Animal production

Veterinary medicines and principles of their use in the treatment of livestock

It is the duty of every farm animal keeper to maintain their welfare. This means creating comfortable living conditions for them, providing adequate nutrition, treating them humanely, as well as preventing disease and providing proper veterinary care.

Antibiotic treatment should only be undertaken in justified cases when there is a high risk of bacterial infection in the herd or when it has already occurred (e.g. inflammation of the udder, uterus, lungs or other organs, and when cows are drying out under DC protection). Based on the guidelines of the Polish Sustainable Beef Platform, total antibiotic consumption on cattle farms should not exceed 10 mg/kg of the average weight of all animals per year.

The Polish Sustainable Beef Platform was established in 2018 and currently brings together a wide range of actors in the beef supply chain. Its aim is to bring the European Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s guidelines for livestock and production farm management to the national level, including reducing the environmental impact of cattle farming and maintaining animal health and welfare by, among other things, reducing the use of antibiotics.

Anti-bacterial drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, coccidiostats, neuroleptics and other active substances, including antibiotics such as Chloramphenicol, Metronidazole and Furazolidone, are used to treat livestock.

The list of veterinary medicinal products authorised in Poland includes more than 1,300 items.

Certain medicinal products may be stored on the farm, but only in places that meet the conditions for this and are protected from unauthorised access. Breeders are not allowed to keep substances with beta-antagonist effects used to accelerate childbirth, such as oestradiol 17b and its oestrous-like derivatives.

The law also prohibits the administration to animals of substances with thyreostatic, beta-antagonist, stilbenes, their derivatives and salts and esters, as well as oestradiol 17b and its estro-like derivatives, including substances with estrogenic, androgenic or gestagenic effects. Hormonal medicines may only be used in livestock reproduction or for therapeutic purposes when authorised by a veterinarian.

Because of the risk of medicinal residues in meat, the law prohibits the administration to animals of veterinary medicines containing beta-antagonist substances with a withdrawal period longer than 28 days. The ban also applies to hormonal substances acting as sediment, with a withdrawal period of more than 15 days, and those for which there are no analytical technique tools to detect the presence of residues in excess of their limits. The withdrawal period is the time for an antibiotic to be eliminated from the animal’s body to a level of MRL (Maximum Residue Limit) that no longer poses a risk of adverse effects on human health and life. Each antibiotic has its own MRL, and the withdrawal period itself is calculated from the time the medicine is administered until the milk is sold or slaughtered.

The process of treating livestock requires strict recording. The law in this respect imposes an obligation on both the veterinarian and the livestock owner. The veterinarian keeps records in the form of a paper animal treatment book, in which he or she records all treatment and prophylactic procedures performed, as well as the medicines and medicated feed used. Each visit and medication prescribed must be properly documented and then the original document given to the animal owner, who includes it in his treatment record. These are strictly chronological records in which any corrections or deletions require the signature and stamp of the veterinarian. In addition to paper form, they can also be kept on electronic media, with the obligation to make and keep computer printouts. Animal treatment records should be kept on the farm for a period of 5 years.