Why do you have to use hormones in livestock care?

We had another great question come in to the blog from a reader:

Why do you have to use hormones in livestock care?

There is no law requiring farmers and ranchers to use hormones in livestock production. The choice is up to the producer. To better understand the choices being made to use hormones in livestock production, we need to understand what a hormone is and why it is being used.

Hormones are a chemical substance that is produced naturally in the bodies of all animals, including humans. (They are also found in plants.) These chemical substances are messages that are released into the blood by hormone-producing organs that travel to and affect different parts of the body.

Hormones may be produced in small amounts, but they control important body functions such as growth, development and reproduction.

There are two popular hormones in the world known as estrogen and testosterone. We know that higher levels of testosterone are found in males than in females. And the same can be said of estrogen, with higher levels found in females than in males. We also know that testosterone is what causes males to be more aggressive in nature than females.

In livestock production, males that are intact, not castrated, are harder to handle than those that have been castrated. This increases the time of handling these animals to insure the safety of the animal and the producer. Because of this fact, many producers decide to castrate their male animals to make them easier to handle and care for. Keep in mind that roughly 50 percent of a producer’s animal crop will be males. On our farm, that would be 200 bulls to deals with! No thanks!!

When a producer removes the major source of the growth hormone, testosterone, it needs to be replaced by another growth hormone. In most cases, the replacement hormone used is a form of estrogen. These are usually administered using an implant under the skin of the ear. These implants help the animal to grow faster, use less feed to do so, in a more efficient manner.

The use of hormones in livestock production is monitored by the Food and Drug Administration. The amount of hormones used at one time is limited. Producers also work with their veterinarian when choosing which hormones to use for the right reason and the animal. As a beef producer, I am confident in our product. We do our part to ensure a safe and satisfying meal, today and every day!

– Dustin Ladenburger, Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee member and Hitchcock County Farm Bureau member

Keep asking great questions! Our Nebraska farmers and ranchers look forward to explaining what they do every day to produce safe food for you and your family.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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