Veterinary chemicals are drugs or medicines used to treat or prevent disease, injury and pests in livestock.
Without them, survival rates and productivity would be greatly reduced, particularly for intensively run animals.
The use of veterinary chemicals in livestock is controlled through the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992.
This legislation requires veterinary chemicals to be used safely and in accordance with good agricultural practice to:
- safeguard against the development of antibiotic resistance in animals which could jeopardise human health
- prevent unacceptable residues in livestock products, which may jeopardise market access for Victoria's livestock industry.
See our legislation page for further information.
Over-the-counter' products are veterinary chemicals that can be readily purchased from most veterinary chemical retailers and rural merchandise stores.
Examples include vaccines, worm drenches and lice treatments.
By law, farmers treating major species (i.e. cattle, sheep, pigs or chickens) with an 'over-the-counter' product must use a product that is registered for the intended purpose or obtain written authorisation from a veterinary practitioner to use the product contrary to the label directions.
'Over-the-counter' products can be used off-label (i.e. used in a manner not specified on the product label) to treat minor species (e.g. goats, alpacas, turkeys), however a sufficient withholding period (WHP) must be used to ensure there is no risk of unacceptable chemical residues occurring.
When using 'over-the-counter' products, farmers must not use the product:
- at a higher rate than that stated on the label
- more frequently than stated on the label
- contrary to a specific label statement.
Farmers are also not permitted to sell treated stock animals before all WHPs have expired unless the purchaser is advised of this in writing.
'Prescription animal remedy' products
Prescription animal remedy' products, such as antibiotics, are legally available only from a veterinary practitioner for animals that are under their care.
'Prescription animal remedy' products must only be used in strict accordance with the label directions or the written directions of the dispensing veterinary practitioner.
A 'prescription animal remedy' dispensed for one purpose cannot be used for any other purpose without the written permission of the veterinary practitioner.
A veterinary practitioner cannot dispense 'prescription animal remedy' products to treat animals unless:
- the client is a bona fide client with records to prove this
- the veterinarian has established a therapeutic need, and
- the veterinarian has responsibility for and current knowledge of the health of the animal/s and has records that support this.
When treating stock animals with a 'prescription animal remedy' and no ongoing treatment is required, veterinary practitioners must provide the farmer with a written advice note containing the same information that is required on the product label.
This enables the farmer to keep the appropriate chemical use records and adhere to relevant WHPs.
Any supplied a veterinary chemical product or prescription animal remedy that does not have either an APVMA label, a label supplied by the veterinary practitioner or an advice note should report this issue to Agriculture Victoria on 136 186 or contact email@example.com.
Record keeping – Ensure you understand the record keeping requirements of using veterinary chemicals, plus information on record keeping requirements for veterinarians. Also access Agriculture Victoria’s record keeping templates to assist you in meeting your record keeping obligations.
Residue management – General information about preventing unacceptable residues in all agricultural produce, as well as withholding period and export slaughter interval information for vets.
Off-label use of veterinary chemicals – Requirements for legal off-label use of prescription and over the counter veterinary chemical products.
Chemical use legislation – This page provides links to the relevant Acts, regulations, orders and prohibitions associated with veterinary chemical use. There is also a fact sheet “Veterinary Chemicals the Law and You”.