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Responsible antibiotic use on dairy farms

Karen Anderson
Local Agricultural Extension Educator for Rice & Steele Counties
October 10, 2015

Over the years, dairy farmers have learned that in order to manage costs on the farm, we must become a jack of all trades. From repairman to manager, we have adapted to handle some day-to-day tasks on our own. With animal health being a top priority on the farm, we have even adapted to do some of the veterinary work ourselves such as vaccination and treatment of common illnesses. We need to take a step back with our self-administration of treatments to make sure that we are utilizing these antibiotics and other drugs in a logical and responsible manner. Dairy farmers and employees are the first line of defense to prevent drug contamination of milk and beef from entering our food supply.

When considering whether to treat an animal, we must keep several things in mind: 1) Am I using the correct drug and administering techniques to treat the condition(s) of the animal? 2) Is the drug safe for the animal that I intend to use it on? 3) Finally, am I using the drug in a way that the food products produced from this animal will be safe for human consumption after the appropriate withholding time?

Luckily, we are not alone in answering these questions. The care and health of our cattle are a combined effort between veterinarians and the farmer/ employees. Under the guidance of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), we can effectively and efficiently develop treatment protocols to treat cattle on our farms. Additionally, there are laws, guidelines and procedures that must be followed in order to use the drugs as intended. Several steps we must follow when using drugs are:

Over the years, the percentage of positive antibiotic tests has decreased. However, we can still decrease this percentage even further by following the above described steps. The overall health of our animals is vital to our business. By monitoring for sick animals, treating when necessary, recording and tracking the health of the animal beyond the withholding period, we can ensure all beef and milk produced on our farms are safe for human consumption.


Preventing Drug Residues in Milk and Cull Dairy Cows - Virginia Cooperative Extension

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