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Mistakes with pharmaceuticals are costly

Beef 911: There are several things you should do regularly to ensure you’re using products properly

Now that I’m in the pharmaceutical industry, I get lots of calls in regard to which products can and can not be used. Or what happens if they are given by the wrong method in the wrong location.

I am hoping this article will shed some light on the situation and ensure that our livestock are given safe, efficacious products that maximize their health and ultimately food safety.

It is always good to review the labels, especially of products you haven’t used before or used for a while. If in doubt, get clarification from your herd veterinarian. To avoid things given in error, many clinics are formulating easy-to-read charts of the products used in their SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) indicating what condition for what product at what dose, the method of administration, withdrawal period for meat or milk, and so on.

The type of production animal the product is approved for is also critical. Dairy cattle must have an indication of milk withdrawal. This is where it can get tricky, as some products clearly indicate there is, for instance, a zero milk withdrawal. Others indicate the product is approved for beef cattle, meaning it is not approved for dairy cattle as no milk withdrawal is known or because of the product, the milk withdrawal would be unknown. Other products may not have a withdrawal for pre-ruminant calves. (That is really not an issue in a cow-calf operation but is critical in the veal industry where calves are marketed at a young age.)

Some cattle products have withdrawal times as high as 60 days or even as high as 150 days. So that is why we must pay attention to these withdrawal times in order to keep beef residue free. If we pay close attention to these withdrawal times, there technically are no antibiotics or other products in our meat that we produce.

When it comes to freezing or heating of the products we use in cattle production, there is varying temperature gradients that products need to be under. That is why it is critical we maintain the chain of refrigeration from the veterinary clinic to fridges on our farms and ranches when using products maintained under refrigeration.

Maintain that chain of refrigeration right up until we give it to our animals. Most producers use a cooler with ice packs when processing out at the chute. There are commercially made coolers that even allow the syringes to remain cooled in between uses. We need to ensure we are giving products in the way they are designed in order to get maximum value (whether that be vaccines, antimicrobials, or other products such as NSAIDs).

Some companies may have data on freeze-thaw cycles on such things as dewormers, and hormones. If a product has been frozen and/or heated beyond the label recommendations, one should assume it is no good (unless there is evidence to the contrary). Too much is at risk for the product not to work or there to be undesirable reactions when using it. This is especially true with all vaccines.

Store all products needing refrigeration in the body of your fridge and not in the door. This is because temperature fluctuations are greatest from opening and closing the door.

Also, calibrate your fridge by using a separate thermometer and checking where the dial should be set. Failures of fridges (both those of producers and veterinary clinics) occur too often and cause the waste of a lot of product.

What is even worse is if fridge failures go undetected and the product gets used.

Also pay close attention to expiry dates. Most pharmaceutical products come out with expiry dates of one to three years. As a producer, you generally will have enough time to give it by the next production cycle six months to a year later. Just make sure to rotate your leftover stock to the front of the fridge so you will use it first next time.

You need to be just like a grocer and when restocking move the oldest stock to the front. Get in this habit and very little product will become expired.

The expiry date means that the product has been tested and is efficacious up to that point. After that date, efficacy will diminish, but to what degree we do not know. Vaccines — whether killed or modified live ones — are going to probably be less stable than antimicrobials or dewormers, for instance. Some products have very stable molecules but again, one needs to store, handle, and administer products according to the label.

Always check. In fact, it never hurts to check labels once in a while, even with products you are familiar with, as labels change.

As many things require prescription these days (even painkillers), having the VCPR (veterinarian-client-patient relationship) is even more critical so important questions can be addressed.

You all pay good money for vaccines, antimicrobials, painkillers, growth implants, and internal or external parasite controls. So let’s make sure products are applied properly before they expire and that we respect withdrawal periods.

This will give us the best results we are after — and reassure the Canadian consumer that we’re producing a very healthy, wholesome, and antimicrobial-free product.

About the author

Columnist

Roy Lewis practised large-animal veterinary medicine for more than 30 years and now works part time as a technical services veterinarian for Merck Animal Health.

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