What Producers Need to Know About Veterinary Feed Directives

I’m sure like most small and medium scale livestock producers, beekeepers, and youth livestock project parents and volunteers, you are wondering what is all the buzz about over this new requirement? After all, we’ve navigated these waters before with HAACP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), livestock tampering and exhibition rules, animal drug testing, quality assurance, and humane care directives. Can a veterinary feed directive (VFD) really be that difficult?

I had the opportunity along with my colleagues in industry, veterinary science, government and education to participate in an informational training program last week specifically on the new regulations developed around veterinary feed directives. Here’s a quick review of the timeline and then a few quick tips to get you on-track for the upcoming January 2017 implementation of this requirement.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to outline upcoming changes for the use of antibiotic products in production animals in December of 2013 with overarching goals that sought to address three key elements: 1) the “judicious use of antibiotics”; 2) the “protection of public health”; and 3) the mitigation of antimicrobial resistance. The final ruling, published in June of 2015, outlined plans to phase out the use of “medically important antimicrobials” (those drugs used to treat both humans and animals) in food animal production for purposes such as “enhanced growth or improved feed efficiency”. Veterinarians have been assigned the primary responsibility for identifying which situations require the therapeutic uses of these medically important drugs, and drug combinations.

Five Quick Tips to Help You Prepare Your Operation or Project for VFDs in 2017

1. Master the lingo

Learn and understand key terminology and abbreviations (acronyms especially) used to describe the process and components. FDA has a great brochure to assist producers on their requirements in meeting the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). You can find it at the following link: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/UCM455419.pdf

2. Know your operational needs

Read your feed label or tag, and know what is in your feed. Inventory or review the medications you utilize in your operation and if they are considered medically important. Basic lists are available for reference. You can find links to these resources under tip number 5 below.

If you currently purchase medicated bagged feed, medicated milk replacers, or water-soluble treatments, it is highly likely that those products contain a VFD drug or drug combination classified as medically important and will no longer be available, or able to be used without a VFD come January 2017.

If you have your feed custom mixed at a mill, or mix your own feed, or require treatment in feed for any of the listed medically important drugs you will need a VFD from your veterinarian in order to have the listed VFD drugs incorporated.

3. Plan ahead and estimate additional costs

Plan for some extra dollars to cover the cost of VFDs into your farm balance sheet or budget. There will most likely be a charge similar to that used by most veterinarians when they administer health papers [Ohio Veterinary Certificate of Inspection (OVI)].  You will want to estimate the number of VFDs you might use in the course of a year or length of your project so you are prepared for the expense.

4. Talk to your veterinarian

You must have a working veterinary client patient relationship or VCPR. A VCPR provides the basis or contract between your operation and your veterinarian. This relationship establishes that your veterinarian knows you, your operation and your animals and is knowledgeable about your needs.

You will need a valid VCPR in order to have a veterinarian issue a VFD for your project or operation. Beekeepers will also need a VCPR and a VFD for treatment of their hives for the prevention and control of colony diseases that require the use of a medically important VFD drug or drug combination.

5. Explore and utilize available resources

There are a number of great resources, both government and industry, currently available and being developed that will provide educational, operational, and informational updates, documents and reading to learn more about VFDs, the process, and regulatory oversight. The following are a small focused collection of sites and documents that can prove useful to producers in determining the role a VFD will play in your operation.