Two Months In: What We’ve Learned with VFDs – Donovan Nelson, Vita Plus

Posted on February 23, 2017 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Donovan Nelson, Vita Plus formulation specialist
Veterinarian Feed Directive (VFD):  It has been a buzzword in the livestock and feed industries to kick off 2017.

How has implementation of the VFD rule gone thus far? It might depend on who you ask, but it has taken a team effort between veterinarians, livestock producers and feed distributors alike – which is ultimately the intention of the law – to ensure judicious use of animal antibiotics.

Looking forward, it is important that producers establish a close working relationship with a veterinarian for the whole process to go smoothly. The law states that a VFD can be written under a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR), which means the veterinarian works closely with the producer, visits the farm regularly, and is familiar with the animals to make rational animal health decisions for that specific farm.

Can calf and heifer management practices be adjusted to prevent some of the challenges without feeding VFD medications? We are seeing successful strategies on customers’ farms.

If it is determined by the veterinarian that VFD medications will be needed, calf and heifer raisers can do several things to avoid the bottlenecks in the process:

  1. Provide the details needed to write a VFD. It is important that your veterinarian knows the number of animals to be fed and the bodyweights of those animals. The treatment levels of some VFD drugs, like chlortetracycline (CTC) or neomycin/oxytetracycline (NT), are dependent on animal bodyweight, so an accurate bodyweight is needed. This information is necessary to calculate the amount of medication that can be sold to livestock producers.Another key piece of information on the VFD is the location/address of the animals. If animals are housed at several locations under the same ownership, each of those addresses must be specified on the VFD. Management software programs, as well as medication and species-specific VFD forms, are available online by many drug manufacturers to assist veterinarians in writing legal VFDs.
  2. Approved medications and combinations. Let your vet know which other medications you are feeding your calves and heifers. It is important all medications fed to an individual animal or group of animals are FDA-approved combinations. For example, if a veterinarian is writing a VFD for treatment of respiratory disease, then it is crucial for the veterinarian to be aware of other medications or coccidiostats currently used in your calf or heifer feed. It should also be noted that medicated feeds cannot be fed off-label, even under the supervision of a veterinarian, so always follow label instructions.
  3. Work with your feed distributor. Learn which VFD medications and concentrations your feed distributor handles. Knowing what concentration of the drug your feed distributor carries before a VFD is written will help prevent the need to rewrite a VFD or make adjustments later on, and help eliminate potential incorrect dosage to the animals. Always follow label instructions on medicated feeds and contact your nutritionist, feed distributor, or veterinarian if you have questions.
  4. Keep good records. All copies of VFDs must be retained by all three parties (the veterinarian, livestock producer, and feed distributor) for two years from the date of issuance. As a livestock producer, it is your responsibility to accurately record when VFD medications were fed, to which animals, groups or pens, and how much was fed. This information needs to be readily available if the FDA performs an audit at your farm to verify all medications were fed legally as directed on the VFD and drug label.
  5. Practice good communication, honest effort and patience. The new VFD law has many implications and we are all learning together. It will take a willingness to learn and strong communication amongst all parties to ensure VFDs are written correctly and medications are delivered so that animals are treated legally and in a timely manner. We can all work together to maintain consumers’ trust by showing them that, as an industry, we are using antibiotics responsibly and doing our part to minimize the possibility of antibiotic resistance.

Category: Starting Strong - Calf Care
Veterinary Feed Directive