Workshop covers responsible dairying
ORANGE CITY – The dairy industry is under increasing regulatory scrutiny because of its veterinary drug uses.
“In reality, it’s about being responsible. If you’re responsible, you will meet the regulations,” Dr. Leo Timms, a veterinarian and Iowa State University professor, told participants at an ISU workshop.
The main focus of the daylong course on Feb. 25 in Orange City was medical. “Responsible Therapy Practices: Motivating Beyond Mandatory,” talked about bovine medications, along with more dairy employee training, communication and management guidance.
Timms explained what producers can do to safely minimize the drugs given to their cows in the effort to minimize the risk of disallowed medication residue getting into dairy products.
However, he cautioned that the industry has concerns that the second and third generations of some classes of allowed veterinary medicines may jeopardize the drugs’ effectiveness in humans.
All dairies test their milk for antibiotics using a random screening process before it leaves the farm, and all bulk milk pick-up tankers are screened for residue from beta-lactam drugs.
The national database shows that the presence of beta-lactam which accounts for almost all dairy drug use – had dropped from 0.09 percent in truckloads of Iowa milk in 2000, to 0.015 percent in 2013.
Dairy cows are also routinely tested for other drug residues, such as penicillin and sulfa, Timms said, noting that producers must have a veterinarian OK their purchase of prescription drugs.
“Every cow you work with is (eventually) a beef cow, going to slaughter,” he said, reminding his audience to keep that in mind when administering medications. “And, a safe level is not the same as the legal limit.”
He urged that producers use the least amount possible of any drug and always get it prescribed by a veterinarian.
“Almost two-thirds of drug violations investigated did not involve a veterinarian,” Timms said. And, he stressed that good records of all drugs given to animals, including the amount and the time of withdrawal, are mandatory. Dairy producers must keep treatment records of each animal, dating back at least two years.
Other requirements are also getting stricter, according to another workshop presenter, Dr. Jan K. Shearer, also a veterinarian and professor of veterinary diagnostics and production animal medicine at IS U’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He spoke regarding the life continuum of care for cows and about the treatment of bull calves.
Bull calves are typically sold off at a few days of age to beef producers. If the beef market is sagging, those calves are usually put down in a humane manner, Shearer said.
Ways in which young cows can be mistreated include physical abuse and neglect, inadequately designed housing, poor husbandry practices, rough or careless handling, and unnecessary or poorly executed physical alterations of animals, as well as poor conditions and procedures during transport, at markets and at the packing plant.
Shearer cited the nose-ring as a cruel, yet commonly used restraint. He called for using a halter instead. Even stall design is important, he said. A concrete floor that is too rough is uncomfortable and one that’s overly smooth is too slippery and can lead to injuries from falls.
Other practices that are damaging to cows include tail docking, ear notching, branding and even rough handling, he said.
However, Shearer said, so much focus is put on the welfare of the cows now that even the truck drivers who haul the dairy cows or cattle must be trained in animal care.
Proper handling of cows throughout their life is vital, Schearer said.
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