The dairy industry has recently been in the news due to drug residues in cull cows and bob veal calves. I should say “some” of the dairy industry has been in the news, because – just like our beef industry – the vast majority of dairy producers are committed to product safety and the systems that assure it.
Let’s take advantage of the tuition being paid by others to check our own practices. See if you can identify yourself in this list of surefire ways to send an animal to market with a violative drug residue.
1.“I don’t need no stinkin’ records.” One of the most common problems found in FDA investigations of cull-cow residues is lack of a record system for tracking drug withdrawal times.
2.“I can remember her.” Along with such records, animals must be positively identified for effective tracking. The Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act regulations require you to institute procedures to assure that the identity of the treated animal or animals be carefully maintained. Also required is a commitment to actually check those records to see if any identified animals need to be held back when the group is sold.
3.“Protocols are for wimps.” A lack of written protocols was found in many of the cull dairy cow violative residue cases investigated by FDA.
4.“You have to combine the protocol with experience.” Protocols are there for a reason. I’ve worked with chute-side wizards who believed they could look a beast in the eye and select the right antibiotic and dose. Create treatment regimens designed to minimize the potential for violative residues and stick with them.
5.“I know what I’m doing.” About 70% of cull dairy cow violative residues investigated by FDA were in facilities without a veterinary-client-patient relationship for the drug involved in the violative residue. You need to have regular contact with a herd health veterinarian committed to partnering with you in judicious drug use.
6.“Just get it in the cow.” Volume per injection site is an incredibly important determinant of how the drug is released into the system. Overdosing in one site, or changing sites, may dramatically increase withdrawal time.
7.“They’ll pick it up as they work in the treatment shack.” Training sessions should address treatment protocols, record systems, and how to check for withdrawal-time compliance prior to selling cattle. There’s one more thing to check: a friend went to great lengths to produce bilingual protocols, only to be told that some of the workers were illiterate in both English and Spanish. These employees should not be administering drugs to food animals.
8.“The best stuff isn’t FDA approved.” There are still those among us who refuse to recognize the huge compromises in safety, efficacy and residue information that accompany the use of compounded products. There are specific requirements for extralabel use, so expect to get your hat pulled down around your ears if you have a residue resulting from such use.
9.“They can’t tell me what to do with my cattle.” Residue violations are a matter of public record. If you’re a violator, especially a repeat violator, expect premium-based systems to avoid your cattle.
10.“Cattle just disappear into the system anyway.” Detection methods are getting better every day. It’s possible today to routinely detect gentamicin in cattle tissue down to 1 nanogram per gram of tissue: that’s parts per billion! If any is detected in cattle, it is a violative residue.
Consumers may not discern between beef coming from cull-dairy cows and beef raised on our ranches and in feedlots. Producers doing it right should be absolutely intolerant of those not putting forth similar effort. The few producers repeatedly introducing violative residues into the food chain aren’t our friends, and should be helped to find another vocation.