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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

With President Obama proclaiming November 13-19 as “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week and the World Health Organization aiming to increase awareness with World Antibiotics Awareness Week, we need to talk about the Veterinary Feed Directives that will come into play on January 1, 2017.

While animal agriculture often gets the blame for the global problem of antibiotic resistance, livestock feeders have been proactive in using the drugs appropriately. In Obama’s proclamation, noted that the nation’s public health is connected to the health of animals and the environment, especially with regards to the spread of disease. He also stated the he hosted the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship to bring together key human and animal health stakeholders to identify successful strategies and opportunities for collaboration.

According to the WHO announcement, “without urgent action, the world is headed for a ‘post-antibiotic era’ in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill, the benefits of advanced medical treatments such as chemotherapy and major surgery will be lost.” With the theme ‘Antibiotics: Handle with Care,’ the campaign conveys the overarching message that antibiotics are a precious resource and should be preserved. They should be used to treat bacterial infections only when prescribed by a doctor or an animal health professional.

With those warning in mind, let’s discuss the VFD final rule. It requires veterinarians to issue all VFDs within the context of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), and specifies the key elements that define a VCPR.

These key elements include that the veterinarian engage with the client (i.e., the animal producer) to assume responsibility for making clinical judgments about patient (i.e., animal) health, have sufficient knowledge of the patient by virtue of patient examination and/or visits to the facility where the patient is managed, and provide for any necessary follow-up evaluation or care.

There are numerous drug compounds with more than 120 different uses that will be affected by this guidance across animal agriculture. Ionophore, coccidiostat and bacitracin products will not require a VFD unless used in combination with medically important antibiotics. Beginning on January 1, 2017 if a livestock or dairy pro­ducer wants to feed his animals medi­cated feeds on the VFD list, he cannot simply go to the feed store, purchase the feed, and dump it in the feed bunk. A veterinary must complete a VFD from before a producer can buy VFD drugs, even those in medicated feeds.

In the Extension publication The Veterinary Feed Directive: What Producers Need To Know, author Tiffany Dowell Lashmet notes that a producer may not dispense the drug for extra-label use; it may be used only according to the approved labeling. And, because drug spon­sors are revising the labels in light of the new rules, using certain drugs for production uses will no longer be allowed. In addition, a veterinary may not write a VFD for an extra-label use. This will include for production enhance­ment based on the label that only allows for therapeutic use.

After the VFD is secured, the producer takes the completed form to the feed supplier to obtain the feed the veteri­narian has approved. The producer can then use the product, but must do so in agreement with the requirements imposed on the label. Each VFD form includes an expiration date that states the last day the product may be fed to the animals, regardless of the purchase date. The expiration date complies with any labeling requirements, but cannot exceed six months.

The feed supplier, veterinarian, and producer must keep copies of all VFD forms for two years.

More information is available under publications on the Tarrant County Urban Agriculture website at:


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