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Prevent residues in market bull calves

December 11, 2015
POSTED BY: Jessica Light | DVM | MA | Senior Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

When it comes to residue prevention have you considered all potential food sources on your dairy? While milk production is your main food product, followed by market cows, young bull calves that you send to market should not be overlooked.

Producing wholesome milk and beef is our first priority as a dairy industry. Many overlook the opportunity to take ownership of all foodstuffs leaving the dairy and embracing the concept that day-old bull calves can become food.

Many view bull calves as an unlikely source for residue violations because they spend the least amount of time on a dairy. Plus, limited antibiotics are approved for this size and class of animal. However, bob veal calves account for the highest number of residue violations, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) United States National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg products 2012 Residue Sample Results report.1

Residue prevention in market bull calves begins at birth with immediate care and careful management. Work with your veterinarian to create a standard operating procedure that includes the following:

  • Feed only high-quality colostrum – Feed quality colostrum collected from healthy cows and heifers within two hours of birth. The volume of colostrum fed should amount to 10% of the calf’s body weight. Consider dry treating your cows with SPECTRAMAST® DC (ceftiofur hydrochloride) Sterile Suspension. If the label use followed correctly, no pre-slaughter withdrawal period is required for neonatal calves born from cows treated with SPECTRAMAST DC, regardless of colostrum consumption.
  • Consult with your veterinarian on the use of milk replacers – Keep in mind that starting in January 2017, a Veterinary Feed Directive will be required for all milk replacers containing antibiotics medically important for human health.
  • Do not feed waste milk – Milk from treated cows may be a source of antibiotic residues and bacteria and should not be fed to calves.
  • House calves in a safe and well-cared for location – Your market bull calves should receive the same level of care as any other calves. This includes clean, dry and comfortable housing and proper disease prevention.

Identify, Write and Record

Even if you’re following all of the protocols to ensure calves taken from your dairy won’t have any tissue residues, additional safety measures can be taken. There seems to be a tattered history of bull calves being misidentified at slaughter. Properly identifying animals that leave the dairy strengthens documentation in our food chain.

Every calf should have a durable form of identification (e.g., ear tag) and a written bull calf sales log on your dairy should be used to prevent errors. A written log should include the following information for each calf leaving your dairy:

  • Identification
  • Date of transaction
  • Signature of calf hauler
  • Intent of hauling each calf (is it going to a calf ranch or to slaughter?)

Make sure you or one of your employees are present when the calf hauler picks up market calves. This is a crucial practice that is easily adopted with today’s modern technology. Also, consider collecting a receipt from the hauler. A receipt should include the following:

  • Calf hauler business name
  • Calf hauler license number
  • Calf hauler’s name
  • Calves received on that day
  • Identification of each calf

Carefully manage details of your market animals. Even the slightest misstep in dairy management could cause residue violations and potentially damage your dairy’s reputation. Work with your veterinarian to help prevent residues in your young bull calves leaving your dairy. For more information about working with your veterinarian to reduce the risk of violative drug residues, visit


IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION FOR SPECTRAMAST DC: People with known hypersensitivity to penicillin or cephalosporins should avoid exposure to SPECTRAMAST DC. Product requires a 30-day dry cow period, and has a 16-day pre-slaughter withdrawal period following last treatment. Use of this product in a manner other than indicated on the label, or failure to adhere to the proper milk discard period, will result in violative residues. See full Prescribing Information.

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. United States National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products 2012 Residue Sample Results. Available at: Published September 2014. Accessed September 10, 2015.



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