Safe and responsible treatments of livestock

Why do we need safe and responsible treatments?

If animal treatments are not used responsibly, livestock may suffer. The meat they produce may contain unacceptably high chemical residues or pose a physical hazard. This may compromise food safety and harm the reputation of Australian red meat. Our customers expect that livestock is treated responsibly.

Repercussions for non-compliance by individual producers may include failure to be paid for the livestock, and possible legal liability for the resulting cost faced by processors and the rest of the supply chain.

How do we ensure animals are treated safely and responsibly?

Livestock producers must guarantee that veterinary drugs are only used when necessary, that animals get an effective course of treatment, and there is minimal risk of adverse side effects -  including carcase residues or physical contaminants.

For veterinary treatments:

  • Follow the directions from the vet or on the label
  • Use only approved veterinary drugs
  • Store drugs according to the label, and keep in a secure location
  • Make sure all equipment is working correctly and calibrated before use
  • Clean equipment after use. It is preferable that items used for treating livestock are clearly identifiable and not used for other tasks

What needs to be considered in animal handling?

  • Ensure correct dosage for the weight of the animal
  • Identify treated animals
  • Keep treated livestock separate to prevent cross-contamination between treated and non-treated animals
  • Record any adverse side effects
  • Identify animals that may have broken needles in them by a permanent identification method (e.g. NLIS)

Who can administer treatments?

Anyone applying or handling chemicals must be able to demonstrate competency in the storage, handling, preparation, use and disposal of chemicals. Ideally livestock producers will hold or be under the supervision of someone that has a current recognised chemical user’s certificate. Certificates should be stored and presented during the LPA audit.

What must be documented?

Under LPA, producers are required to keep a record of all animal treatments, and update this record every time an animal is treated with veterinary chemicals (including Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs)). These records must contain information on:

  • Date of treatment
  • Description, location and number of livestock treated
  • The chemicals used (including trade name, batch number and dose)
  • The relevant Withholding Period (WHP)/Export Slaughter Interval (ESI)

You must also permanently identify any animals that:

  • May have been exposed to physical contaminants such as broken needles
  • Are treated with HGPs

All livestock treatment details, including the relevant WHP and ESI, must be recorded on the LPA NVD to ensure that livestock are not processed for human consumption before these have expired.

Note: Keep records for a minimum of 3 years, in accordance with State legsilation or for the duration of the livestock on the PIC, whichever is longer.

What must I do if using Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs)?

Some customers and markets do not want to buy meat that has been treated with Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs). Cattle treated with HGPs must be identified by a triangular ear punch so they can be kept separate where necessary.

What is a withholding period?

The withholding period for meat is the minimum time after an animal is treated with a veterinary medicine or pesticide before it may be legally slaughtered for human consumption. Withholding periods are set to ensure that chemical residues, if any, in the carcase are below the maximum residue limit allowed for that chemical in food in Australia.

In general, slaughter and feeder animals should not be treated with a veterinary drug if the withholding period exceeds the expected date of departure from a property.

What is an export slaughter interval?

An export slaughter interval (ESI) is the period that must lapse between chemical application to livestock and their slaughter for export. Compliance with the ESI means that the slaughtered livestock will meet the residue limits which apply in all export markets.  ESIs are revised throughout the year, which means the ESI printed on the LPA NVD may be out of date. For the latest version, producers should visit www.apvma.gov.au/esi

How can producers meet this LPA requirement?

To ensure they are delivering safe and responsible treatments of their animals, livestock owners must:

  • Regularly review and complete the safe and responsible animal treatments checklist
  • Document and file all animal treatment details
  • Complete a chemical user’s course
  • Record when equipment used for livestock treatment is cleaned
  • Ensure they have written authorisation and directions for any off-label use of chemicals or drugs
  • Note animals that may have been exposed to physical contaminants such as broken needles
  • Identify every animal treated with a hormonal growth promotant (HGP) with a triangular ear mark.

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