From Merck Animal Health's BRD Report: From the Fence PostThis post is part of a series that focuses on understanding antibiotic resistance, defining what antibiotic stewardship means and how cattle producers can be better stewards of antibiotic use. Brian Lubbers, D.V.M., Ph.D., Diplomate ACVCP, director of the Microbial Surveillance Lab, a unit of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, is a contributor for this series.

In the previous post, we looked at some of the major changes that will come with the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). While the rule won’t be in full effect until Jan. 1, 2017, veterinarians and producers can start planning and preparing now to transition to practices that are aligned with the mandate.

Review current protocols
Most of our commonly used feed-grade antibiotics will require a VFD order, so producers should work with veterinarians to determine which ones they’ve been using and whether they’ll be affected by the VFD. For example, producers will need a VFD order to feed chlortetracycline to cattle for control of anaplasmosis, but a VFD is not required to feed monensin (Rumensin®) for prevention of coccidiosis.

Identify a Plan B
Producers also should check with their regular distributors to see if they plan to continue selling antimicrobials that fall under the VFD. If the distributor decides not to, producers will need to find another path to getting those antibiotics in their feed. Look at options now so when a health issue arises, you have a plan in place.

Err on the side of prevention
Rather than approaching VFD requirements as meeting the bare minimum, I encourage producers to view this as an opportunity to improve practices as true “antimicrobial stewards.” Yes, producers will be required to have a relationship with a veterinarian to acquire medicated feed, but also use this time to look at the entire operation to see where there are areas to build stronger immunity within our herds and reduce the need for antibiotic treatment. This might include adjusting nutrition, improving cattle handling, updating facilities or reconsidering vaccination plans.

Create a record-keeping system
Producers must keep a copy of the VFD order for a minimum of two years and provide the order for inspection by FDA upon request. The VFD regulations allow for both paper and electronic VFD orders (as long as they’re complete) and likely both forms will be used. Are you, your veterinarian and your feed distributor all planning to use the same form? Start now by getting that record system in place.

The bottom line is that being ready for the VFD is about planning. And we can’t plan within an individual silo of producer or veterinarian or feed distributor; there has to be communication among the three. For more information about how the VFD will impact you, click here.