Antibiotics and Hormones. Does Wilderness Ranch Use Them?

Antibiotics and Hormones. Does Wilderness Ranch Use Them?

by Mark Erb January 20, 2020

Does Wilderness Ranch use them? What are our thoughts and practices? 

These are negative buzz words around meats these days, and rightfully so! The agriculture industry has changed so much in the last fifty years that we no longer eat the same quality of foods we did back then. Even much less only 100 years ago! With the advent of industrial agriculture, equipment getting much larger, automation and so on... now 1 farmer can look after hundreds, even thousands of animals! The days of the mixed spread of livestock are gone! In fact its not acceptable anymore to have differing species of animals mixed together! The main stream agriculture society has regulated this! Gone are the symbiotic relationships between species and the synergy that can create! 

Can you can see where this is going?

Many farmers, due to pressure to conform, and stay in the business of farming, (which they have done possibly for many many generations) are specializing there operations. To stay viable and support their family, and possibly get the next generation into the farm business, they now need to double or triple the size of their operation! This requires mass numbers of animals. To look after these mass numbers of animals, they are usually housed in large barns or large feedlots where management becomes much easier and mechanical intervention is at its peak. The down side to this is, when you place large numbers of animals in a concentrated area, they can get sick very easily. This is especially a problem in the beef industry where most calves are born on pasture, then when the are about 6-8 months old, they are usually placed in a feedlot for backgrounding and finishing.  

In Canada, most of the cows that produce the beef we consume are located in western provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In Ontario, we simply don't have enough cows to produce the number of calves required by farmers to fill their barns or feedlots. Thousands of calves each year are loaded on trucks and shipped to Ontario where there is lots of feed and farmers looking to feed these cattle to finished weight. Since these calves get trucked so far they are at a higher risk of getting sick. So, to protect their investment, many farmers will feed low-level antibiotics in the feed to keep them healthy. They will also give them antibiotics on arrival at the feed lot as preventative measures so they don't have an outbreak of disease that can be fatal for the animal and the farm business.  

Can you blame them? Not really, Their lively hood is invested in these calves and they can't afford to have them die! 

So What does Wilderness Ranch do different.....?

Well..... we do a lot of things differently. 

  1. First of all, We own all the mama cows that give birth to our calves. We truly go from start to finish! We are not purchasing calves that come from far flung places that are at higher risk of disease simply from the stress that long haul moving puts on them and moving from a dryer climate in the west to a much more humid and damp environment in Southern Ontario. Our cattle are climatized to our environment here and are immune to the local diseases that are borne by the wind. Because of this, they stay much healthier, eliminating the need for any antibiotics to stay healthy. 
  2. Our calves are born in May and June. They stay with their mother for 10 months benefiting from the cows immunity that they get every day from mama's milk. By the time they are 10 months of age, Mama has them weaned naturally. They are then separated from the cow so they don't interfere with the new calf that will be born in 2 months.
  3. At 12 months old, these calves are now yearlings and it is May again when the grass is turning nice and green. They are placed on our best pastures and moved daily to fresh grass! They will spend all summer grazing the choicest grasses and legumes that they can find. 
  4. In the fall (October-November) these yearlings are now ready to be harvested! They are around 950-1200 lbs live.
  5. Notice I never mentioned that they get placed in a feedlot! Our cattle are outside year round! They are never crowded into barns or feedlots! In the winter months we use wind breaks to stop the wind so they have shelter. Cows are ruminants and are very hardy animals. They have a rumen for good reason. Their rumen is what helps keep them warm on the cold winter days. The way the rumen works is like a big fermentation vat. Bacteria in the rumen breaks down the dried grasses and hay that we feed the cows all winter. This fermenting and digesting process is what keeps a ruminant warm all winter and gives them the unique ability to withstand frigid temperatures with ease! Ever wonder how deer and moose survive Canadian winters? It should be no surprise they are ruminants as well! They have the same biological structure as a cow! To read more on ruminants check out this link:
  6. Check out this article on CBC about cows, cold weather and their secret weapon to stay warm. Published Jan 16th 2020. 

You're probably wondering about our thoughts, opinions and use of Antibiotics and Added hormones? 

  1. We do not use any added hormones what so ever! There are naturally occurring hormones in every animal so it is not correct to say they are hormone free!
  2. As far as antibiotics go we do not feed low level antibiotics ever! 
  3. What do you do if an animal gets sick? Do you let it die? Absolutely not! We are not in the business of watching our animals suffer and die unduly! It is not humane to withhold treatment if we know how to help and can get a vet out to help as well. In the event that one of our animals gets sick beyond its capability of getting better, we will definitely give it the recommended medication to help it recover from what ever is ailing it! If need be, we will call our veterinarian to get professional advice or depending on the situation they will come out to look after our animal. 

Taking this all into consideration: With our management intensive grazing and our cattle being outside year round. We have little, to no disease! The problem begins when you crowd large animals like cows into confined areas and expect them to stay healthy. It simply doesn't work! Well, it does if you use enough antibiotics. 

At Wilderness Ranch we have tried to mimic nature and how the large herds of buffalo used to roam the west. With movement of animals across our pastures we have achieved much better grass, better soil health, and more importantly better animal health! 

To Recap:

  • Our cattle never leave the care of us here at Wilderness Ranch! They are born, raised and finished on grass 100% of there lives! This is our commitment to you!
  • We do not use any added hormones!
  • We will use an antibiotic or a drug only if it is needed. We will not let our animals suffer and die unduly!

If you have any further questions please contact us! We would be happy to answer your questions! Or check out our About video to learn more about us, and how we do things, on this tour around our ranch - move the cows and join in the fun in this video. Wilderness Ranch is a family run ranch were we do our best to take great care of our land and animals! We manage our grasslands with intensive grazing practices, mimicking the great herds of bison and elk that used to roam the land. Should you decide to order some of our Black Angus 100% Grass Fed and Grass Finished Beef, we are confident you will enjoy it. 



Mark Erb
Mark Erb


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