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Chemical residues and animal health

Dr Jillian Kelly, District Veterinarian

Every time producers send cattle through a market and they wind up in the human food chain, they are subject to testing at abattoirs by the National Residue Survey.  This is why it’s vitally important that producers of red meat take notice and abide by the instructions for use and administration, and the withholding period and export slaughter interval or pesticides and veterinary medicines.

Recently we have had an increasing number of cases of sheep and cattle accidentally being exposed to recently sprayed paddocks.  It’s always great when producers notify their District Vet that this has happened, and in almost all cases we can work with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to work out a suitable withholding period.  If producers inadvertently do the wrong thing and don’t notify us, they can potentially get caught at the abattoirs, leading to condemnations and potential market closures to Australian products.  So please – if you do the wrong thing, let us know and we can work out a solution!

Another recent case we had was of a detection of moxidectin (a common drench) in goat meat at an abattoir.  There is no moxidectin product currently registered for goats in Australia, so this detection indicates off label usage of a sheep or cattle product.  Please read the label of the products you are using and ensure you follow them. If in doubt – ask a veterinarian!

The most common residue we see is lead in cattle, with several cases diagnosed each year.  Cattle get exposed to lead by licking lead batteries.  Lead batteries are sweet, so cattle are attracted to them and will actively lick them.  In high quantities the lead will kill stock, in lower quantities the stock will look completely normal but have a detectable residue at slaughter.  If your cattle are grazing around sheds or in paddocks where there are batteries – pick them up and store away from livestock.