By Robert Cohen
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Posted: 05 June 2004

Since we're in the first week of National Dairy Month, it's time we give credit to that industry which brings us pus, hormones, glue, pesticides, and antibiotics. Is June National Antibiotics Month too?

Turn back the clock 45 years for evidence that things have not changed with cows or milk, as we travel back in time with an old issue of Hoard's Dairyman, the national dairy farmers magazine.

In June of 1959, I was counting the days, looking forward to school's end and the start of summer vacation. The front cover of the June 25, 1959 issue of Hoard's has an imprinted map of the United States announcing "June is Dairy Month." This milk promotion program has been going on for a long time!

While America was being conned by milk ads, what truths were dairy insiders reading?

Opening the front cover of the June 25, 1959 issue, the reader finds a full page ad for:

"The NEW Teramycin for mastitis" treatment.

The ad copy reveals that the NEW Pfizer drug controls ten or more kinds of mastitis germs causing infections. Infections? Germs? If only Americans knew what was going on with those udders in 1959. Four decades later, most milk consumers are still in the dark. In 2004, the cost of mastitis control per cow will exceed $200 per year. That's over $2 billion dollars of drugs in their bodies and yours.

The inside rear cover of the 1959 issue of Hoard's contains a full page ad for what's marketed as a "hidden drug treatment," American Cyanamid's Aureomycin, an antibiotic that was once placed in animal feed. The ad copy lets dairymen know:

"Grass alone can't give your cows all the food values they need for sustained high production. When you're feeding cows... an effective antibiotic in the ration becomes more urgent."

Cows were fed antibiotics for generations, and few people outside of the industry knew. Little boys and girls, myself included, were fed these same antibiotics, day after day.

Here's an appropriate June quote by which dairy farmers can celebrate their special month. The following appeared in the June, 1999 issue of a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Food Protein (Volume 62):

"The administration of subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics to livestock introduces selective pressures that may lead to the emergence and dissemination of resistant bacteria. The present findings clearly demonstrate that antibiotic-resistant bacteria in beef and milk pose a serious problem."

Today, little boys and girls cannot be treated for infections because antibiotics no longer work. Doctors are blamed for oversubscribing medicines. This is plain nonsense. New strains of germs grew within cows and developed immunities to antibiotics. If one takes antibiotics every day, and drinks antibiotic-laced milk containing germs with immunities, one will gain nothing by taking those same antibiotics to treat human infection.

The cover pictures a herd of cows, later identified as a 60-cow champion herd averaging 9,557 pounds of milk per animal. That averages out to 12.4 quarts of milk per cow per day. In 1959, the average cow produced just 8 quarts of milk each day. Today, the average milk production per animal is 24.5 quarts.

Some things have changed. Others remain the same. Got antibiotics?

Happy National Dairy Antibiotic Month.

Robert Cohen