Publicity you don’t needWe generally like to think that having our name in print is a good thing. However, this is not always the case, especially if it is on the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service Web site. If you have not heard of the “red list,” you are a minority.

The government regularly extends invitations to packing plants, retailers and the general public to take a look at the Web site. I suspect their motivation is to create a sense of accountability — in part, perhaps, because other tactics have not worked in our industry.  

Dubious distinction

I did say “our industry” because the beef industry has embraced the principles of beef quality assurance and has made very impressive improvements in the numbers of violative residues found each year. When reviewing the “red list,” take note that the vast majority of these violators are dairies. 

In addition, based on the National Market Cow and Bull Beef Quality Audit Executive Summary in 2007, 94 percent of all cattle had no evidence of injection-site blemishes, but 11 percent of dairy cows did have visible injection-site blemishes. These are two separate issues, but both are based on a common theme of quality assurance.

As a stakeholder in this issue, this information frustrates me. Hopefully you, as a dairy professional, feel the same way. We need to hold each other accountable to move beyond these long-lived issues. 

Avoiding residues is a simple process, yet our systems are quite complex. Fortunately, the wheel does not need to be re-created.

Follow the plan

We have good resources to help guide us along to developing a bullet-proof, farm-specific plan. Remember:

Beef is beef, regardless of its breed origin. Stop ignoring the fact that dairy producers are not only milk producers, but also beef producers. The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Program was created in the late 1970s and continues to be funded through the beef checkoff. Nearly each state has its own BQA state coordinator. These folks would be more than happy to send you supplies to help you develop or fine-tune your existing program.

The Milk and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Program has developed a protocol manual specifically targeted for dairies. The intent of this manual is for the herd veterinarian and the dairy to review each critical control point for residue avoidance and to discuss and implement changes to the program. Once this is complete, the veterinarian completes an audit form, and upon successful ratings the dairy will be designated as a “DQA Five Star” facility.

Make prevention a priority

Take the time to review or develop a quality and residue-prevention protocol for your dairy. We can expect that new tests will continue to be developed to look for residues in meat and milk as long as the number of injection-site blemishes and other “poor-quality” indicators at product end-point remain unchanged from year to year. 

Use available resources to help you and look for gaps in your program. Let’s make this the year that we put residues and quality issues behind us! 

Angela M. Daniels is a veterinarian with Circle H Headquarters LLC, a dairy and swine veterinary practice, food safety laboratory and DHIA milk-testing and contract research organization in Dalhart, Texas.