TFI urges producers to declare the antibiotic status of lambs

Terry Sim, October 31, 2022

MAJOR eastern states lamb processor Thomas Foods International is urging producers to declare the antibiotic status of their lambs on the National Vendor Declaration.

The South Australian-based processor with plants in SA, Victoria and New South Wales wants to lift the percentage of suppliers who declare the antibiotic status of their lambs on the National Vendor Declaration.

This can be done within section 7 on the NVD that asks for any additional information on vaccination programs, animal health certification and additional declarations.

Feedlot rations, clocks and licks with rumen buffers often contain antibiotics, but there are antibiotic options available.

TFI national smallstock manager Paul Leonard said the company would like to have 60 percent-plus of their lambs coming from suppliers who can declare on the National Vendor Declaration that their production chain is antibiotic-free.

He estimated about 95pc of paddock-finished lambs are produced antibiotic-free.

“It is more difficult through saleyards to keep the separation (between undeclared and antibiotic free lambs), but some saleyards try to announce it.”

Mr Leonard said TFI had been asking producers for the past six months to declare the antibiotic status of their lambs on the NVD and had made representations for the inclusion of a specific antibiotic question on future NVD versions.

“It’s not on the NVD, that’s the problem.

“It is really not a matter of whether they have been treated or not, it’s just a matter of filling question 7 on the NVD to say the lambs were either raised with or without antibiotics,” he said.

“We’ve got requirements from a lot of our customers, particularly in North America, who require us to validate it when we raise the claim that the lambs are antibiotic-free.

“With most feedlot lambs, the ration can contain antibiotics, but there are some that don’t.

“It’s not an issue about whether they are or aren’t, but when they don’t put anything (in question 7 on the NVD) we’ve have to treat them as if they are treated (with antibiotics),” Mr Leonard said.

TFI’s direct producer and agent clients were contacted about a month ago and NVD compliance had dramatically improved.

“So we are just still monitoring that situation.

“If it (compliance) falls off, it may well be that we’ve got to go to an antibiotic-free grid or price, and a treated or ‘don’t know’ price,” Mr Leonard said.

“The days of processors saying ‘yes they are (antibiotic-free)’ are over.

“The global customers when we raise these claims want some verification.”

Mr Leonard said the inclusion of a specific antibiotic question on the NVD is valid as more global customers were requiring antibiotic-free validation.

Other lamb processors and major supermarket chains also either require lambs to be antibiotic free for their quality assurance programs, effectively offering premiums for antibiotic-free supplies or penalties for those where antibiotics have been used.


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