In 1962 feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more accounted for 40 percent of fed cattle marketings, while in 1978 lots of this size marketed 68 percent of the fed cattle (USDA 1979a). Due to the economics of feeding, increases in concentrations can be expected, but at a slower rate. As concentrations of feedlot cattle have increased, there has been increasing need for improved management and management systems.

Penicillin is not used in cattle feeding in the United States. However, the continuous low-level use of other antibiotics in cattle feeding is regional. In the more arid areas of the Southwest, there is no response to antibiotics as growth promotants, and therefore, they are not continuously fed. This lack of response appears to be related to climate. In the remainder of the feeding areas, low-level continuous feeding of antibiotics is routine. An estimated 50 to 60 percent of feedlot cattle are fed low-level antibiotics during the feeding period and a total of 40 percent of the total beef supply has been fed low-level antibiotics (USDA 1979b) Antibiotics are medicines that are given to people and animals to treat or prevent certain illnesses caused by bacteria.  Antibiotics either kill or hinder the growth of harmful bacteria in animals and people.


Antibiotics are given to animals that are sick, in order to help relieve the pain and distress due to the illness, help the animal feel better, and recover.  Antibiotics may also be given to animals that are in danger of becoming sick in order to prevent the illness or infection from happening in the first place.  Just like in people, however, antibiotics do not have any effect on diseases of animals that are caused by viruses or parasites, or other germs besides bacteria.  Some antibiotics, for reasons that aren’t totally understood, help cattle grow faster and get more out of the feed they eat.  These medicines are used at lower concentrations than when they are used to treat illness, and typically are included in the food that cattle eat.  The decision whether to use such products for this use (or any other reason) rests with the individual cattle raiser.  Not all of them choose to use antibiotics in this manner.  

Features of Antibiotics For Cattle

Antibiotics have been used in animal feed for about 50 years ever since the discovery not only as an anti-microbial agent, but also as a growth-promoting agent and improvement in performance. Tetracyclines, penicillin, streptomycin and bactrican soon began to be common additives in feed for livestock and poultry. Currently, the following antibiotics are used in livestock and poultry feed: chlortetracycline, procaine penicillin, oxytetracycline, tylosin, bacitracin, neomycin sulfate, streptomycin, erythromycin, linomycin, oleandomycin, virginamycin, and bambermycins. In addition to these antibiotics, which are of microbial origin, there are other chemically synthesized antimicrobial agents that are also sometimes used in animal feeds.

These include three major classes of compounds: arsenical, nito-furan, and sulfa compounds. Arsenical compounds include arsanilic acid, 3-nitro-4-hydroxy phenylarsonic acid, and sodium arsanilate; nitro-furan compounds include furazolidone and nitro-furazone; sulfamethazine, sulfathiazole, and sulfaquinoxaline. Other chemicals are also used as antiprotozoal agents to prevent coccidiosis and histomaniasis in chickens and turkeys. Antibiotics are used regularly in animal feed at a rate of 2 to 50 grams per ton for improved performance in the animals. The reasons include a more efficient conversion of feed to animal products, an increased growth rate and a lower morbidity/mortality rate in general. The levels of antibiotics are often increased to 50-200 grams/ton or more when specific diseases are being targeted as when the spread of a particular disease is rampant. The levels are also increased in times of stress. This increased amount is often decreased when the threat of a disease is gone.

Uses/benefits of Antibiotics For Cattle

The benefits of antibiotics in animal feed include increasing efficiency and growth rate, treating clinically sick animals and preventing or reducing the incidence of infectious disease. By far the major use of antibiotics among these, however, is increased efficiency, i.e. a more efficient conversion of feed to animal products, and an improved growth rate. In chicken feed, for example, tetracycline and penicillin show substantial improvement in egg production, feed efficiency and hatchability, but no significant effect on mortality. Chlorotetracycline, oxytetracyclin and penicillin also show an improved growth rate, but little effect on mortality. Antibiotics in animal feed, in general, are used regularly for increased efficiency and growth rate than to combat specific diseases.

Prices of Antibiotics For Cattle

$28.22 –  $398.95

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