Dairy farmers accept responsible management

Consumers expect their food to be safe and wholesome. Dairy farmers need to accept the responsibility of ensuring the milk and meat produced from their farms meets the expectations of the consumer.

American consumers have an expectation that the food they buy is safe and free of violative antibiotic and chemical residues. Dairy farmers need to accept the responsibility to ensure that the meat or milk produced on their farm will meet the expectations of their consumers. The National Milk Producers Federation has developed the Milk and Dairy Beef Residue Avoidance Manual which indicates appropriate antibiotic use in dairy animals.

The national media constantly addresses the issue of food safety, but unfortunately, the reporting from media outlets can be misleading. Consumers buying groceries for their families hear these reports and have concerns about the safety of the food they purchase.

Farmers have a responsibility to use proper management practices and ensure that the food products they produce meet the expectations of their consumers. Most producers do an incredible job of accepting that responsibility and producing the safe and wholesome food that is expected. Less than 1 percent of meat and milk product is detected with violative drug residue, but in my role as a Michigan State University Extension educator, I believe the dairy industry needs to lower violation incidents.

Every farmer that produces food for human consumption should consider it their responsibility to ensure that the product leaving their farm is safe. Farmers’ mission of producing safe food should be as important as profitability. One management practice dairy farmers should incorporate into their daily management is implementing the FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program. The FARM Producer Manual of Best Management Practices is a program implemented by the National Milk Producers Federation.

The FARM manual outlines management practices to assure meat and milk are produced so that they are safe and wholesome. Dairy Producers should start by developing a Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship. Developing a formal relationship allows the veterinarian to assume responsibility of medical decisions and treatments for the wellbeing of the animals. Veterinarinas and producers can work together to develop workable animal health protocols that will aid in better herd health. Responsible veterinarians and producers utilize a signed form to establish the relationship and understand its importance to ensuring safe food products.

Dairy farmers should use only prescribed or FDA-approved over-the-counter drugs by the recommendation of their veterinarian. All drugs should be used according to label directions. Only a veterinarian can prescribe drugs to be used in an off-label method. Producers need to understand the importance of following instructions regarding dose and administration of health treatment products. Overdosing medicines usually offers no health benefits to the animal. Only by the instructions of the veterinarian should this be done. Drug administration is also critical. Absorption of product into the animal’s blood stream is highly dependent on the route of administration and consequently will vary withdrawal times. Producers must use health products correctly and responsibly.

Dairy farms should implement an animal health record keeping system that is thorough yet user friendly. Keeping animal treatment records is a critical step to ensuring that neither milk nor meat is sold before its post-treatment withdrawal time. A key point for successful animal health record program is the understanding that producers need to use the records to determine withdrawal times.

After withdrawal times have been established, drug residue screening tests should be used to better know that milk is free of chemical residue. Test kits specific for the drug used should be utilized. Employees involved in the animal health program should receive thorough training so that they understand the importance of proper animal drug use and residue avoidance. Implementing these steps should ensure that all of the food products leaving the farm are safe and free of chemical residue.

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