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Veterinary Feed Directive Q & A

In June 2015, the FDA finalized the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule pertaining to how feed-grade antibiotics can be used for livestock. Since then, there have been several meetings hosted across the state and country for producers, veterinarians and feed mills/ feed distributors discussing the details of these changes and how all parties will need to work together to follow new FDA guidelines for feeding antibiotics to livestock.

On October 1, 2015 the VFD final rule went into place, but manufacturers of feed-grade antibiotics will have until December 31st, 2016 to change their labels, with January 1st, 2017 being the day when these rules fully go into effect. Although producers will be able to wean one more set of calves before full implementation, it is important to start the conversation now and prepare all 3 parties for the big changes ahead.

Common Questions

As we all know, nobody likes change but it is the only thing in life that is guaranteed. In addition, with change come several questions. With some being more frequent than others, here is a list of common questions about the VFD that will hopefully help producers start conversations with their local veterinarians and feed dealers in order to be ready for 2017.

What is a VFD?

The VFD is a document that is necessary in order to use medically important feed-grade antibiotics in livestock that producers will need obtain in consultation with a licensed veterinarian in their state.

What products will require a VFD?

There are currently some medically important antibiotics that require a VFD, but as of January 2017, the list will get longer affecting medically important products such as chlortetracycline (Aureomycin), oxytetracycline, tylosin (Tylan), sulfas (AS-700) and macrolides (Pulmotil).

What is a VCPR?

In general, the Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship (VCPR) is an agreement between the client and veterinarian assuming the responsibility for the animal’s health and treatment on their operation. With this agreement, the veterinarian must initiate timely visits and have sufficient knowledge of the client’s animals so they can prescribe treatments via a VFD if necessary. A client must have a VCPR with a veterinarian before a VFD can be written.

As far as a valid VCPR, how often is a timely visit?

The language on “timely visits“ on the VFD final rule is intentionally vague, leaving the best knowledge and judgment up to the veterinarian and type of livestock they are raising. For example, they may visit a cow/calf ranch once per year at weaning time. Yet, timely visits to a swine operation may be much more frequent depending on the barn turnover rate. Individual states’ interpretations of VCPR’s may vary.

How will FDA monitor the new VFD?

The FDA will most likely begin monitoring the VFD at the feed mill/feed distributors to see if the filled VFD forms match actual sales. Similar record checks may be implemented on farm visits to make sure all feed-grade antibiotic usage is being documented.

What information needs to be on the VFD?

The information required on a VFD includes:Veterinarian’s name, client’s name, premises where the animals being fed a VFD drug are located, date issued, expiration date, name of VFD drugs (brand name or generic needs to be specified), approximate number of animals being fed, level of feed-grade antibiotic being fed and duration of use, withdrawal time and number of reorders.

Who needs the VFD?

The primary caregiver of the animals needs to have the VFD. Therefore in a farmer owned or custom feed yard, the manager will want to obtain the VFD. However, if a feed mill is manufacturing feed-grade antibiotics for farm use (not resale), the mill is considered the end user and will need to have a VFD to get the medicated feed.

Can my vet call in what I need?

No. The VFD needs to be documented and have a paper (or electronic) trail. Each of the 3 parties involved needs to keep records of each VFD for at least 2 years. When the veterinarian writes the VFD they will keep one copy and the other two will go to the producer. The producer will keep one copy and the other will be delivered to the feed dealer where they would like the VFD filled. It’s anticipated that electronic means will be available to accomplish these paperwork tasks.

Can I still use medicated feed in creep feed or mineral?

Yes, but you will need to obtain a VFD for it and make sure the use is approved on the label.

How often do I need to get a VFD and what do I do if it expires?

A VFD can be written for a maximum of 6 months’ use. However, if a VFD expires before the client completes treatment, they will need to obtain a new VFD for those animals. Also, if there is some product left after a VFD expires, they will also need to obtain a new VFD to feed the remaining medicated feed to new group of livestock. In this sense, a VFD can be looked at as an “authorization” to use the medicated feed.

Is this really going to happen or will it go away? 

Don’t count on the new VFD rules going away. Ready or not, it will be here before we know it, so we need to begin preparation now to help the transition go as smooth as possible.

Aside from starting these conversations, producers and Ag industry personnel should strive to follow best management practices ensuring the best vaccination protocols, lifetime nutrition, and animal handling skills are in place in order to raise healthy animals to produce safe meat for the world.

Where can you find more information on the VFD?

The Food and Drug Administration webpage has nicely outlined what producers, veterinarians and feed dealers will need to know about the VFD in informational brochures. Other sources of information include Farm Foundation or contact a SDSU Extension Veterinarian or Livestock Specialist.