Noble Foundation consultants have always encouraged producers to have relationships with their local veterinarians. A veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is necessary so the best decisions and practices can be put in place to maintain a healthy herd. Key elements of a VCPR include that the veterinarian engage with the client (i.e., the producer or caretaker) to assume responsibility for making clinical judgments about patient (i.e., animal) health, have sufficient knowledge of the animal by conducting examinations and/or visits to the facility where the animal is managed, and provide any necessary follow-up evaluation or care. Also included in this relationship is an agreement by the client to follow the veterinarian's instructions.
Most producers are probably aware of the need for a VCPR since it is already required to purchase certain medications. However, many medications have been available over the counter for use by producers as a means of therapeutic treatment and growth promotion. Much of this is changing. On June 3, 2015, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule was issued. This includes Guidance 213, which was finalized in December 2013. Guidance 213 gives detailed information regarding the definition of "medically important" antibiotics, a process for updating product labels and the data required for companies to obtain approval of any new therapeutic uses. The important date to remember is Jan. 1, 2017. This is the deadline by which drug sponsors must withdraw approved production uses, and veterinary oversight will be required for drugs that are deemed "medically important." Remember, the label is the law. Regarding a VFD, not even a veterinarian is allowed to prescribe extra-label use of an in-feed antibiotic. An example of this is chlortetracycline (CTC). In the past, CTC has been labeled for increased rate of weight gain and improved feed efficiency, and it could be purchased without a veterinarian's consent. It is widely used in mineral mixes. As soon as the label is changed, with the deadline date being Jan. 1, 2017, CTC can no longer be used for growth promotion; its in-feed use for therapeutic purposes, such as anaplasmosis, will have to be authorized by a veterinarian through a VFD. Chlortetracycline is just one example. Ask your veterinarian about others that may affect your operation.
It is important to note that ionophores are not included as a medically important antibiotic. Ionophores are classified as a polyether antibiotic, but they are not used in human medicine. A veterinary feed directive will not be necessary to purchase ionophores unless they are being used in combination with another antibiotic that is deemed medically important, such as CTC and lasalocid (Bovatec).
A veterinarian-client-patient relationship is more important now than ever before. A veterinarian should be and will have to be your main source of information regarding use of antibiotics. If you do not currently have a VCPR with a local veterinarian or are not sure if you do, start the conversation. Get to know your veterinarian.