Increasing interest in preventing the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and protecting the effectiveness of the antimicrobials that we have fueled the initiative behind the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule changes. The VFD regulation changes on medically important antimicrobials used in livestock feeds, previously available as over-the-counter medications, will be coming into effect in January 2017. Medically important antimicrobials used in livestock production are those products that are also used to treat humans. Now is the time to make sure that you have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) so that you maintain access to any products that might be more regulated under the implementation of the VFD rule changes.
A VFD product is a drug that is approved by the FDA for use in livestock feed under veterinary supervision with a written VFD order. The new VFD rule essentially ends the use of medically important antibiotics for growth performance enhancement, limiting use to treatment, control, and prevention. Under the new rule, the use of medically important drugs in feed may only be done under the supervision of a veterinarian. To be able to purchase feed with a VFD product in it, farmers will now need to have a VFD order from their veterinarian.
When the revised VFD regulations started coming into effect in October of 2015, there were very few drugs that required a VFD order. One of the biggest questions with the transition to new regulations is which drugs are impacted? Drugs that are NOT medically important do not need to transition to VFD status unless used in combination with a VFD drug. A list of the drugs that are transitioning from over-the-counter to requiring a VFD order can be found at the FDA Drug Transition from OTC to VFD list. A list of drugs transitioning from over-the-counter to prescription can be found at the FDA Drug Transition from OTC to Rx list.
The VFD rule changes bring on more paperwork for everyone. Veterinary Feed Directive orders will vary in length and use, but will not exceed six months. You will need to work closely with your veterinarian to determine how and when a VFD is needed. Farmers, veterinarians, and feed suppliers are all expected to keep a copy of each VFD order for two years. If you are looking for tools to help you keep track of your VFD records, check out the recordkeeping tools available on the Wisconsin Beef Information Center website at the VFD Record Keeping post.
So, what do you need to be doing now to prepare for the VFD changes being implemented in 2017? Ensure that you have a veterinarian that is willing to work with you and your farm to ensure you have a valid VCPR. Talk with your veterinarian, nutritionist, Extension agent, and other farm advisor professionals that you work with about practices that could be changed to help prevent the need to use certain products. Make an inventory of the antibiotic products that you are currently using. Check out the two lists of drugs that are transitioning that were mentioned earlier to find out if those products you are currently using will still be available to you. If they aren’t going to be available for use in 2017, talk with your veterinarian about alternatives. Consult with your veterinarian to come up with a plan for handling VFD orders, specifically asking about how “I’m out of this, and today is Saturday” orders might be handled. Finally, make sure to have the same conversation with your feed supplier to ensure that there are fewer “bumps in the road” to make the VFD implementation of changes smoother for everyone in 2017.