Ultratrace LC-MS/MS analysis of segmented calf hair for retrospective assessment of time of clenbuterol administration in Agriforensics

J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Jan 21;63(2):493-9. doi: 10.1021/jf5056437. Epub 2015 Jan 12.


In agriforensics, time of administration is often debated when illegal drug residues, such as clenbuterol, are found in frequently traded cattle. In this proof-of-concept work, the feasibility of obtaining retrospective timeline information from segmented calf tail hair analyses has been studied. First, an ultraperformance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) hair analysis method was adapted to accommodate smaller sample sizes and in-house validated. Then, longitudinal 1 cm segments of calf tail hair were analyzed to obtain clenbuterol concentration profiles. The profiles found were in good agreement with calculated, theoretical positions of the clenbuterol residues along the hair. Following assessment of the average growth rate of calf tail hair, time of clenbuterol administration could be retrospectively determined from segmented hair analysis data. The data from the initial animal treatment study (n = 2) suggest that time of treatment can be retrospectively estimated with an error of 3-17 days.

Keywords: agriforensics; hair; liquid chromatography; mass spectrometry; veterinary control; β-agonist.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Cattle / growth & development*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods*
  • Clenbuterol / analysis*
  • Drug Residues / analysis
  • Growth Substances / analysis*
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Veterinary Drugs / analysis*


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Growth Substances
  • Veterinary Drugs
  • Clenbuterol