Dairy producers need to remember they also are in the beef business. In fact, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey data, market or cull dairy cows represent about 6 to 8 percent of the beef produced in the U.S. annually, according to the Cattlemen's Beef  Board.

With that in mind, it’s imperative that only healthy dairy cows, those fit for human consumption that have completed all meat withdrawal times for any drugs administered, are culled for the beef supply.

“For now and in the foreseeable future, the dairy industry will be providing a significant portion of beef to consumers in the U.S.,” Richard Wallace, DVM, MS, senior veterinarian, Dairy Technical Services, Zoetis, said. “Healthy food is one of our three tenets of Dairy Wellness, and we call on dairy producers to employ the same commitment to high-quality meat that they give to producing quality milk.”

An important part of marketing quality beef is making sure cows do not have drug residues in their meat when they go to market, Wallace said.

“There are many reasons residue violations occur, but most are because of mistakes made at the farm level,” Dr. Wallace said. “Not keeping accurate records is a big contributor to violations. For instance, if producers or their employees don’t know when a treatment was given, they might ship or milk the treated cow before she should have entered the food supply.”

Another leading cause of drug residue violations is when producers use a product outside of its FDA-approved label. Any extra-label drug use should occur only when necessary and under the guidance of a veterinarian, and accurate records of proper withdrawal and withhold times must be kept. Dairy producers should take active steps to ensure their employees always follow label directions. This includes:

  • Using products in the appropriate class of animals
    • Products for lactating cows should be used only in milking cows
    • Products for nonlactating cows should be used only in heifers less than 20 months of age
  • Using products for indicated diseases
    • Each product is approved by the FDA for particular diseases and conditions
    • Using products for reasons other than their approved use can increase the risk of a residue violation
  • Using the proper dosage of a product
    • Underdosing can lead to an ineffective treatment or disease relapse
    • Overdosing increases the risk of a residue violation
  • Using the correct route of administration
  • Switching from one administration type to another dramatically changes how quickly and effectively the product is absorbed by the animal
  • Discontinuing treatment early can lead to ineffective treatment or disease relapse
  • Administering products for appropriate duration of therapy

“It is important producers work together with their veterinarian to continue to improve the overall quality of milk and meat products,” Dr. Wallace said. “Pay attention to label indications and take extra care to ensure all cows bound for the food supply are healthy. Ultimately, it’s a matter of making sure we are producing a safe, quality animal and aren’t violating trust from consumers.”

As you develop your on-farm best management practices for avoiding milk and meat residues, the Milk and Dairy Beef Drug Residue Prevention manual from the National Milk Producers Federation also serves as a valuable educational tool. For more information about working with your veterinarian to reduce violative drug residues on your dairy, visit AvoidResidues.com or visit with your veterinarian or local Zoetis representative.