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Published October 28, 2011, 09:54 PM

Michigan dairy objects to extra scrutiny by vets

HAMILTON, Mich. — A dairy that sold cows with illegal levels of antibiotics as human food warned there would be “disastrous consequences” if only veterinarians could diagnose sick animals at its 10,000-head operation in western Michigan.

HAMILTON, Mich. — A dairy that sold cows with illegal levels of antibiotics as human food warned there would be “disastrous consequences” if only veterinarians could diagnose sick animals at its 10,000-head operation in western Michigan.

Scenic View Dairy objected to certain provisions in a 10-page order signed last week by a judge in Grand Rapids. The judge said in September that the dairy, which has farms in Hamilton and four other locations, had violated federal rules against sending cows to slaughter for human consumption if the edible tissue contained high levels of antibiotic residue.

U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist ordered the farm to improve its record keeping so it wouldn't use too many antibiotics, especially if they had not been approved to treat cows for a particular illness. Scenic View responded that it couldn't immediately satisfy a requirement that drugs be administered only after a veterinarian examined an animal. The farm said it would have to hire 12 full-time veterinarians.

“This provision has immediate and disastrous consequences,” attorney April Sawhill said in a court filing this week.

“With a herd of 10,000 cows, some individual cows become ill every day,” she wrote. “Those ailments often require immediate treatment in order to prevent the cow from becoming seriously ill or even dying.”

At just one farm last week, two dozen calves were born, and some typically have birth-related ailments, Sawhill said.

The federal government disagrees with Scenic View's objections. A hearing is set for Oct. 31.

The farm's main business is milk, but dozens of cows are sold to slaughterhouses in a typical week. The Food and Drug Administration says eating beef with certain levels of antibiotics, such as penicillin, can cause harmful reactions to people who may be allergic. There is no allegation that anyone got sick from Scenic View cows, but inspectors said they had detected high levels of drugs at least 11 times since 2002.

The FDA finally sued the dairy last year.

“The court sees little difficulty in Scenic View's coming into compliance with the record-keeping requirements” demanded by the government, the judge said last week.

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