If veterinary feed directive or VFD isn’t in your ranching dictionary, it’s something you need to learn the definition of, how it will apply to your health management program and what communications you will want to initiate with your veterinarian and feed mill or feed distributor to ensure you can manage disease without delay.

For beef cattle producers in Arkansas, chlortetracycline followed by sulfamethazine are two medicated feed additives that are affected. The FDA has identified these, along with several other antibiotics, as medically important. In an effort to protect the efficacy of these drugs and prevent subtherapeutic use from contributing to antimicrobial resistance, access to feeds containing them will only be available with veterinary oversight instead of over-the-counter.

Historically, cattle producers have been able to purchase several types of supplements fortified with chlortetracycline, including protein tubs fortified with insect growth regulators and medicated with chlortetracycline, mineral supplements, range meals and special purpose feed blends such as starter rations and milk replacers. The labeled use of chlortetracycline in cattle feed included improvements in weight gain and feed efficiency, control of bacterial pneumonia, control of active infection of anaplasmosis and control of bacterial enteritis caused by E. coli and pneumonia caused by Pasteurella multocida. Being over-the-counter, producers have also fed chlortetracycline for off-label purposes, including cattle grazing fescue, pinkeye and foot rot management.

Several changes cattle producers who have used chlortetracycline in the past will have to adjust to include:

1) Subtherapeutic use for improved weight gain and feed efficiency will no longer be an approved use. There are good alternative medicated feed additives approved for weight gain and feed efficiency improvements that are not used in human medicine and will remain available over-thecounter, including Bovatec (ai lasalocid), Gainpro (ai bambermycin) and Rumensin (ai monensin).

2) With veterinary oversight, producers will no longer be able to use VFD antibiotics off-label, so producers will need to work with their veterinarian on treatment protocols and injectable antibiotic solutions for controlling bacterial diseases that are not covered by the label, including pinkeye and foot rot.

3) Anaplasmosis is a concern in Arkansas, and cattle producers who have used chlortetracycline in the feed for anaplasmosis control should plan early with their veterinarian. Feeding free-choice minerals and purchasing concentrated forms of chlortetracycline to mix into minerals have been historical standard methods of delivery. Since the dose for anaplasmosis is based on weight and mineral tags have historically given varied intake rates but were offered in free-choice access feeders, it will be interesting to see how the feed directive and medicated feed options develop for dealing with this common health issue. Arkansas is an approved state for using an experimental anaplasmosis vaccine that has been around since 2000. Producers who have had a difficult time controlling anaplasmosis should consider visiting with their veterinarian about the vaccine.

4) Another area of change that producers might not anticipate is when they purchase milk replacers or starter feeds. Non-medicated options are available, but medicated formulations will require a VFD. Stocker cattle receiving rations containing AS700 for bovine respiratory disease control will require a VFD. As veterinary-client-patient relationships develop, the veterinarian can provide direction on the cost effectiveness of medicated feed additives in shipping fever management compared to pulling and treating calves with prescription injectable antibiotics based on farm constraints of available pens for receiving, labor skill and time.

The more commonly recognized medicated feed additives used in Arkansas cow/calf and stocker cattle management that do not require a VFD include:

  • Bloat Guard: prevention of legume and wheat pasture bloat
  • Bovatec: approved for increased weight gain and coccidiosis prevention
  • Corid: approved for coccidiosis prevention
  • Deccox: approved for coccidiosis prevention
  • MGA: granted for use in heifers intended for breeding for suppression of estrus
  • Safe-guard: internal worm parasite control
  • Rumensin: approved for increased weight gain and coccidiosis prevention

When used according to the label, medicated feed additives can be a cost effective way of increasing weight gain in cattle and improving health and well-being. Always keep in mind that there is currently no allowance for off-label use and only approved combinations of medicated feed additives can be fed together. For example, Rumensin and Deccox is an approved combination; whereas, Bovatec and Deccox is not an approved combination. Bovatec has an approved combination with Aureomycin (chlortetracycline), but when used in combination will require a VFD for the chlortetracycline.

One challenge producers face with medicated feed additives is practical application when mixing feeds on-farm, especially when trying to use the most concentrated forms of medicated feeds. For example, a medicated feed additive with a 90 g/lb concentration contains enough active ingredient in 1 pound to treat 450 calves if the dose is 200 mg per calf. As an alternative to the most concentrated forms, producers can source supplemental feed premixes and mineral supplements that provide more manageable concentrations of medicated feed additives. For example, a complete mineral with 1,440 g/ton Bovatec will provide 200 mg at 4.44 oz. The U of A fact sheet FSA3012, Medicated Feed Additives for Beef Cattle, has recently been revised and renamed and is available as FSA3012, Medicated Feed Additives for Cow-Calf and Stocker/Backgrounding Production Systems, through an Arkansas county Extension office or online publication system at www.uaex.edu. The fact sheet provides information on medicated feed additives by approved use category.

While the VFD implementation does not go into full effect until January 1, 2017, the rule becomes active in October 2015. The period between October 2015 and December 2016 allows the pharmaceutical industry time to address label changes while veterinarians, producers and feed mills begin navigating feed directive logistics and implementing record keeping practices.

For more information regarding medicated feed additives, veterinary feed directives or formulating supplements with medicated feed additives, visit with your veterinarian, feed supplier and local county Extension agent