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Drug Residue Prevention

Antimicrobial stewardship means responsibly using the right drug at the right dose at the right time for the right duration.

The goal is to:

1. Decrease the overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics
2. Maximize the therapeutic effectiveness of antibiotics
3. Minimize the selection of drug-resistant bacteria

Antimicrobial stewardship is mainly concerned with medically important (MI) antibiotics--those drugs that are important to human and animal medicine. (Non-medically important antibiotics for animal use are not included in stewardship goals.)

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) developed objectives to improve antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary medicine:

  • Ensure MI antibiotics are used for treatment, control and prevention of disease--not growth promotion or feed efficiency; and
  • Bring all use of MI antibiotics under the supervision of veterinarians.

Changes the FDA has recently made to the availability of antibiotics in veterinary medicine accomplish these goals:
  • All MI antibiotics for use in feed now require a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD)
  • All MI antibiotics for use in water now require a veterinary prescription
  • Remaining MI antibiotics (those currently over-the-counter) will require a prescription by June 2023. Over-the-counter MI antibiotics will no longer be available for food animals and companion animals.

Preventing Drug Residues

Drug residues result when a drug is detected above the legal limit, either in tissue or milk. Most occur because of human error, such as:  Accidentally milking a treated cow; or accidentally treating or shipping the wrong cow because of poor or unconfirmed animal identification; or forgetting to remove the milk line from the bulk tank while milking treated cows.

Drug residues are rare, but expensive for the farm. Milk residues can result in the farm paying for an entire tanker load of milk. Tissue residues can result in fines and penalties from the FDA.

Testing is an important preventative step:  Every tanker load of milk is tested for antibiotics before it is loaded at the processing plant. Slaughter facilities complete routine or planned testing, inspector-guided testing, and testing of every carcass condemned at slaughter.

Tips to Prevent Drug Residues

  • Use drugs properly. Follow the label directions or your veterinarian's instructions.
  • Keep accurate records of all treatments for at least 2 years.
  • Train employees and family members on drug use and residue prevention, even if they do not usually treat animals.
  • Take your time when treating or shipping animals and confirm animal identification to prevent mistakes.
  • Identify cows with permanent identification (such as an 840 tag) as well as treated-cow ID (such as leg bands or marking paint).