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74 percent of dairy farmers are storing expired medicine on farms

Research has revealed 74 percent of dairy farmers have expired medicines on-farm, in one instance being as much as 16 years out of date.

Eager to understand more about dairy farmer attitudes to medicine use, Aberystwyth University vet, Dr Gwen Rees, undertook PhD research to determine on-farm storage of prescription veterinary medicine.

Dr Gwen Ree, Aberystwyth University vet
Dr Gwen Ree, Aberystwyth University vet

“The research highlighted a big knowledge gap on what to do with expired medicines, with very few farmers saying they frequently discussed with their vet what was in the medicine cupboard.”

In light of the study results, Dr Rees advises farmers to conduct a ‘medicine cupboard health check’ as part of their regular herd health planning. Farmers can then work with their vet to ensure they are using appropriate medicines.

In addition, only 63 percent of the study farms were storing medicines correctly which could also impact treatment effectiveness. Dr Rees recommends checking storage instructions on the bottles of medicines.

“For vaccines, it’s recommended storage temperatures are between 2°C and 8°C particularly for live vaccines which are more sensitive to damage at raised temperatures. However, a study in 2011 by MSD Animal Health* found that on-farm this wasn’t the norm, and vaccines were often not stored at the correct temperature,” adds Dr Rees.

Image of a farm medicine cupboard

The study also found on-farm medicine records varied wildly, from very accurate to non-existent. Recording and managing medicine use and stock is particularly important when meeting assurance scheme requirements and creating health plans.

“Using a simple medicine book to record when medicine is used, why it was given, and how much was administered, will help farmers to keep track of herd health. It is also valuable to include withdrawal periods and any subsequent doses needed to fulfil treatment,” concludes Dr Rees.


*Williams, P. D. and Paixao, G. 2010. On-farm storage of livestock vaccines may be a risk to vaccine efficacy: a study of the performance of on-farm refrigerators to maintain the correct storage temperature.


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