By Tad TeBockhorst
Unless you’ve been living under the slats in your finisher, you know the fast approaching veterinary feed directive (VFD) regulations have been at the center of discussion in the animal agriculture community. Concern and confusion has risen from producers, feed distributors, and veterinarians alike regarding how to interpret these new regulations, as well as questions as to how the new rules will be enforced. As January 1 quickly approaches, here are a few points to keep in mind.
Understand the terminology and drug classifications.
A VFD is used for feed-grade antibiotics only, while a script is used is for water-soluble antibiotics. A VFD or script is not needed to use injectable antibiotics. If you have not already done so, take inventory of the products you use on-farm and how each will be impacted by the new regulations.
Some feed-grade antibiotics will still have a label claim for improved growth performance and feed efficiency and won’t require a VFD.
Some products deemed “non-medically important” by the FDA will not be affected by the VFD rules. Carbodox (Mecadox®), ionophores (Skycis®), and bacitracin (BMD®) are all examples of additives carrying growth promotion and feed efficiency claims that will be unaffected come January 1.
Evaluate animal health protocols and feed additives currently in use on your operation.
Now is the time to evaluate any type of animal health products or feed additives you currently use on your operation. Discuss your current herd health and performance with your veterinarian and nutritionist to evaluate what products are improving your bottom line. Given the current market situation and upcoming VFD regulations, this thorough evaluation may uncover opportunities to maximize profits and eliminate unnecessary spending.
Expiration dates and pig flows are important considerations.
One VFD may apply to one flow, or multiple groups of animals, moving to different locations (such as pigs moving from one sow unit to multiple nursery or finisher sites) as long as all locations are recorded. The veterinarian will be required to provide feeding instructions on the VFD, including dosage rate per head, number of days the medicated feed can be fed, and the expiration date of the VFD. You are not allowed to get “refills” on any VFD medications for any species. Only one VFD per animal is allowed at any given time; if you run out of medicated feed or your animals need further treatment, it will require prior approval from your veterinarian and a new VFD. Be proactive and plan ahead with your veterinarian so you have a valid VFD when you need feed.
All VFD medications must be fed according to label indications.
Veterinarians are not allowed to write a VFD for uses not specified on the specific antibiotic’s label. In addition, products not subject to the VFD rules when fed alone will be subject to the rules when fed in combination with products that require a VFD. For example, tiamulin (Denagard®), when fed as the only feed-grade antibiotic, will not require a VFD; however, if used in the approved combination with a chlortetracycline, the medicated feed would then require a VFD to be in compliance.
Only a veterinarian, licensed in the state where the animals are being fed the VFD product, can write the VFD.
Notify the veterinarian and the mill where your swine operations are located. For example, if pigs are weaned at a nursery in Minnesota and finished in Iowa, the veterinarian who writes the VFD will need a license in both states.
Keep detailed records.
Producers are responsible for keeping detailed records on all groups of animals receiving VFD medications and must retain their copy of all VFDs for two years. In the case of a mistake, identify the problem and notify everyone involved to document the event properly and prevent it from happening again in the future.
Visit the FDA website to read more detailed information regarding the upcoming VFD regulations, or reach out to your Vita Plus consultant with any questions you have going forward. As a collective industry, we have an opportunity to learn and share knowledge with each other in 2017 and beyond as we continue to adapt to changing consumer and legislative demands.
About the author: Tad TeBockhorst is a Vita Plus swine territory sales manager in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. He earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University in 2008. During his time at Iowa State, TeBockhorst gained greater experience working on the Sieren Swine Farm and the TeBockhorst Family Farm, where he was the owner of a 75-head cow and calf operation. His sales experience comes from his employment for Vittetoe Inc. – Show Stopper Equipment and Sedona Ag Services, where he worked on contract in the swine division of Elanco Animal Health to collaborate with producers, veterinarians, and nutritionists on feed medication programs.