevent sickness? How have you dealt with cattle in the past?

What is the time frame for when you typically start seeing issues? These considerations can all help in intervening before or at the earliest sign of disease.

  • You are identifying and properly diagnosing animals that are sick or at risk of becoming sick

The most responsible way to use an antibiotic is to never need to use one. But you know that just like humans, and even with the best preventive care, animals can still get sick. With the right diagnosis, you are only using antibiotics when they are needed.

Are your cattle truly sick? Are your cattle at high risk for disease? Do you have a viral infection an antibiotic won’t treat? Your veterinarian can help determine the right diagnosis so you are treating animals that are sick or at risk with the right solution.

  • You’re using the right product for the right situation

When animals get sick, we have an obligation to help them regain health as quickly as possible. This is where a veterinarian’s recommendation for the right product for your situation is crucial. In the case of bovine respiratory disease, the more effective your first antibiotic is, the more likely you are going to see a positive response to treatment.

This means you’re likely going to reduce the need for additional antibiotic treatments. If you can get that animal back on pasture or into a pen and never have to treat it again, not only are you saving money by reducing your number of re-treats, you’re also not having to use an antibiotic over and over, and you’re not having to use another class of antibiotics. You’re being careful not to overuse resources, and that is a core pillar of responsible use.

  • Appropriate use and application of animal health products

You are already following strict regulations the FDA establishes for the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals. Keep collaborating and following the advice and asking questions of your veterinarian. Spend time and effort training people on the appropriate use and application of animal health products.

Using an antibiotic properly and according to the product label – the correct dose, route of administration, indications for the target pathogen and adhering to the proper withdrawal period – is key to controlling the spread of antibiotic resistance.

By continuing to do these things, the beef industry will maintain its commitment to become more efficient and sustainable. It also allows animal health companies to help provide new technologies, like genomics or implants, so you can continue to keep providing the best care for your animals.

Bottom line: The next time you hear words like “responsible use of antibiotics,” “antibiotic stewardship,” “preserving efficacy” or “decreasing antimicrobial resistance,” you know what to do. You just need to keep doing what you’re already doing right – partnering with your veterinarian, caring for your cattle and keeping cattle healthy.  end mark

Douglas Hilbig
  • Douglas Hilbig

  • Beef Technical Services
  • Zoetis

Balancing stewardship on an operation

“We’re not just cattle producers; we’re beef producers.”

This is what Brenda Paul, owner at Timberlawn Farm in Paris, Kentucky, keeps in mind as she makes most decisions on her operation.

“The nutritional decisions, the land-use decisions, the financial decisions, the health of our cattle – it’s all paramount to our success,” she says.

This includes decisions about the use of antibiotics.

“Antibiotic stewardship to me incorporates a lot of the same elements as any other type of stewardship, such as environmental stewardship or financial stewardship,” she says. “It’s prudently using your resources and responsibly making decisions.”

Paul has been using a team of veterinarians and nutritionists for years as her best resource to help her make decisions. This includes analyzing cattle as they arrive and working with a veterinarian who specializes in herd health. She spends a lot of time focusing on prevention of problems. She is rotating classes of product. She’s constantly evaluating what’s working and any changes they might need to make.

“We’re being very careful not to overuse antibiotics but to use them very judiciously and make prudent decisions on which ones to use.”

It’s a blend of a lot of different aspects, ideas and measurements.

“It’s all a balance,” she says. “We just need to balance what’s best for the animal, what’s best for the environment, what’s best for the business, what’s best for the consumer and make the best decisions we can.”