Helping farmers produce milk free of medicine residues

Farmers on MilkSure training course
What are the benefits of training for vets?

Although we don’t have to do this course in order to deliver the MilkSure programme to farmers, I felt it would make farmer training much easier and the 16 other vets on the course agreed. MilkSure isn’t compulsory for farmers, but it is recommended – it’s a way they can demonstrate leadership in the responsible use of medicines.

And the benefits for farmers?

Farmers learn how to use medicines more efficiently and therefore should have fewer milk residue failures. It demonstrates farmers’ commitment to producing safe milk.

Tell us about the course

Our ‘train the trainer’ course was presented by Owen Atkinson of the Dairy Veterinary Consultancy. The one-day course was developed by Dairy UK in conjunction with the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA); it was highly interactive with lots of group exercises.

How much does it cost for vets?

£200 including VAT for BCVA members.

What does MilkSure training entail for farmers?

MilkSure training is in two parts and revolves around a workbook. The farmer pays a registration fee (£65) for a training manual, access to the website and an online quiz, which has to be completed at the end of the training (farmers can register here).

Part 1 of the training deals with the technicalities relating to antibiotic failures and residue testing of milk. It can be completed in groups. Farmers need to be able to list the implications of medicines residues entering the food chain and rate how likely the risk of a failure is on their farm.

Milksure residue testing in action
Part 1 of the training - residue milk testing

Part 2 of the training is delivered one-to-one because it deals with medicines use on individual farms and discussion of issues such as risk analysis. The farmer pays their vet directly for this training and it takes around three hours.

Once the training has been completed and the farmer has passed the quiz, a certificate is signed by the vet and the farmer. The farmer keeps the workbook, which contains a wealth of useful information.

What areas did the course for vets cover?

The course updated vets on maximum residue limits, the residue tests that are used and why discrepancies occur. Other useful areas included the challenge of being able to explain the cascade, the use of ‘off label’ medicines and milk withdrawal periods. We discussed the thought-provoking questions that farmers are required to answer on how to avoid medicines residues getting into milk, such as understanding and adhering to withdrawal periods.

"Vet's moral responsibilities have to be taken far more seriously"

MilkSure involves reviewing all medicines used on all cows on the farm – whatever their age or stage of lactation. The course made sure we were fully informed and able to discuss with individual farmers how medicines are used, their withdrawal periods, and whether data sheet recommendations and veterinary protocols are followed. It provided the tools to talk about whether medicines use could be reduced and areas of medicines use that need attention.


We also talked about risk analysis by accidental contamination, listing the common, and uncommon, reasons for medicines residues entering the bulk tank. This became an interesting discussion point and involved some lateral thinking because many vets reported experiences of malicious contamination by disgruntled employees. Armed with this information, we can help farmers draw up an action plan to minimise risk.

What did you get out of the course?

I have a much better understanding of medicines residues and the technicalities involved. It made me think about our current medicines practices and how they could be improved. One person summed it up very well saying that vets’ moral responsibilities had to be taken far more seriously, adding that by doing this training, ‘vets will be much better equipped to work with farmers to reduce antibiotic use and minimise the risk of medicines contamination’.

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