STILLWATER, Okla. – Although drought conditions have led many producers to significantly cull their cattle herds the past two years, spring-calving herds may still need to be examined for non-productive cows that should be removed prior to winter.

“October and November are typical months for calf weaning, pregnancy checking of cows and cow culling,” said Nathan Anderson, Payne County Extension director and agricultural educator. “It is important that producers use Beef Quality Assurance guidelines when culling cows.”

On very rare occasions, residues of pharmaceutical products have been found in carcass tissues of culled beef cows. Violations of drug residue regulations can result in expensive fines and even jail time for the rancher and a “black-eye” for the entire beef industry.

“Cow-calf producers need to have a close working relationship with a large animal veterinarian in their area,” Anderson said. “If a cow has an infection or disease that must be treated, the producer should closely follow the veterinarian’s directions and also take care to read the label of the product used.”

Most medications will require the producer to keep the treated animal for the label-directed withdrawal time. A withdrawal time is the period of time that must pass between the last treatment and the time the animal will be slaughtered, or that milk can be used for human consumption, in applicable cases.

For example, if a medication with a 14-day withdrawal period was last given on Sept. 1, the withdrawal would be completed on Sept. 15 and that would be the earliest the animal could be harvested for human consumption.

All federally approved drugs will include the required withdrawal time for that drug on the product label or package insert. These withdrawal times can range from zero to as many as 60 days or more.

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus livestock specialist, reminds cattle producers that it is their responsibility to be aware of withdrawal times of any drugs used in their operation.

“Unacceptable levels of drug residues detected in edible tissues collected at harvest can result in traceback, quarantine and potential fines or jail time,” he said.

Selk recommends cattle producers follow four straightforward rules:

● If ever in doubt, rely on the veterinarian-client-patient relationship the producer has established with his or her veterinarian.

● Use only medications approved for cattle and employ them exactly as the label directs or as prescribed by a veterinarian.

● Do not market animals for food until the withdrawal time listed on the label or as prescribed by the veterinarian has elapsed.

● Keep well organized, detailed records of pharmaceutical products given to individually identified animals. The record should include the date of administration, route of administration, dosage given, lot or serial number of product given, person delivering the product and the label or prescription listing of withdrawal dates.

“Records should be kept for three years minimum after the animal’s sale,” Selk said.

Examples of Beef Quality Assurance records can be found on the Oklahoma Beef Quality Assurance Manual website at, under the menu item “Record Keeping Forms.”

Cattle and calves are the number one agricultural commodity produced in Oklahoma, accounting for 46 percent of total agricultural cash receipts and adding approximately $2 billion to the state economy, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service data. NASS data indicates Oklahoma is the nation’s fifth-largest producer of cattle and calves, with the third-largest number of cattle operations in a state.


Donald Stotts
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
143 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4079
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: [email protected]

Oklahoma State University, U. S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local governments cooperating; Oklahoma State University in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices, or procedures, and is an equal opportunity employer.


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