Editor's note: This item ran in the January 2010 edition of Dairy Herd Management.

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) now publishes a list of all farms that have residue violations for meat, poultry and egg products.

So what does this mean to you? We are fortunate to have a wide range of products that we can use to treat sick cattle on our farms. It is very important to take every possible precaution to minimize the risk of culling an animal that will have a violative tissue residue. With new technologies, FSIS can rapidly detect multiple residues in tissue. This test, known as the Kidney Inhibitory Swab, detects multiple residues, and cull dairy cows are the No. 1 violator. 

Why is residue-avoidance important?

First, no one wants to eat meat that is contaminated with antibiotics — and, in some cases, consuming such products could have health effects. Plus, while such products are prohibited from the food supply (and stringent testing is in place to keep them out of food channels) consumers have enough misinformation about livestock production without adding to the confusion.

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may use the list as justification to place further restrictions on pharmaceutical use in food-producing animals. And, repeat violators may be prohibited from culling cows or have decreased access to pharmaceuticals.

Steps to avoid residue violations

  1. Keep accurate treatment records. All treated animals should be recorded into an information system that lists the date, animal ID, person administering the treatment, drug used, amount used, route of administration and meat or milk withholding times. 
  2. Identify all treated cattle. Examples include chalk, leg bands and segregation to another pen.
  3. Have a list on your farm of who is allowed access to the drug cabinet and who is allowed to administer treatments. All farms, regardless of size, should have written treatment protocols developed by the veterinarian who prescribes the medication
  4. Only use the medication as directed by your veterinarian according to the label instructions. If exact label instructions are not followed, meat and milk withholds can change.
  5. Never use medication that is not approved for cattle. Never use “home brew mixed” or compounded medications.

Common mistakes to avoid

  1. Using a product in a route that is not approved. For example, administering a product directed for intravenous use only in an intramuscular or subcutaneous route. For one product specifically, the recommended meat withhold for its labeled IV route is four days. If adminstered by another route, the withhold time is unknown. 
  2. Using different products with the same generic drug name. An example of this would be using different types of ceftiofur that all have different meat withholding times. It is important to know which product you are using; record it in your treatment records and follow the appropriate meat withholding times as noted on the label.
  3. Using a higher dose than the label recommends. An example of this mistake is penicillin. The labeled dose for many products is 1 cubic centimeter (cc) per 100 pounds; however, veterinarians often recommend a higher dose. This significantly extends meat withholding times. Always follow the instructions of the prescribing veterinarian. It is also important to never give more than 10 cc of a product in one injection site.
  4. Using unapproved products as intramammary infusions. Only use approved single-dose mastitis treatments with established meat and milk withholding times.
  5. Using unapproved products with long withholding times. 
  6. Using medicated milk replacer and not following withhold times for calves.

If you do have a residue violation, the first thing to do is contact your veterinarian. It is important that all of us work together to maintain consumer trust in our products and stay off the published residue violators list.

Fred Gingrich is a practicing veterinarian and owner of Country Roads Veterinary Services Inc., in Ashland, Ohio.