Q. I’ve been hearing a lot about drug residues lately within the dairy industry. What are some best practices for residue control?

A.  As consumers become more critical of the food supply, farmers need to become more critical of their own operations. Residue management is in the hotseat today, and the majority of residue violations in slaughterhouses come from dairy cattle. That means that dairy farmers must step up to the plate to eliminate residues entering the food chain. After all, we all have a right to a safe, wholesome food supply. 

Here are a few tips for residue management: 

Medication Knowledge & Usage

  • Know your meat and milk withhold for any product used on the farm.
  • Use the prescribed dosage for the period recommended by your vet. Farms usually get in trouble when they start using the product off-label which includes changing the dosage of a medication, changing route of administration, or using for extended periods of time.
    • For example, changing route of administration could mean administering flunixin (ex: Banamine) Subcutaneous or Intramuscular instead of administering via the labeled IV dose.
  • All of these off-label practices increase withholding time.   


  • Records of medication use are essential.  If someone walked onto your farm today and asked you what Cow #23 was treated with over the last 12 months, you should be able to tell them within minutes. 
  • Find a notebook, treatment book, or use a computer program to record treatments. Keep track of medication used, duration of use, start date, end date, dosage, reason for treatment, etc. 


  • Use a form of identification for treated cows so no meat or milk which should have been withheld enters the food supply. Leg bands, paint sticks, or other visual markers can be used for quick and easy recognition of treated animals. 

 While a lot of this information gets repeated time and time again, it’s repeated because the problem is not going away. Farms not following these practices are likely sending residues into the food supply. If you are following these practices, maybe it’s time to start asking your fellow dairy farmers about their residue management program.

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