The William H. Miner

Agricultural Research Institute

Miner Institute
Farm Report


Take a quick look through your dairy’s drug cabinet and I bet you will find flunixin. If the name flunixin doesn’t ring a bell then maybe some of the common brand names for flunixin will: Banamine, Prevail, and Flunixamine. Flunixin is a nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) approved for use in cattle for control of inflammation in endotoxemia and for the control of fever associated with mastitis, bovine respiratory disease, and endotoxemia. It is used on dairy farms, including Miner Institute, under the supervision of a veterinarian. Currently, flunixin is labeled for intravenous (IV) administration at a dose of 2.2 mg/kg every 24 hours or 1.1 mg/kg every 12 hours. With this route of administration, cattle can’t be slaughtered for 4 days following the last injection and the milk can’t be sold for 36 hours. Cows treated with flunixin often feel better and return to eating and drinking sooner so this has led some producers to misuse flunixin on a range of sick cows with minimal veterinary supervision and increase the risk of residue in meat and milk.

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service reported an increase in the number of residue violations in culled dairy cows from 2005 to 2010 with flunixin the second most common residue violation. Penicillin was #1. The high number of flunixin residues identified in culled dairy cows is likely related to the administration of the drug by unapproved routes. The route of administration and dose of a drug, such as flunixin, can affect the rate of elimination resulting in drug residues and costly violations. Common extra-label administration of flunixin includes intramuscular (IM) and subcutaneous (SQ) injections. However, extra-label use is not permitted for reasons such as convenience. In the packing plant it is easy to see the blemishes caused by IM and SQ injections thereby making the cow an easy target for residue surveillance.

As of December 2012, milk is not tested for flunixin residue but it is on the radar of the FDA as they announced plans in December 2011 to collect and test milk samples for flunixin. The rationale behind it was that a significant number of flunixin tissue residue violations were found and that the same treatment practices (i.e. administration by an extra-label route) that are leading to tissue residues might also be leading to residues in milk. The presence of drug residues in milk is a primary threat for the dairy industry! We need to continue producing safe and healthy products and avoid concerns by consumers and actions by the FDA.

In a recent North Carolina State study, low (<44 lb) and high (>66 lb) producing cows were given 2 doses of 1.1 mg of fluxinin/kg at 12-hour intervals by IV, IM, and SQ injections to assess the plasma pharmacokinetics and milk residue. The good news is that that cows that received flunixin by the approved route (i.e. IV) consistently eliminated the drug before the approved withdrawal times. However, milk residues persisted beyond the approved withholding times following IM or SQ administration. Also, the lower producing cows had slower clearance of flunixin from the milk which may contribute to drug residue violations. Meat residues were not assessed in the study.

Work with your veterinarian to ensure that you and your farm staff are properly educated in flunixin administration to prevent meat and milk residue violations. The use of testing is increasing and eventually may become routine in the packing and milk plants. There are already Charm tests available for flunixin. At Miner, we take flunixin residues seriously. We discussed the issue with our veterinarian. We have protocols in place in Dairy Comp indicating meat and milk withholding times for IV injections. In addition, we have an IM injection withholding protocol in place for those rare times that a cow moves suddenly during an IV injection and some of the flunixin may end up being delivered IM. The meat withholding is increased to 60 days in that situation.

May your 2013 be residue free!

— Heather Dann
— Anna Pape

* References:
Kissell, L. W., G. W. Smith, T. L. Leavens, R. E Baynes, H. Wu, and J. E. Riviere. 2012. J. Dairy Sci. 95:7151-7157.
USDA-FSIS (US Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service). 2005–2010. Red Book.
Wolfgang, D. 2012.

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The Miner Institute Farm Report is written primarily for farmers and other agricultural professionals in the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada. Most articles deal with dairy and crops topics, but also included are articles dealing with environmental issues and global agriculture as well as editorial commentary.

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The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute
1034 Miner Farm Road, P.O. Box 90
Chazy, NY 12921
phone: 518-846-7121
fax: 518-846-8445