The summer season is a time when many cattle producers see infectious ailments such as foot rot and eye infections affecting their beef cows, with treatment involving the use of antibiotics.
“It is imperative producers follow prescribed withdrawal times as directed on the medication labels,” said Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist and managing editor of the university’s popular OSU Cow-Calf Corner newsletter.
On very rare occasions residues of pharmaceutical products have been found in carcass tissues of culled beef cows. Violations of drug residue regulations can result in expensive fines – and possibly even jail time – for the rancher, not to mention a black eye for the entire beef industry.
OSU Cooperative Extension has always recommended cow-calf producers have a close working relationship with a large animal veterinarian in their area.
“If a cow has an infection or disease that must be treated, her owner should closely follow the veterinarian's directions and also read and then reread the label of the product used," Selk said. "There should be no questions about the proper protocol to be followed.”
The Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Manual contains the following discussion of medication withdrawal times: "A withdrawal time may be indicated on the label of certain medications. This is the period of time that must pass between the last treatment and the time the animal will be slaughtered or its milk used for human consumption.”
For example, if a medication with a 14-day withdrawal period was last given on Aug. 1, the withdrawal would be completed on Aug. 15 and that would be the earliest the animal could be harvested for human consumption.
All federally approved drugs will include the required withdrawal time for that drug on the product label or package insert. These withdrawal times can range from zero to as many as 60 days or more.
“Again, it is the producer's responsibility to be aware of withdrawal times of any drugs used in his or her operation,” Selk said. “Unacceptable levels of drug residues detected in edible tissues collected at harvest may result in trace-back, quarantine and potential fines or jail time. It’s not worth the risk to cut corners.”
Selk advises producers to follow four basic rules:
● If ever in doubt, rely on the veterinarian-client-patient relationship established with your veterinarian;
● Use only medications approved for cattle and exactly as the label directs or as prescribed by your veterinarian;
● Do not market animals for food until the withdrawal time listed on the label or as prescribed by the veterinarian has elapsed; and
● Keep well-organized, detailed records of pharmaceutical products given to individually identified animals. Include the date of administration, route of administration, dosage given, lot or serial number of product given, person delivering the product, and label or prescription listing of withdrawal dates.
Examples of Beef Quality Assurance records can be found in the Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Manual website at the menu item “Record Keeping Forms.” Records should be kept for 3 years after sale of the animal.
Producers looking for additional information about how to implement BQU Guidelines in their specific operation should contact the nearest OSU Cooperative Extension county office, typically listed under “County Government” in local directories.
The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service is one of two state agencies administered by OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and is a key part of the university’s state and federally mandated teaching, research and Extension land-grant mission.