WINDHOEK - At present, there is a wonderful and motivating interest in poultry enterprises in Namibia and beyond. In general, poultry farming plays a significant role in a country’s economy as a source of income, food and employment.
Despite the aforementioned benefits that poultry farming provide to many people, disease outbreak is one factor that affects the production and productivity of this sub-sector. As a result, poultry producers are forced to use veterinary medicine to eliminate sicknesses and mitigate losses. It should be noted that antibiotics should be used where necessary and with caution, in other words, always adhere to the dosage instructions. Nowadays, consumers are more health-conscious, therefore, producers are advised to ensure quality and safety is guaranteed when planning to take their products to the market.
The research revealed that the misuse of antibiotics and non-adherence to medical guidelines and manufacturer’s instructions are in most cases aggravated by a lack of awareness among farmers. This can result in undermining the safety and quality of poultry meat and eggs. Thus, poultry producers are urged not to ignore instructions and manufacturer’s recommendations on labels when administering antibiotics or vaccines.
This article strives to create awareness and educate farmers on the significance of paying attention to the withdrawal period of veterinary medicines before taking poultry products to the market.
Withdrawal period refers to the period from when a dose was last administered to the production of any animal-derived products for marketing as food.
Farmers are advised to closely observe the withdrawal period to avoid selling poultry products with medicine residue in their bodies. Disregarding this withdrawal period cautions can easily damage the reputation of a business. Customers may no longer buy from you should your poultry meat smell like medicine. Therefore, a farmer must ensure that poultry products ready for marketing are free of harmful antibiotic residue.
Generally, every antibiotic has a clear withdrawal period on the label indicating the number of days a poultry farmer must wait after an antibiotic is administered before the poultry product can enter the food supply chain or market. This withdrawal period allows time for the animal or bird to sufficiently process the antibiotic. Withdrawal period guidelines also allow farmers to dump eggs or milk in the case of livestock products. Withdrawal periods vary depending on the medicinally active ingredients or products being produced, e.g. eggs, milk or meat. Some withdrawal periods can be as short as one to two days while others can range between 7 and 21 days.
Researchers have revealed that the high costs of adhering to withdrawal periods serve as the pressing hurdles to correct application of guidelines regarding the use of veterinary medicines. For that reason, farmers are urged to budget and factor in the costs incurred during the withdrawal period. The lesser the antibiotics used, the safer the food products are for consumers.
Drug residue and resistance
In general, poultry products are highly demanded; hence, people tend to consume a lot of poultry meat and eggs daily. It, therefore, defies food safety guidelines and laws to sell a poultry product with residue of drugs still in its body tissue. Regular ingestion of such poultry products by a consumer may result in a condition called antimicrobial resistance. As a result, the consumer can develop resistance to the drug/antibiotic.
For instance, when a consumer has a cough or any other sickness, the active ingredients in the medicine (e.g. tetracycline or amoxicillin), will not be able to cure it, as it is already part of his/her body and the disease-causing bacteria have become resistant. In the end, there will be no medicine capable of curing a simple sickness such as a cough. Therefore, producers, beware! Do not sell that bird or egg before the withdrawal period has lapsed. Irrespective of how customers are demanding the product, save the consumers as you serve them food.
Generally, the safety of end-users or consumers heavily depends on the producers. Over-use and misuse of antibiotics in livestock and poultry can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Farmers are advised not to administer antibiotics to healthy birds, as this can create antibiotic resistance to birds too. In the same vein, when you intend to sell, for instance, broilers no medicine except freshwater and feed should be given to the birds from the fourth week upwards. Thus, farmers should pay attention to the labels on these medicines, as they contain instructions indicating the withdrawal period duration and correct dosage, among others. It is, therefore, imperative for farmers to read those instructions and follow through accordingly. Application of indigenous knowledge as alternative treatment methods can also be considered, such as the use of herbal medicines (e.g. aloe vera, chilli, Neem (Azadirachta indica) and Moringa Oliefera etc). Our ancestors have practised these alternative remedies for poultry diseases and some have worked well for them.
However, traditional remedies can be a challenge when farming is done on a large scale. Overall, strict disease management (vaccination and biosecurity measures etc) on the farm are key to safeguard your flock and mitigate the occurrence of diseases. In conclusion, farmers should prioritise quality and not quantity, with quality at heart they will never go wrong. Thus selling poultry products free of antibiotic residue contributes immensely to product quality.
Besides, various studies argued that inadequate training of poultry farmers could be a major hindrance to the prudent use of veterinary medicines at farm level. Basic knowledge and skills can, therefore, be a pre-requisite to enhance proper flock management and correct use of veterinary medicines to upscale production. In light of this, farmers are advised to seek information and attend training where possible to gain the basic knowledge and skills on the enterprise of choice. Let us produce residue-free birds and market safe products!
*This article is compiled by Emilie Abraham, Technical Officer within Agribank’s Agri Advisory Services Division
2019-08-13 07:31:04 8 days ago