Spring cleaning is upon us and this is a good time to take a look around the farm for possible chemical contaminants that could impact the health of your animals or the safety of the products they produce. Beef and dairy farmers are aware and diligent about avoiding antibiotic residues, but there exists a multitude of other chemicals that could potentially contaminate animals and their meat and milk. Environmental hazards, pesticides, herbicides, as well as, feed contamination issues should be kept on your chemical residue awareness radar.

Recent accidental exposure of cattle to chemical hazards include accidental exposure to high doses of anhydrous ammonia (Fitzgerald et al., 2006), benzene from gasoline, organophosphate insecticides, and feed grade antibiotics. In each of these cases, quick action prevented any food safety issues and limited animal health consequences. If a chemical contamination event on farm is discovered or suspected, immediately notify your veterinarian or the Michigan Department of Agriculture toll free number 800-292-3939 during normal business hours or their emergency answering service 517-373-0440 after hours.

Taking action to prevent accidental chemical contamination is not only vital to protect the health of your animals and the safety of the products they produce, but it is also important from an economic perspective. Under the best of circumstances, if a chemical contamination event were to occur and immediate action initiated, it may take weeks for a farm to regain market access for their products. This is due to the lengthy process of fi nding an approved laboratory with verifi ed testing for uncommon residues and then waiting an appropriate length of time for chemicals to be removed (withdrawal times) from the body. As you can imagine, being unable to market milk or meat can have devastating fi nancial consequences.

Here are some action points that you can initiate now to help reduce the risk of chemical accidentally coming in contact with your cattle:
• Be diligent about keeping records on any chemical brought onto the farm. Records include what chemicals are one the farm, where they are used, when, how much and the withdrawal date for cattle or forage.
• Train employees on proper handling, usage and storage of all chemicals used on the farm.
• Keep all chemicals, such as pesticides, herbicides and rodenticides, in their original container with their original label. A year from now you may not remember which chemical is the pink liquid in the blue spray bottle.
• Check around all buildings on the farm for bags of pesticides, herbicides, sprinklings of rodenticides, or medicine cabinets with expired drugs. Discard all unused out-dated pesticides and expired drugs according to label instructions.
• Any chemical to be discarded should be done according to local, state and federal regulations.
• Make sure all chemicals and drugs are stored in a safe, secure place away from animals and their feed and water sources. Follow all storage and containment regulations.
• Make sure that fuel storage areas are properly located and spill containment barriers are in place.
• When using, moving or disposing of chemicals, do not use equipment, such as skid-steers, that are also used for feeding your cattle.
• Contact your feed mill and ask what they are doing to prevent chemical contamination of feedstuffs. Make sure they have routine quality control program to reduce risk of contamination at the manufacturing level.
• Check purchased feed on delivery for color, odor, moisture, temperature, and evidence of foreign material or bird, rodent, or insect contamination. Make sure the feed delivered is actually what you ordered.
• While cleaning up the farm, it is a good idea to think about a contingency plan. If an inadvertent chemical contamination event were to occur, it is necessary to know who to contact, how affected animals will be handled, and farm finances.

To maintain consumer confi dence in meat and dairy products, farmers must maintain a diligent awareness of chemicals on their farm. Take action now to reduce these risks. For more information about emergency planning and farm safety, go to, http://web1.msue.msu.edu/emergency/.

Source: Jamie Morrison, Michigan State University CVM Class of 2011 and Dr. Dan Grooms, Michigan State University CVM Dept. of Large Animal Clinical Sciences