Precautions Can Minimize Drug Residues in Meat

3/16/2013 7:00 AM
By Laura Zoeller Southwestern Pa. Correspondent

GREENSBURG, Pa. — Dairy farmers can do a lot to reduce drug residues in meat while improving their bottom line through proper management practices and proper vaccination and medication administration.

Dr. Cory Meyers, one of the members of Mid-Maryland Dairy Veterinarians, whose family owns Meyers Brothers Dairy in St. Thomas, Pa., spoke on the subject March 7 at Penn State Extension Southwest Regional Dairy Day.

“Consumer confidence is key to success in our industry,” Meyers said. “When the consumer is confident with the safety and quality of the products in the market, they will buy them. We need to do everything we can to ensure their continued confidence.”

One problem that plagues the dairy industry is the presence of residues. Any medication that remains in the body of an animal that enters the human food chain is considered a residue, and many are prohibited.

“Here is a number that may surprise you,” Meyers said. “Even though only 8 percent of the nation’s meat comes from the dairy industry, dairy animals account for 90 percent of all beef violative residues. Beef producers are probably getting pretty upset with us.”

According to Meyers, overuse and improper use of medicine are the main problems.

“Penicillin is the most frequent violative residue, describing 26 percent of all residues,” Meyers said. “The potential for problems is increased drastically by going off-label, giving more than the recommended dose and administering a medication incorrectly.

“What we really need to be doing is trying to prevent the illnesses in the first place,” he said.

Preventative management practices reduce disease risk and improve response to disease exposure, and many practices are easy to implement.

“There are biosecurity issues that can be handled simply, such as preventing cows from different farms from having nose-to-nose contact, preventing manure exposure, dipping navels, and providing clean feed and water,” Meyers said. “Also, using a clean needle for each vaccination, properly sterilizing equipment and cleaning stock trailers between uses can lower risk of disease transmission.”

Proper nutrition, clean bedding and cow comfort are all factors in disease resistance, as is following a proper vaccination schedule.

“Vaccinating at the proper time of year, giving booster shots as needed, and handling and storing the vaccines properly are all essential factors to whether or not the vaccine will be effective,” Meyers said. “Also, remember that you get what you pay for, and a cheap vaccine may not be the best vaccine.”

Reusing the same needle can cause tissue transfer from one animal to another, which can cause further illness and require additional treatments.

“Putting a used needle back into the bottle of vaccine can contaminate the whole bottle, allowing bacteria or other germs to then pass to every cow vaccinated from it,” Meyers said.

“Putting too many cc’s into one injection site can leave a residue, as can administering the dose in a manner other than what the label says,” he said. “And keep records of all vaccinations and illness treatments, noting the slaughter withhold period in the records.

“If you have no records — or poorly kept ones — then you have no defense if your bulk tank or meat comes back with a violation,” he said.

Other suggestions included monitoring the herd for stress at weaning, avoiding overcrowding, having proper ventilation, providing adequate clean bedding, and limiting exposure to aggressive animal handlers.

“The truth is, that if you prevent disease through proper management, you use fewer drugs and lower your risk of having residues in milk and meat,” Meyers said. “That means more money in your pocket, since you won’t be dumping milk and being forced to cull cows.

“Work with your vet to establish a vaccination program and educate your employees on proper administration of vaccines and medicines,” he said. “After all, if we put a better quality cow into the market, then a better product ends up in the supermarket. If there is a better product in the supermarket, that means more sales. Really, quality assurance is risk management.”

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