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Basic principles to prevent a positive residue test

Norm Stewart Published on 29 February 2012

One positive test can undo years of trust and confidence built with both industry partners and consumers. Residues remain a daily concern on every dairy farm, calf ranch and dairy business because of their direct effect on our ability to produce safe, wholesome dairy products for consumers.

A few basic residue prevention principles can increase residue awareness and provide simple solutions for responsible animal health product storage, use and management.

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The proper use of animal health products is not just the responsibility of one individual. It falls on the shoulders of every dairy owner, manager, employee and industry professional.

Antibiotic and drug residue prevention and avoidance programs should be established cooperatively by dairy owners, managers and their veterinarians.

Establish protocols
Residue prevention starts with establishing and maintaining a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship. This is an absolute must.

Once that relationship is formed, work with your veterinarian to develop functional protocols for key areas and utilize them on a daily basis throughout the operation.

Establish protocols for these key areas:

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• Treatment
• Vaccination
• Reproduction
• Parasite control
• Drug inventory
• Residue prevention
• Milk quality

When animals get sick, it is important to identify the cause, treat the affected animals and take steps to prevent and minimize the disease’s negative impact. This will help minimize the occurrence of residues.

Vaccination protocols are just as important as treatment protocols. Vaccination reduces disease incidence, which decreases the need for antibiotics.

Work with your veterinarian to develop vaccination protocols for all classes of animals, utilizing disease incidence information, herd health records, diagnostic reports and other available herd health information.

Other key areas of concern in avoiding residues are mastitis management and milk quality programs. To ensure responsible animal health product use, regularly monitor milk quality and maintain proper milk machine function.

Work with your veterinarian to develop protocols for optimal milk quality and mastitis management.

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Review protocols
Review protocols with your veterinarian and employees on a regular basis to ensure the health and safety of your animals. This simple step plays a major role in preventing and avoiding residues.

Ask your veterinarian to conduct routine herd checks, including an examination of all classes of animals, and adjust protocols as needed.

Record inventory
Maintaining an animal health product inventory record provides accountability as well as quick and easy reference. Inventory should include information on when and where the product was purchased, when it was placed in inventory, lot and/or serial number and quantity.

It also is important to record who placed the product in inventory, when it was administered, who administered it and dosage used. Document all drug disposal, including the product name, quantity, date and reason disposed. Separating inventory of medicated and non-medicated feeds also is crucial to avoiding residues.

Follow label instructions
Keep copies of all product labels and package inserts where they are easily accessible. They can provide a wealth of important product information to the end user.

While this may seem very basic, it is often overlooked. Carefully follow label directions for storage, indications/use, dose, method of administration, milk and meat withdrawals and any other information included on the label and package inserts.

Train employees
Proper training will directly affect the successful implementation and maintenance of your residue awareness and prevention program. Conduct employee and management training sessions on protocols and procedures regularly.

This is another critical control point in residue awareness and prevention. Schedule meetings in advance and provide additional training as needed. Preparation and effective communication is key to maximizing training sessions, so set an agenda ahead of time.

Training sessions should be attended by both new and current employees. If possible, use your veterinarian or another qualified person to conduct the training.

It should thoroughly cover farm procedures and protocols, emphasizing the importance of following them. Incorporate visuals and hands-on activities to underscore major points.

Use available resources
There are lots of resources available to assist you in on-farm residue awareness and prevention. A good residue avoidance program should be simple to implement and provide hands-on tools and solutions to help combat and prevent antibiotic and drug residues.

Merck Animal Health has created the “Antibiotic and Drug Residue Prevention and Avoidance Awareness Program” and toolkit that includes:

• Online employee training modules with a certification process available in English and Spanish

• Shelf stickers in English and Spanish for use in medicine cabinets, refrigerators, etc.

• Product inventory sheets in English and Spanish to track all products purchased and used on your operation

• Product posters with visuals highlighting withdrawal times and other important details, available in English and Spanish

• A red, nylon halter with an eight-foot lead to help and remind producers to properly restrain the animal when administering animal health products

• Spanish translation assistance available by request

Another great resource is National Milk Producer Federation’s Milk and Dairy Beef Drug Residue Prevention Manual.

Use these various tools and principles to supplement the day-to-day efforts and on-farm protocols already established with the help of your veterinarian. With proper awareness and preventative measures, you can implement solutions to prevent and avoid residues in milk and meat.

Residue avoidance and prevention is the responsibility of the entire dairy industry. Working together and using the available resources helps ensure that the products we produce are safe, nutritious and delicious – reinforcing consumer confidence and trust.

Now, that’s a test we would like to see come back “positive.” PD

Residue avoidance checklist
While antibiotic and vaccine use is normal for improving and maintaining animal health, be sure to take the following measures for responsible use:

• Develop a list of recommended and/or approved animal health products for use in lactating, non-lactating and youngstock

• Ensure that all animal health products are properly labeled

• Work with your veterinarian to establish treatment protocols and review them regularly

• Train employees on animal health protocols

• Use proper and humane restraint when vaccinating or treating an animal to maintain safety of both animal and handler when administering the product

• Keep treatment records of all product use by animal

• Notify your team of any treatment errors or failures and product inventory issues, following the veterinarian’s recommendations

• Follow instructions for milk and meat withdrawals. When in doubt about an animal’s residue status, do not market milk and/or meat from this animal until the animal’s status can be verified.

• Tell your manager and/or veterinarian if a mistake occurs (such as using the wrong product or incorrectly administering a product) so the potential residue violation can be immediately addressed and avoided. Recognize employees for calling attention to the problem.

• Discuss the far-reaching implications of a positive residue test and marketing milk and/or meat containing residues with your employees, emphasizing the important role employees have in preventing residues.

Norm Stewart is a dairy technical services veterinarian for Merck Animal Health . Contact him at

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