Dairies clean up their act

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS -

THE Aus­tralian dairy in­dus­try has cleaned up its act, cut­ting an­tibi­otic residue breaches in bobby calves by al­most 60 per cent in the past decade.

Of the 400,000 calves pro­cessed in abat­toirs in 2007-08, it is es­ti­mated 560 may have breached max­i­mum al­low­able an­tibi­otic residue lev­els.

To­day that num­ber is closer to 240, fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tronic ear tag­ging of bobby calves and farmer ed­u­ca­tion on min­imis­ing an­tibi­otic use, con­tam­i­na­tion and ad­her­ing to with­hold­ing pe­ri­ods.

Th­ese new es­ti­mates are based on the Na­tional An­timi­cro­bial Residue Min­imi­sa­tion pro­gram, which de­tected just 10 vi­o­la­tions among the 15,875 calves tested last sea­son.

An­tibi­otic residue vi­o­la­tions have long been a ma­jor con­cern to the Aus­tralian red­meat sec­tor, given 80 per cent of the veal from bobby calves is ex­ported to the US and other na­tions for use in baby food and other pro­cessed prod­ucts.

The re­mark­able turn­around in low­er­ing breaches to an es­ti­mated 0.06 per cent of bobby calves sent to slaugh­ter has been driven by the dairy in­dus­try cam­paign to ed­u­cate farm­ers on an­tibi­otic con­tam­i­na­tion risks, im­prove calf feed­ing prac­tices and rig­or­ously trace back vi­o­la­tions.

Dairy Aus­tralia an­i­mal health and wel­fare man­ager Robin Con­dron said back in 2007-08 it would take six to nine months to trace a calf that has tested pos­i­tive back to a farm and in­ves­ti­gate what went wrong.

“The in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tronic (ear tags), has al­lowed rapid fol­low-up and vet­eri­nary ad­vice to farm­ers,” Dr Con­dron said. “Now farm­ers can get the re­sults back within a week.”

“We’ve also en­cour­aged farm­ers not to use an­tibi­otics and use fluid (elec­trolyte ther­apy) in­stead. And where they do use an­tibi­otics, en­sur­ing there’s

A rig­or­ous test­ing reg­i­men and dairy in­dus­try in­ves­ti­ga­tions found sul­fon­amide an­tibi­otics posed the great­est cross-con­tam­i­na­tion risk, given they tend to stick to buck­ets and feed­ers.

The is­sue of bobby calf an­tibi­otic residues orig­i­nally led the red-meat in­dus­try to call for ac­tion in 2007-08 to min­imise the risk to Aus­tralia’s beef ex­ports, fol­low­ing the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of some calves with high an­tibi­otic lev­els.

That call led to the joint gov­ern­ment-in­dus­try body Safe­meat form­ing a Bobby Calf Residues So­lu­tions Task­force to curb vi­o­la­tions in the face of “con­tin­u­ing con­cern re­gard­ing an­tibac­te­rial residues in bobby calves”.

Mr Con­dron, who sat on the com­mit­tee, said every­one wanted to en­sure the qual­ity of Aus­tralian meat.

“Co-op­er­a­tion be­tween play­ers de­liv­ered re­sults.” no cross-con­tam­i­na­tion.” all

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