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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Health and comfort > Are you ready for the new Veterinary Feed Directive?

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Are you ready for the new Veterinary Feed Directive?

Jim Salfer
Dairy Extension Educator
September 26, 2015

Ready or not, the new FDA Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) begins to go into effect on October 1, 2015, but full implementation is not complete until December 2016. Actually the VFD is not new. The original document was published in 1996. The new directive is expanded and further regulates the use of medically important antibiotics. These antibiotics are those deemed important in human health. Many common over the counter drugs used on farms fall under this category and are listed below. Antibiotics not designated as medically important do not fall under the directive. This would include antibiotics such as Bovatec and Rumensin.

Over the counter cattle drugs affected by the new Veterinary Feed Directive:

Even though full implementation is not until December 2016, now is a good time to begin a discussion with your veterinarian on how the new directive might affect your operation. On many farms, the veterinarian may not even be aware of the feed antibiotics that are fed on the farm. The new directive basically states that all medically important feed grade antibiotics must be administered under the oversight of a licensed veterinarian. Producers will be required to get a VFD form (similar to a prescription) from a veterinarian before they can purchase and use any of the drugs. Similar to current prescriptions, only a veterinarian with a veterinary-client-patient relationship will be able to write a VFC. The expiration date on the VFD must also not exceed 6 months.

Similar to a prescription the veterinarian will fill out the form specifying the farm, group of animals to be treated, the drug to be used, the feeding rate and the duration of the treatment. The veterinarian must keep one copy, provide a copy to the farmer and provide one to the feed mill or distributor. Veterinarians will not be allowed to call in a VFD to a mill, but it can be delivered electronically by either fax or email. All copies of the VFD must be kept by everyone, including the farmer, for a minimum of two years. It is also important to remember that there is no extra label uses of feed grade antibiotics. Water medications are regulated differently and requires a prescription from your veterinarian, not a VFD form.

The class of animals most affected on dairies by this directive will likely be young calves. NT (neomycin and terramycin), a common additive to treat scours in calves is one antibiotic that is affected by this new rule. By 2016 producers will need a VFD in order to purchase and feed any add packs or products containing NT. Tetracycline is also a common additives used to treat calves and heifers with pneumonia.

On many farms veterinarians have limited involvement in farmer's use of feed grade antibiotics. Working closer with your veterinarian in these decisions will possibly save money in the long run. There may be less time and money spent on ineffective uses of antibiotics and more discussion on how to prevent illnesses so less treatment is needed. Here are some steps that will help make the transition easier.

  1. Make a list of all the feed grade mediations that you purchase and become aware of which might be affected by this rule.
  2. Visit with your veterinarian about these antibiotics and which ones might be affected by the new rule.
  3. Begin keeping good records of antibiotic use for all animals on the farms. Most dairy farmers keep excellent records of antibiotic treatments on cows, but are much less diligent about these records on calves and heifers.
  4. Work with your veterinarian and other key members of your management team to prevent disease outbreaks and develop appropriate treatment protocols for all animals on the farm.

Initially this may seem like a new needless regulation. It is important that all farmers comply with the new ruling so that consumers continue to have confidence that we take good care of our animals while producing a healthy wholesome food. Having a veterinarian more involved in all disease outbreaks and treatments should result in a healthier herd and less overall use of antibiotics.

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