On the Blog

Food safety begins on the farm

In honor of Farm Safety Month, I want to touch on a topic that should be near and dear to us all--food safety.  As livestock producers, we need to remember that in the end we are producing human food.  In doing so, it is our responsibility to carefully adhere to all guidelines regarding drugs and pesticides used in our animals.  Not doing so could put the safety of the food we are producing in jeopardy. Additionally, the negative publicity generated could negatively affect the market for everyone for months or even years.

Understand that there are a very limited number of drugs and pesticides cleared for use in livestock, with no new ones coming down the pipeline in the near future.  With this in mind, we need to use those currently in our arsenal as judiciously as possible to prevent unintended contamination of meat, milk or eggs or the development of resistance to said drugs or pesticides.

Using feed-through drugs and pesticides safely:

  1. Choose a drug or pesticide that is labeled for efficacy against the specific disease or parasite for which you require. For instance do not assume that all deworming drugs are effective against all of the various species of worms. Do research to find which are effective against the target disease organism.
  2. Consult a veterinarian before giving livestock multiple drugs and/or pesticides, especially from different sources (ie. medicated feed, medicated mineral and injectable drugs). There could be negative interactions for either the animal or the resulting human food product for which you are unaware.
  3. Carefully read and follow the label directions concerning dosage amount, dosage length and withdrawal times.  If the label says to administer for 5 days, don’t stop at 3. On the flip side, don’t feed medicated feed when it is not needed.
  4. Monitor intake of medicated feed or supplements to assure that livestock are consuming the proper dosage of active ingredient. While it is impossible to accurately measure individual intake, you can get a pretty good average by measuring intake for the whole herd in a given time period and dividing by the number of animals fed. If the intake does not match expected intake rates, make management changes such as increasing or decreasing the number of blocks offered.  Consult your feed manufacturer for more information on how to increase or decrease daily intake.
  5. Be sure to consult a knowledgeable veterinarian prior to feeding any product containing drugs or pesticides in an off-label manner for the first time. Various species metabolize and react to active ingredients differently. For instance, Bovatec® (lasalocid) is safe for use in cattle and sheep, but is dangerous for use in horses.  
  6. If you are still in doubt after doing all of the above, contact the technical department of the feed or drug manufacturer and they can give you information to help assist you in your decision making process.

Remember, like it or not, the public at large watches what we do. If we want to avoid burdensome oversight and regulations, we need govern ourselves to use available drugs and pesticides safely and effectively.