Good questions

“Thought provoking read, very interesting that even within your family opinion and emotions may differ. Could you inform us a bit more on the subject of the science of Ralgro and other such implants. Also, throughout your travels, are there any cattle yards that head and heal doctor in the pen with long lasting antibiotics in contrast to pulling to a sick pen? Always enjoy your opinion, thanks”

Lorne Hindbo asked the questions above.  I met Lorne at a ranch clinic in Red Deer Alberta a few years ago and enjoyed his philosophy and personality, and his stockmanship skills.  Thank you for two very important questions.

On the subject of roping and doctoring in the pen, yes some do it.  As some of you may know, I enjoy roping, and have worked hard at getting proficient at it.  I think it is more important to get the animal caught without overstressing the animal, and after it is roped, getting it on its side and restrained with out overstressing the animal, than throwing a fancy loop.  For my goals, the herd should also not get stirred up from the roping and doctoring.

In a pasture situation this can be accomplished in many ways, and the herd knows it can move out of the pressure so they get less stressed.

In a pen, if you create lots of pressure the animals can’t exscape the pressure so they get more stress and fear, so each time you doctor something it gets to be more stress. If weight gain is what you are after, it gets harder to settle the cattle and get them to gaining if they are fearful.

Safety becomes a factor in a feedlot pen when roping because of pen conditions. Proper veterinary practices and correct medications are also more difficult in the pen versus the hospital.

There are times and circumstances I feel that it’s a judgement call.  One example is if you have a mud hole that is impossible to get an animal out of at the gate, you would stir the sick animal and the pen up more than roping it.

This is why we need to have protocols and define our goals.  The opportunity to rope may be more important than monetary profit on some operations and then that would change the situation.  Every circumstance is different and the more skills we have, the better we will be at dealing with each circumstance.

I feel the most valuable stockman are the ones that can “get er done” but always do it with the least amount of stress possible and as safely as possible.

As for the Implant science question, I think this article explains it very well.  (My wife still won’t agree)


The facts about hormones and beef
By Oklahoma State University September 10, 2012

Questions exist in the public sector regarding the safety of consuming hormone implanted beef. In short, the use of supplemental hormones in beef production has been scientifically proven as safe for consumers and is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For those still in question, let’s further examine the science supporting these facts.

Hormones are products of living cells naturally found in both plants and animals that often stimulate cellular activity. There are six hormones approved for use in beef production. Three are natural hormones (testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone) and three are chemically similar synthetic hormones (melengestrol acetate, trenbolone acetate and zeranol).

Growth hormones in beef are primarily administered using a small pelleted implant that is placed under the skin on the back of the ear. The implants are designed to release the hormone slowly over time into the bloodstream. This ensures that hormone concentrations remain constant and low. Since the ear is discarded at harvest, the implant does not enter the food chain. Implants work by increasing the amount of growth regulating hormones, which are naturally produced by the animal. This, in turn, increases feed efficiency, protein deposition and growth rate. Implanted calves usually result in a 10-20% increase in average daily gain (growth rate) compared to non-implanted calves. Moreover, because of the increased feed efficiency, less feed is required which decreases production costs by 5-10%.

Since implant doses are low, the use of implants in cattle has very little impact on hormone levels in beef. Table 1 illustrates that 500 grams (~ 1 lb) of beef from an implanted steer contains approximately 7 nanograms of estrogen compared to 5 nanograms of estrogen from non-implanted beef. Furthermore, there are many common foods that are naturally much higher in estrogen than implanted beef. For example, 500 grams of tofu contains 16,214,285 times the amount of estrogen compared to the same amount of implanted beef. To gain additional perspective on the minuteness of these measurements, nanograms are equivalent to1 billionth of a gram. One gram is roughly equal in weight to 1 small paper clip. If we were to divide the same paper clip into 1 billion tiny pieces, one of those tiny pieces would equal 1 nanogram.


a Nanograms of estrogen per 500 grams of food.

Some consumers question whether consuming beef implanted with hormones can cause cancer or early puberty in children. Hormone implanted beef has never been implicated with adverse health effects in humans. However, height, weight, diet, exercise and family history have been found to influence age of puberty. Furthermore, the amount consumed in implanted beef is negligible compared to the amount the human body produces each day (Table 2).


Regarding potential environmental concerns associated with growth hormones, the FDA has determined that the use of natural hormones in beef does not pose a risk to the environment as the amounts administered to calves are much lower than amounts naturally produced by adult cattle. Regarding synthetic hormones, extensive environmental risk studies have been conducted and the FDA has determined that the use of these hormones will not significantly impact the environment.

Most of the beef produced in the US spend most of their lives in a pasture and are then finished in a feedlot where they are given a grain fed diet. Beef that are finished in a feedlot with the aid of growth hormones require less total land mass, less feed crops and create fewer greenhouse gasses per pound of beef produced compared to non growth hormone pasture based finishing systems.

Consumers that prefer to purchase naturally produced or organic beef raised without growth hormones, should be prepared to pay a premium. Implanted beef reduce the cost and resources required in beef production and that results in lower costs that are passed on to the consumer.


Loy, D., 2011. Understanding hormone use in beef cattle Q&A. Iowa State University Extension. Available at: