The dairy industry must do everything it can to always deliver consistent high-quality products to consumers.

One of the cornerstones of that policy must be to never allow the infusion of products into the udder that are not pre-packaged and FDA approved. Following this simple rule will go a long way toward preventing antibiotic residues.

Here's why:
1. Pre-packaged mastitis treatment tubes are legal. They are good medicine, and they do not create disease or residue violations when directions are followed. Currently, no scientific evidence exists that shows infusing gentocin or tetracycline into an infected quarter will improve cure rates.

However, approved products were developed and scientifically tested so that we know:

  • Which products work best against which bacterial infections.
  • How many times to treat the cow.
  • How long to withhold milk and beef from sale in order to avoid residues.

When FDA-approved products are used and label directions are followed, there should never be illegal antibiotic residues.

On the other hand, when you inject an antibiotic or other product not labeled for intramammary infusion into the udder, problems occur. For example, gentocin can be found in the kidneys of treated cows 18 months later. It's illegal to use any drug that is not specifically labeled for intramammary use to treat mastitis because many products exist that are approved and are effective with known withdrawal times.

2. Using products off-label - such as infusing the udder to treat mastitis with an antibiotic that is labeled for intramuscular or subcutaneous injection use only - could lead to unforeseen legal problems. Last month, the FDA took action against a veterinarian and a producer for violations involving mislabeling and the use of unapproved drugs for intramammary infusion.

A cull cow tested at slaughter revealed the illegal residues. The residue was then traced back to the dairy and to the veterinarian who prescribed the off-label treatment. In these types of cases, the FDA can impose fines and even jail terms.

3. Pre-packaged tubes offer another advantage. They come with specially designed application tips that help prevent trauma to the teat canals and reduce the chance of new infections that can occur when other types of cannulas are used. Approved products also are manufactured according to strict hygiene standards.

Multi-use bottles of antibiotics and other concoctions which are not approved by the FDA for udder infusion, can easily become contaminated, and are commonly found to be the source of incurable yeast infections and udder abscesses.

When it comes to treating intramammary infections on your dairy, remember these three things: Always wear gloves, clean and disinfect the teat end, and always use FDA-approved products.

Just say "no" to potions.

Marguerita B. Cattell is a consulting veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colo.