“What is it and how is it going to impact my operation?” That was the question on several beef producers’ minds during a community meeting over the upcoming FDA changes to the veterinary feed directive (VFD) rule set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Their operations were diverse – with a mix of commercial and purebred cow-calf producer, stocker and starter yard backgrounders and feedlot producers – but their concerns were aligned.

According to Jessica Laurin, the area veterinarian and current president of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants, the VFD regulations will shift medically important feed-grade antibiotics into the responsibility of veterinarians.

“VFD drugs are ‘new animal drugs’ intended for use in or on animal feed which are limited to use under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian’s professional practice,” she told producers.

The reason for this, she says, is outside organizations are pushing the FDA for more regulations of livestock antibiotic use in the dawn of antibiotic resistance on the human health side. VFD is nothing new, she notes, saying that the conversation around building more regulation has been in progress for several years.

Medically important antibiotics that have been noted in the VFD order are:

  • Tetracyclines – otc, ctc, terramycin
  • Aminoglycosides – neomycin
  • Potentiated sulfas
  • Macrolides

Laurin told producers that tetracyclines are a huge factor in the order, noting a 2013 report that showed they made up 71 percent of antibiotics use in food animal production. Of that total, 46 percent was administered through feed and 13 percent through water. Because tetracyclines are not metabolized to a significant extent in the animal’s body, up to 60 percent can be eliminated in urine and 40 percent can be eliminated in manure, she says.

How it works

“VFD is not a prescription – even though it is essentially a prescription,” she says. Through the regulation, livestock producers will have to work with their veterinarian to obtain a permit to feed a VFD medically important antibiotic to a specific group of animals. After that permit is granted, producers then have window of time, or “duration of use,” in which they can administer the antibiotics. Once the permit hits the expiration date, producers must obtain a new VFD from their veterinarian before they can legally administer more of the antibiotics – even if they have leftovers from the first permit. If producers have leftovers from livestock that no longer are in need of the antibiotics, a VFD can be permitted to a new specific group of animals using those leftovers.

Start now

One of the most crucial components of VFD for livestock producers is the veterinarian-client-patient-relationship, or VCPR.

“Each situation and production scheme may be different for individual producers,” Laurin says. “Because of this, it is important that your veterinarian is familiar with your livestock and setting.”

This relationship includes continual conversation about type of production, animal husbandry practice, recurring health issues and treatment protocols that are followed up on with routine visits. Because livestock producers cannot legally obtain and administer the listed medically important antibiotics on their own once the new VFD rules go into effect, Laurin stresses that it is important for producers to start building these relationships now so there is adequate time to prepare.