October 2015
Farm & Field

Food Safety Begins on the Farm

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 food for human consumption. 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 afterward.

Understand that there are a very limited number of drugs and pesticides cleared for use for 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.

Responsible drug use becomes even more important in light of the new FDA rules regarding veterinary feed directives for feed-through antibiotics that will take effect December 2016. Starting then, livestock producers will need veterinary oversight in the form of VFDs for targeted drugs with dual-use in animal and human medicine.

To use feed-through drugs and pesticides safely:

Choose a drug or pesticide labeled for efficacy against the specific disease or parasite required. For instance, do not assume that all deworming drugs are effective against all of the various species of parasitic worms. Do research to find which are effective against the targeted disease organism.

Consult a veterinarian before giving livestock multiple drugs and/or pesticides, especially from different sources (i.e., medicated feed, medicated mineral and injectable drugs). There could be negative interactions for either the animal or the resulting food product for which you are unaware.

Carefully read and follow the label directions concerning target species and production group, dosage amount, dosage length and withdrawal times. If the label says to administer for five days, don’t stop at three. On the flip side, don’t feed medicated feed when it is not needed or to un-labeled species.

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.

Starting in December 2016, consult a veterinarian and obtain a veterinary feed directive for use of restricted feed-through antibiotics (penicillins, cephalosporins, quinolones, fluoroquinolones, tetracyclines, macrolides, sulfas and glycopeptides). Your vet will give copies of this VFD to you and to the place you choose to purchase your medicated feed or medicated feed premix for on-farm mixing.

Remember that all off-label use of feed-through antibiotics is strictly illegal. Follow all product label directions for use exactly as stated. Always follow instructions indicated in the VFD. For instance, if the VFD says to feed a medicated feed for 30 days, you cannot stop at 20 just because you ran out of feed.

If in doubt about the amounts or length of time in feeding medicated feeds, contact your veterinarian and/or the technical department of your feed manufacturer or drug manufacturer. Any of these should be able to give you information to assist you.

Remember, like it or not, the public at-large watches what we do as an industry. If we want to avoid burdensome oversight and regulations, we need to govern ourselves to use available drugs and pesticides safely and effectively. To learn more about the upcoming VFD rule changes, visit www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ ucm378100.htm or contact your local feed dealer or veterinarian.

Jackie Nix is an animal nutritionist with Ridley Block Operations (www.sweetlix.com). You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-325-1486 for questions or to learn more about SWEETLIX mineral and protein supplements for cattle, goats, horses, sheep and wildlife. References available upon request.