Tips for preventing violative residues

Farm Forum

Every day, U.S. dairy producers work hard to ensure the highest standards of quality and safety. Although dairy cattle make up less than a tenth of the total cattle sent to market, data shows they account for 90 percent of the violative residues on an annual basis. When inspectors find drug residues in milk and meat, it’s most often because product labels or withholding times for milk and meat weren’t followed at the farm level.

“We have a huge responsibility to consumers to make sure we supply them with a safe, wholesome and quality product with no residues — in both meat and milk,” said Gary Neubauer, DVM, senior manager, Dairy Technical Services, Zoetis. “If we can do that, they’ll have confidence in buying our products, which hopefully should help producers and the dairy industry in the long run.”

Just one single residue violation can erode consumer confidence. Help your dairy avoid the damage of drug residue violations by recognizing their leading causes and establishing procedures to avoid them. Start with these tips:

Consult with your veterinarian regularly

Having a strong veterinarian-client-patient relationship and including your veterinarian in regular conversations with your management team not only helps improve cow health and the overall performance of your herd but also helps prevent residues in milk and meat.

Keep written treatment protocols up to date

All treatment protocols should be in writing. Review protocols with your veterinarian at least twice a year to make sure they are up to date and appropriate for your operation. Also review protocols with farm employees — especially those administrating animal health treatments. Written protocols should include:

• How to diagnose the disease

• Which medications and doses are approved for treatment

• Instructions for administration

• Milk discard and pre-slaughter withdrawal times

• Steps to ensure that cows are withheld the appropriate amount of time

Maintain accurate treatment records

If your operation doesn’t keep accurate records, you’ll significantly increase the risk of a drug residue violation. All records should note the following:

• Animal treated

• Date and time of treatment

• Drug and dosage administered

• Route of administration

• Length of any milk discard or pre-slaughter withdrawal times

Always follow labeled instructions

Only a veterinarian can prescribe extra-label uses and determine appropriate withholding times based on dosage and route of administration. Make sure your operation always follows labeled dosages for any drugs as prescribed by a veterinarian or purchased over the counter.

Retrain employees on treatment protocols at least twice a year

Keep all employees on the same page and prevent treatment protocol drift by retraining employees who administer medications at least every six months. Train new employees before allowing them to administer products.

Use separate drug storage areas for lactating and non-lactating cows

Most violative drug residues are caused by human error. Clearly labeling and keeping medicines for lactating and non-lactating cows in separate areas is an easy way to avoid a simple mistake that can have major consequences.

Don’t think residue violations could affect your operation? Understand the risks. Take this 10-question Residue Risk Assessment to learn how your operation needs to maximize its residue avoidance procedures.