Dairies clean up their act
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