In response to the rapid growth in the use of these methods, the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program issued an advisory statement earlier this year noting that there are no current BQA guidelines for remote delivery of drugs and the subsequent concerns with this method.

Woolsey cassidy
Managing Editor / Ag Proud – Idaho
Cassidy is a contributing editor to Progressive Cattle and Progressive Forage magazines.

According to long-time veterinarian and rancher, John Maas, the advisory statement is in part a plea to get the companies involved in researching how these products can be used safely and effectively. The statement, he says, “is the beginning of a much-needed discussion that has been a long time coming.”

Maas points out that the use of darts to deliver drugs isn’t new to the beef industry, but the technology has become a common method for administering drugs in certain settings. While these methods can be very beneficial in treating cattle in remote pastures, far from corrals or squeeze chutes, he says there are still some gray areas that need to be researched.

“We started hearing and seeing information regarding darts penetrating the animals and ending up in the packing plant,” he says. “We have been aware of the challenges in the use of this technology for a number of years, and we have recognized that if people are going to use these there is a certain level of education and training that is necessary. A lot of the information needed for education and training has to come from the companies that make the technology; it just hasn’t been done yet.”

Besides reaffirming the importance in following the BQA’s guidelines for injectable medication use, the advisory statement listed a variety of challenges associated with these methods, some of which include:

  • The risk of underdosing, leading to antimicrobial resistance and increased production costs.
  • The lack of precision and accuracy in drug delivery.
  • The needles’ potential to penetrate ligaments, joints and other tissue, resulting in permanent damage to the animal.
  • The possibility of needles remaining in the tissue or becoming dislodged in the field or pasture, creating a hazard for other livestock or personnel.
  • The entire dart could become embedded in the muscle tissue and could create a significant issue at the packing plant or at the consumer level if not identified at the packing plant.

In response to the advisory statement, Pneu-Dart Inc., a manufacturer in remote drug-delivery technology, issued a statement which acknowledged some of the BQA’s concerns were valid and recognized the ever-present need for science to support the technology.

The company made a commitment to the industry in helping ensure safety and proper use of the technology by equipping the darts with their “patent-pending Slow-Inject technology” and “finalizing a certified online educational program for all users.”

In conjunction with the online educational platform, Pneu-Dart Inc. has also scheduled a one-hour television program, which will air on RFD-TV Dec. 14, 2015. The broadcasted program will consist of a roundtable discussion on the use of remote drug delivery with one of the many topics focusing on the importance of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) when administering medication. Pneu-Dart Inc. also plans to extend invitations to accredited institutions to participate in documenting reduced stress levels and the efficacy of drugs delivered remotely. The company encouraged all members in the statement to “embrace the need for remote drug delivery education” and to “contribute to [their] efforts.”

Dee Griffin, a veterinarian at the University of Nebraska and member of the BQA Advisory Board, applauds the company’s efforts. He says it’s going to take everyone “to make the life of a cow the best it can be.”

“It’s a transition that we are all going to have to catch up with, and it’s not going to be overnight, but we’ve got to do it,” Griffin says. “A prominent cattleman once told me that ‘all you need to remember is that if it ain’t right, then make it right,’ and that is exactly what we are doing with the dart deal. Darts are not evil; we just have to figure out those things that aren’t right and gather the information and changes that need to be made to make it right.”

As for now, Griffin reminds producers to use the darts “in the best interest of the animal and also in the best interest for the consumer.”

The full BQA advisory statement is available online at the BQA website.  end mark