Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2005


Published for the Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XIX December 6, 7 and 8, 2005, Rapid City, South Dakota.


Significant premiums can be realized in producing and marketing cattle through natural beef programs. However, if not executed with caution, the premiums can be quickly replaced with losses. “Natural” has been one of the hottest buzz words in feeder cattle sales over the last several years. The challenge is to make sure that everyone defines the term “natural” the same way. The “never-ever” programs seem to have been adapted as the industry’s gold standard. This standard requires natural cattle to “never-ever” have been given antibiotics or hormones of any kind from birth to harvest. Thus if you treat a calf for scours with an antibiotic, that calf cannot be represented as “natural”. It’s important to note that for most natural beef programs products such as Rumensin® and Bovatec® are considered antibiotics while MGA is also disallowed since it is a hormone. Remember, VACCINES ARE NOT ANTIBIOTICS and have a significant negative impact on the value of natural cattle if NOT used. Any producer has the ability to produce and market natural cattle. The key element that has kept a vast number of ranches from participating in the natural market is their failure to identify and record calves that have been treated with antibiotics due to sickness within a group of otherwise “naturally” managed cattle. This unique identity can be anything such as an ear mark, special tag, tag #; etc, along as treated cattle and natural cattle can be identified and separated for market differentiation. Many ranches already choose not to implant their calves but then fail to identify and record the calves they have treated with therapeutic antibiotics. In these cases, simple record keeping would allow the ranch to access the natural market with their calves. But, what is the ranch giving up if they quit implanting? You will get multiple answers for many different reasons, however the most common answers is “I don’t know for sure”. Everybody will say “pounds” but not many will know how many pounds for their specific operation.