Veterinarians need to work with livestock producers to ensure they are using drugs legally and properly on cattle farms. Geoffrey Smith, DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, North Carolina State University, told veterinarians this week at the Dr. Jack Walther 85th Annual Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas that the lack of written treatment protocols and the lack of training of farm personnel are two of the most common reasons residues happen.
Lack of training on the farm is also a problem because very few treatments are actually given by veterinarians and Hispanic labor and language barriers are common. “If employees don't understand how to properly give a drug, that can significantly influence withdrawal times.” Smith said a good example of that is giving Banamine IM vs IV which often is responsible for residues.
Veterinarians may not take the time to write protocols partly because it's hard to find a way to get paid for that service, Smith said. “But we need to convince both veterinarians and producers that this is a priority.”
“Studies in the dairy industry have identified a very low number of farms that actually have written protocols in place, which is partly the fault of the veterinarian. If we want treatments to be administered consistently we need to make sure everyone on the farm understands what you want done.” Smith said this may be handled a little better in larger feedlots but in the dairy and cow-calf situation this is a significant deficit.
The primary keys to avoiding drug residues include:
- Establishing a valid veterinary-client patient relationship where you visit your herds on a regular basis and are familiar with their disease challenges;
- Establish written treatment protocols for your herds to make sure diseases are correctly identified and treated with the appropriate drugs;
- Make sure your herds are identifying treated cattle and are maintaining good treatment records;
- Ensure farm employees are trained to administer drugs correctly; and
- Establish proper withdrawal intervals when using extralabel drugs.
"Employee drift", or deviating from protocols, is a fact of life on large operations as employee turnover can be high and sometimes people just fall back into old habits. Smith usually recommends re-training or at least re-observing things like colostrum management, milking procedures, treatment administrations, etc., on a regular basis, and at least a couple of times a year.