Recently implemented inspection procedures will place extra accountability on dairy producers when it comes to keeping residues out of milk and meat.
As of Aug. 6, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has implemented new testing and analytical procedures for meat, poultry and eggs, according to Pfizer Animal Health’s Dr. Gary Neubauer, senior manager of dairy veterinary operations, in an effort to increase surveillance of the food supply and increase consumer confidence. This action expands current protocols by testing for more than 50 different compounds. He point out, these are not just antibiotics, but also pesticides, antibiotics, growth promotants and metals.
The tightening of testing is important for producers to be aware of because of the undesirable track record of drug residues coming out of the dairy industry. According to Pfizer Animal Health, dairy cows are 400 times more likely than feedlot cattle to be flagged for carcass residue.
“This is really an unacceptable rate of residues coming from dairy cattle, and as an industry we really need to attack it and improve on,” states Dr. Mike Lormore, Pfizer Animal Health’s director of veterinary operations.
While the rate of drug residues found in harvested cattle is very low, less than 0.3 percent, there are consequences for violating the zero-tolerance rule that Neubauer calls “severe and long-lasting.” He explains that the name of the producer in violation is added to a national database of drug residue offenders, and this information is available to the public. “It can shed some unfavorable light on your dairy and your reputation,” he adds.
“Drugs don’t cause drug residues, people cause drug residues,” says Lormore, “The main cause of drug residues in dairy beef cattle is the use of medications without adequate oversight from a veterinarian.”
Over-the-counter medications are responsible for almost two-thirds of all the dairy beef residue violations that occur, he points out, with the number one culprit being penicillin. Often times, the labeled dosage for penicillin is not enough to successfully treat a disease, so it is administered at a much higher dose. This requires an extended meat and milk withhold beyond the labeled period.
Neubauer also emphasizes the importance of following labeled instructions on dairies. “FSIS is simply reinforcing the issue that whenever we use a non-lactating drug in lactating dairy cow [defined as any animal over 20 months of age] we would now have a no tolerance level,” he points out. What that means is that if a product not approved for lactating dairy cows is administered to a lactating dairy cow, this would be considered extra label drug use; when extra label use occurs, the withdrawals are no longer valid. Any level of that drug detected violates the no tolerance. He notes common products that are not approved for lactating dairy cows: Baytril (enrofloxacin), Nuflor (florenicol), Mycotil (tilmicosin) and Draxxin (tulathromycin).
In order to prevent drug residues, both Lormore and Neubauer recommend establishing a solid relationship with a herd veterinarian. Referred to as the veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR), this includes open lines of communication, written treatment protocols, a residue prevention plan and accurate record-keeping.
Treatment protocols should be developed with the veterinarian to spell out disease descriptions and treatment direction. This should also include a list of products approved for use, as well as their proper instructions. The meat or milk withholding plan must be clear as well. It is estimated that just over half of all dairy producers do not maintain written protocols. That leaves plenty of room for improvement, especially when multiple tiers of people are involved in the operation, such as owners, managers and the employees who actually perform the treatments. Neubauer suggests holding employee trainings every six months.
While accurate records can aid in identifying treated animals and documenting withdrawals and withholds, they can serve another purpose. Farm records may be referenced if a dairy is wrongly accused of marketing meat or milk containing residues.
In effort to stand by the proper use of their products, Pfizer Animal Health has launched the Residue Free Guarantee. The promise states that if a producer uses a Pfizer Animal Health-branded ceftiofur product according to label indications, and it shows up as a violative ceftiofur milk or meat residue, Pfizer Animal Health will compensate that producer for the beef market value of the animal or purchase the tanker of milk at fair market value. Stipulations apply, including providing records to prove product purchase, dosage and treatment. Extra-label use as prescribed by a veterinarian is excluded from the guarantee.
“The bar keeps being raised, but if we continue to do what we have been doing, if we continue to follow label directions, written protocols using our veterinarians, we will be able to meet these new challenges,” says Neubauer.
For more information, including an online dairy drug residue risk assessment, visit www.avoidresidues.com.