Farm Horizons, February 2017

What farmers need to know: Veterinary Feed Directives

By Starrla Cray

When a person doesn’t feel well and needs an antibiotic, they go to the doctor to get a prescription.

As of Jan. 1, sick cows must go through a similar process. Feed that contains certain medications can no longer be purchased “over the counter,” and instead requires a written note from a licensed veterinarian.

Similar to a prescription, these orders are known as veterinary feed directives (VFDs).

“It’s mainly for beef and dairy beef,” said Brian Yager, food safety coordinator at Munson Lakes Nutrition in Howard Lake. “This has already been going on in the pork and poultry industries for quite a while.”

The regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aim to protect public health, reduce resistance to antibiotics, and eliminate the use of drugs for growth promotion. Affected medications are those that are used by both humans and animals, such as penicillins, sulfas, tetracyclines, glycopeptides, and others. Unaffected medicines – those exclusively used by animals – include polypeptides, pleuromutilin, bambermycin, carbadox, and ionophores.

At Munson Lakes Nutrition, feeds that make up the majority of products requiring VFDs are 39% beef concentrate with Rumensin® and Tylan®, AUREO S 700® crumbles, and AUREO 10G.

Farmers are still able to purchase these feeds, but they can only be used for specific purposes, such as treating a diagnosed illness, controlling the spread of disease in a herd, and preventing animals that are exposed to sickness from becoming ill.

When drugs are necessary, a veterinarian can provide a written statement authorizing a specific amount. That statement is given to the feed supply store, which can then provide the medicine-containing feed.

“We’re kind of like a drugstore,” Yager said, adding that some of the feeds are sold at the store, while others are available at the mill.

Federal inspectors will be visiting farms to ensure the new regulations are being followed.

“Their goal is to make at least one trip per year,” Yager said, adding that due to budget constraints, this frequency may not be possible right away.

Inspectors will ask to see VFDs, and look to make sure the number of sick animals matches the amount of medicated feed on hand. The inspector will then check with the veterinarian listed on the VFD to make sure the feed was authorized. The feed supplier will also be contacted, so the delivery date and amount of feed can be verified.

“In short, it’s going to be very hard to get around these new regulations,” Yager noted in a company newsletter. “Our advice is to contact the veterinarian who will write your VFD, the Munson Lakes Nutrition office at Howard Lake, or your Munson Lake Nutrition sales nutritionist if you have concerns about obtaining a feed product requiring a VFD.”

FAQs for VFDs

Q: How do I know if a feed requires a VFD or not?

A: Check the label. All VFD feeds will have the statement: “Caution: Federal law restricts medicated feed containing this veterinary feed directive (VFD) drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.”

Q: What does a VFD expiration date mean?

A: The expiration date listed on the VFD is the last day the feed can lawfully be used.

Q: Where can I find more information about VFDs?

A: VFD info can be found at www.fda.gov/safefeed.

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