Effective January 1, 2017 livestock producers will need a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) to purchase feeds/supplements that contain “medically important” antibiotics (antibiotics used for both animal and human medicine), including tetracycline, penicillin, neomycin, and others. The implementation of this federal policy sparks many questions within the livestock community.
- What is a VFD? A VFD is a written statement from a veterinarian which authorizes the use of antibiotic feeds for a specific situation. While this sounds like a prescription, by definition it is not. The main difference is that a prescription must be filled by a pharmacist, while a VFD does not.
- Why do we need VFDs? Within the multitude of producers, there are a handful who have used these feeds as a crutch to support sub-par animal husbandry practices or to take advantage of the increased feed efficiency linked to the feed, rather than to treat, prevent, or cure disease. Over use of these antibiotics increases the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Can I stockpile feed before January 1, 2017? You should not. If you notice, the tags on these feeds already state that they should not be fed without a VFD and when 2017 begins the policy is effective whether the feed was purchased before or after January 1st. If misuse of the feeds is discovered, the producer will be reprimanded. In turn, if a retailer sells the product without a VFD from the buyer, both parties will be reprimanded.
- If I get a VFD and follow the rules, does it mean that when I finish the treatment regime I have to discard the leftovers and buy a new bag next time? No, you can keep the product until it expires, but you must have a valid VFD to feed it at any time. VFDs do expire.
- Can my vet renew my VFD? Yes.
- How long do I have to keep record of my VFD? You, your vet, and the retailer should all keep a copy on file for at least 2 years and it should be accessible upon demand from the FDA.
- What do I need to do before January 1st? Maintain your relationship with your veterinarian. If you do not already have a relationship with a vet, establish one.
- How much does a VFD cost? There will be cost associated with a VFD, although there is no set price. Cost will depend on the circumstance and your relationship with your veterinarian.
- Are there exceptions to obtaining VFDs based on the number of livestock in consideration? Whether you intend to offer these feeds or supplements to one animal or your whole herd, you still need a VFD which explains the scope of the situation.
- How can I learn more about VFDs? Visit http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/ucm455413.htm or talk with your veterinarian.
The information in this article is adapted from the words of Dr. Justin Kiefer, DVM at The Ohio State University and announcements from the Food and Drug Administration.