Dairy to Blame for Beef Drug Residues

September 15, 2010 06:10 AM

Cattlemen are none too pleased that these residues continue to bring scrutiny and give beef a bad name. It’s not only a public relations issue for the cattle industry but one with very real food safety concerns too.


Drug residues in beef, particularly dairy beef, are receiving additional scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), animal welfare (rights) groups and even the occasional cowboy.

The reason is pretty simple. Drug residues continue to pop up. One might argue that the number of violations is miniscule—404 residues in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington from July 2009 through June 2010. But the numbers also tell this: 83% of those violations were found in cull dairy cows and another 11% from bob veal calves.
In other words, some 95% of Western drug residues are coming from the dairy industry, and the FDA is taking names and publishing this list of offenders. Animal welfare groups are also starting to issue press releases and name names. Cattlemen are also none too pleased that these residues continue to bring scrutiny and give beef a bad name.
Yes, this is a public relations issue for the cattle industry. But it also has very real food safety concerns, says Dale Moore, director of Veterinary Medicine Extension with Washington State University. She spoke at last week’s NMC regional meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The two leading drugs found in dairy cows were penicillin (102 of the 337 violations) and Flunixin (Banamine) (65 of the 337 violations). People allergic to penicillin can react with an allergic reaction, particularly difficulty breathing, but also can experience nerve damage, severe inflammation of the large intestine, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, bleeding and diarrhea. Residues of Flunixin can cause fecal blood, ulcers, and death of kidney tissue.
This is serious stuff, folks. Dairy producers have a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure these residues do not occur.
There are financial ramifications as well. “Not only do producers face the lost value of the market cow, but their violation becomes public and they could lose the slaughter route for their removals,” says Moore. In other words, you could lose your ability to market cull cows.  
So why do residues continue to occur? The reasons vary, but most of it boils down to failure to follow label directions, poor record keeping and failure to observe required withdrawal periods.
Banamine’s label requires intravenous injection. “But many people give the drug incorrectly in the muscle,” says Moore. “When this happens, a much longer withdrawal time is needed before the tissues no longer have a residue.”
For penicillin, higher, extra-label dosages are often (usually) given “without using an extended withdrawal time,” she says.
Even drugs that have short or zero milk withhold have meat withhold times that producers might not be aware of or ignore. Examples: Excede has a meat withdrawal of 13 days, Naxcel four days, Excenel three days Spectramast DryCow 16 days and Spectramast Lactating, two days.    
Another potential cause of residues is antibiotics in vaccines. The antibiotics are there to prevent microbial growth in the vaccines during storage. But if cattle are shipped immediately after vaccination, residues can pop up in their carcasses. Dairy producers simply need to be aware of this potential. 
Everybody (supposedly) knows how to avoid residues. But, just in case, here’s a quick review:
1.      Have individual animal identification and specifically identify treated animals.
2.      Read the drug label.
3.      Follow the label dose and administer correctly.
4.      Withhold marketing the animal for the number of days specified on the label, or in the case of extra-label use, the days specified by your veterinarian.
5.      If the dosage or route of administration is different than on the label, this extra label use requires a valid Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship. This means your vet has assumed clinical responsibility for the animal, he/she must have sufficient and direct knowledge of the animal your treating, you agree to follow his/her directions and that the vet is available for follow-up evaluations.  
For additional information, and for a decision tree for sending cows to slaughter, click here.   Most of the information is also available in Spanish.
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