Time is marching on to the day when we as cattle producers won’t be able to run to our local Quality Co-op store and buy feeds containing antibiotics or antibiotic premixes to treat our sick livestock. We won’t be able, at our leisure, to buy those water-soluble antibiotics that have been a salvation to our operations. All of this has fallen upon us because of the first acronym of VFD. VFD stands for a new act by Congress named the Veterinary Feed Directive.
VFD authorizes the Food and Drug Administration or FDA (second acronym) to ensure the judicious use of medically important antibiotics. By ensure I mean the FDA has authority to regulate and enforce the contents of the new act. Unless you are a livestock producer who has been living in a cave with no communication, you have read or heard about these new regulations. These new regulations will most certainly affect the way we manage our livestock systems.
As for the drop-dead date of the new regulations, it is Jan. 1, 2017. Now, don’t think you can beat the system for a while and stockpile a bunch of feed-grade antibiotics. You can stockpile them, but, Jan. 1, you must have a VFD to legally feed those antibiotics – even if they were bought before Jan. 1, 2017. To obtain this VFD, you must have a proper VCPR (very important acronym). VCPR stands for veterinary/client/patient relationship.
The reason a VCPR is so important is that if you and a veterinarian can’t define that you have this relationship then that veterinarian can’t issue you a VFD to allow you to buy feed-grade antibiotics or medicated feed to use in your operation. Most cattlemen don’t share this relationship with a veterinarian. While many livestock producers use a veterinarian in emergencies or dire situations, this doesn’t qualify as a VCPR.
The VCPR in Alabama is defined in the Veterinary Practice Act. It states that this relationship exists when a veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making medical judgements regarding the health of the animal or animals and the need for medical treatment and is created by actual examination by the veterinarian of the animal or a representative segment of a consignment or herd. The FDA also suggests this veterinarian should have working knowledge of the operation that should be evidenced by multiple farm visits each year.
I would bet that most livestock operations in Alabama don’t share this type of relationship with a veterinarian. It has been my experience that there just aren’t enough large animal practitioners for our livestock operations to have this close a relationship. However, prior to the implementation, I strongly suggest you seek out and find a veterinarian who can work for you in this capacity.
Most livestock producers are reactionary people and don’t seek help until it is surely needed. If you don’t have a VCPR with a veterinarian before the time that one is desperately needed, it may be difficult to find one willing to write a VFD to treat your sick animal(s). After all, the veterinarian is the responsible party in this situation. If the vet doesn’t feel comfortable with your management, chances are the VFD will not be written. The veterinarian’s license and livelihood are on the line. Therefore, it is imperative you and a veterinarian develop a professional relationship to allow each of you to feel comfortable when a VFD is needed.
The reach and ramifications of this new law are going to catch many of us by surprise and operations will be hurt because managers forgot to practice the six P’s (Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance). In this case, our planning can help prevent animal mortality and morbidity, and ensure we produce healthy animals within the bounds of the law for a profit.
So, as we move ever closer to the implementation of this law, we must realize the responsibility to properly use feed-grade antibiotics in our livestock operation falls squarely on the shoulders of the producers. It is imperative that producers take all possible steps to be prepared for this new regulation. Don’t be that producer who is poorly prepared so it costs your operation animals and money. Remember, you still have these antibiotics at your disposal, but you must follow new regulations to use them.
As time goes by, we will look at other bottlenecks related to the VFD.