Livestock producers must become familiar with a new directive regulating certain medications that can be added to the animals’ feed, according to Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist.

The veterinary feed directive (VFD) regulations go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

“This means that any feed additive medication used for livestock that contains an antibiotic considered to be medically important will need to be accompanied by a veterinary feed directive order,” Stokka says. “The order is a written or electronic order from a veterinarian to a producer and feed distributor. The order grants permission to purchase and use a particular feed additive medication in accordance with label directions as listed on the order.”

He stresses that feed additive medications with VFD status must be used specifically as stated on the label.

Every label will have a claim that the medication has one of three purposes: treatment, control or prevention. Combination feed additive medications that contain more than one medication may have more than one claim.

For example, chlortetracycline (CTC) may be used for the treatment of bacterial pneumonia associated with the shipping fever complex at a rate of 10 milligrams (mg) per pound per head per day for five days. The label for a combination product that includes CTC, along with lasalocid, will have a control claim for coccidiosis and a treatment claim at 10 mg per pound for bacterial pneumonia.

“The veterinarian will not grant permission to change the dosage rate or the indication/reason, such as using the drug for the control of infectious foot-rot,” Stokka says.

Feed additive medications are categorized according to the concentration of the active drug ingredient. Type A articles are those in the highest-concentration category and are used to create lower-concentrated medications, the Type B and C medicated feeds.

Type B medicated feeds contain other nutritional ingredients and can be used to create other Type B and C medicated feeds. Type C medicated feeds can be used as a complete feed or fed free choice and top dressed (added to the feed immediately before the livestock consume it).

For example, if you’re feeding a dose of CTC to treat bacterial respiratory disease to 100 calves weighing 500 pounds at the approved dose of 10 mg per pound per head per day for five days, the amount of drug you would need is 500,000 mg or 500 grams (10 mg x 500 pounds x 100 calves).

If you have a 10-gram product, that is 10 grams of CTC per pound. You would need to feed 50 pounds of the 10-gram product or use it as a top dress in the feed. A 10-gram-per-pound Type C product contains 20,000 grams per ton. A group of 100 calves being fed 10 pounds per head per day in a total mixed ration (TMR) would require 1,000 pounds of feed. You would need to include 1,000 grams per ton, which would require 500 grams in the TMR for this group of calves.

The VFD was created to limit the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock to medications considered necessary for animal health. The regulations do not apply to feed additives for food production purposes, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency.

Medically important antibiotics are those that are used in livestock but also are used in the treatment of human bacterial diseases. For example, tetracyclines have been used in or on livestock feed for more than 50 years.

“While these compounds traditionally have been sold as over-the-counter products, on Jan. 1, 2017, they will be transitioned to the veterinary feed directive status,” Stokka says.

He advises producers to check with their veterinarian, nutritionist and/or feed dealers about which products will be impacted by the new directive.

“If any of these products have been used in previous years and will be needed in the future, producers must make sure they have a working relationship with their veterinarian,” Stokka says.

This working relationship is known as a veterinary client patient relationship, or VCPR. The practical meaning of the VCPR is that the veterinarian must have visited the producer’s operation and be familiar with the type of operation (cow-calf, backgrounding, feedlot) and the producer’s capabilities.

If a producer does not use a veterinarian in a consulting or service-provider capacity, the producer will have to establish this relationship. Without veterinary involvement in the operations, producers will not be able to purchase and use specific feed additive medications legally. Without this relationship, producers also will not be able to purchase and use prescription products, such as injectable antibiotics.

A single operation may have a number of veterinarians the producer considers to be an important component of his or her operation, Stokka notes. The more you seek advice and utilize the services of a veterinarian, the stronger the VCPR relationship. In some livestock operations, this may be a formal documented relationship.

“Because the VDF goes into effect in less than six months, livestock producers should prepare for this change in regulations now by seeking veterinary advice on herd health management, firmly establishing the VCPR, and using all antibiotics judiciously,” Stokka says.