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Laying hens are not big budgies

We all like to take control, and do things around the farm for ourselves. But where do you go for advice? Other farmers and the internet are two of the most used sources of information for livestock owners. Occasionally this leads to harmful chemical residues in food.

A few hens died recently on a small-scale free-range egg farm. The owner searched the internet for images of sick chooks, and matched the condition in his poultry with a common bacterial disease. He read that the treatment was a specific antibiotic. As luck would have it, he had a part bottle of the same antibiotic left over from treating a related condition in his aviary birds.

Following a quick calculation to convert budgie dose to chook dose, he expected the problem to be solved. Unfortunately, his home remedy had serious consequences. The treatment of laying hens with this chemical is banned because it results in antibiotic residues in eggs. The packaging didn’t warn of the risk, as the product was intended for caged birds.

Many small landholders complain that the chemical they need only comes in a pack size that will last a lifetime. Sharing drenches, pesticides and weed sprays between owners of small holdings is often encouraged. It helps ensure chemicals used are “in date”, and allows chemical groups to be rotated to slow development of resistance.
However, there is a golden rule. Don’t use anything that is not in its original packaging.

A farmer gave advice to his neighbour to drench his poor milking cow for liver fluke, and even provided some fluke drench he uses in his beef cattle. He poured some into an old drink bottle and wrote the dose rate on it. Had it come in the original container, there was an instruction that it was not to be used in lactating cows.

Food safety and chemical residues are important considerations for all farmers, regardless of the size of your herd.

Bill Johnson
District Veterinarian
Bill.Johnson@lls.nsw.gov.au