Carefully follow and understand label directions

Farm Forum

Reading and understanding product labeling is vital for taking care of your cattle and protecting dairy wellness. Labels explain what the products are supposed to do, how to use them and which animals are approved for their use. Extra-label drug use, except under the direction of a veterinarian, is not only prohibited but also a major contributor to drug residue violations.

“The labeling of products contains usage and safety information, and it’s important producers strictly adhere to the labeled instructions when they are treating cattle,” said Gary Neubauer, DVM, senior manager, Dairy Technical Services, Zoetis. “Some products are approved for use only in nonlactating dairy cattle, which means they cannot be used in females over 20 months of age, including dry cows. Understanding these label classifications is part of avoiding residue violations.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) offers these definitions:

Nonlactating dairy cattle: These classes of dairy cattle have not yet, or would never, produce milk for human consumption. This includes replacement dairy heifers and calves under 20 months of age and dairy bulls. The term nonlactating dairy cattle does not include dry dairy cows. Dry dairy cows have previously produced milk for human consumption and will again in the future after completion of the dry period between lactations.

Lactating dairy cattle: This refers to a dairy breed animal that’s more than 20 months of age. This includes springing heifers and dry cows.

“This is a human food safety issue,” Dr. Neubauer said. “There is the potential for residues of drugs labeled for use in nonlactating dairy cattle to be present in milk of the treated cows, as well as in the tissue of the calves born to the treated cows. These products should be stored separately to reduce as much potential for confusion as possible.”

In addition to making sure these products are used only in the appropriate class of animals, Dr. Neubauer recommends following these important aspects of on-label use:

Use products only for indicated diseases

• Each product is approved by the FDA for particular diseases and conditions.

• To avoid increasing the risk of a residue violation, do not use products for reasons other than their approved use.

Use the proper dosage of a product

• Underdosing can lead to an ineffective treatment or disease relapse.

• Overdosing increases the risk of a residue violation.

Use the correct route of administration

• Switching from one administration type to another dramatically changes how quickly and effectively the product is absorbed by the animal.

Administer products for appropriate duration of therapy

• Discontinuing treatment early can lead to ineffective treatment or disease relapse.

Choose products with low-residue risk profiles

• This provides better flexibility and control of management decisions on the dairy operation.

As you work with your veterinarian to review management practices for avoiding milk and meat residues, the Milk and Dairy Beef Drug Residue Prevention manual from the National Milk Producers Federation also serves as a valuable educational tool and resource for drugs approved for use in nonlactating and lactating dairy cattle.

For more information about working with your veterinarian to reduce violative drug residues on your dairy, visit There, you’ll also find information about Zoeits products that carry the Residue Free Guarantee. For more, visit with your veterinarian or local Zoetis representative.