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Revamping animal antibiotic use

By Staff | Feb 13, 2016

THE ICA’S recent Feedlot Forum attracted a full house in Carroll. Many producers took notes as they learned how all medically-important antibiotics used in feed will require a Veterinary Feed Directive, and how that affects their use of products from oxytetracycline to chlortetracycline.

CARROLL – When the Veterinary Feed Directive goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, it will impact nearly everyone in the livestock industry.

Now’s the time for cattle producers to get ready.

“It’s important to understand what a VFD is and how it will impact your operation,” said Dr. Mike Apley, a professor of production medicine/clinical pharmacology at Kansas State University.

Apley made his comments via an online connection at the recent Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s Feedlot Forum in Carroll.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking key steps to fundamentally change how medically-important antibiotics can be legally used in feed or water for food-producing animals.

DURING A RECENT Feedlot Forum in Carroll, cattle producer Dean Black, of Somers, listens to how the Veterinary Feed Directive will impact nearly everyone in the livestock industry. The VFD goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Now the agency is moving to eliminate the use of such drugs for production purposes (growth promotion and feed efficiency) and bring their remaining therapeutic uses in feed and water under the supervision of licensed veterinarians.

According to FDA, these changes are critical to ensure these drugs are used judiciously and only when appropriate for specific animal health purposes.

Frequently asked VFD questions

Q: What exactly is a VFD?

A: It’s a written statement (it must be electronic or a hard copy) issued by a licensed veterinarian that orders the use of a VFD drug or combination VFD drug in or on an animal feed. The veterinarian must be licensed in the state where his or her clients’ animals reside.

“This written statement authorizes the client to obtain and use animal feed containing a VFD drug or combination VFD drug to treat the client’s animals only,” said Apley, who noted the VFD must be used in the context of a valid veterinary client patient relationship.

Q: What restrictions apply to a VFD?

A: The VFD must be used in accordance with the conditions for use approved by the FDA. That means no off-label use, said Apley, who added that animal feed bearing a VFD must not be fed to animals after the expiration date on the VFD.

“Don’t get ticked off at your veterinarian if he or she doesn’t authorize off-label use or other situations that don’t follow VFD requirements,” Apley said. “The vet’s license is on the line if he or she tries to authorize something that’s not legal.”

Q: What information is contained with a VFD?

A: A VFD includes the veterinarian’s name and phone number; the client’s name, home or business address and phone number; the premises at which the animals are located; the date the VFD was issued; the name of the drug(s); the species of animals involved; the approximate number of animals to be fed the VFD by its expiration date; the level of the VFD drug in the feed; and the duration of use and the number of refills authorized.

Q: How does the VFD affect products used in feed versus water?

A: All medically-important antibiotics used in feed will require a VFD.

“There is no legal use of in-feed drugs other than those provided for on the label,” Apley said. All medically-important antibiotics used in water will require a prescription.

Apley added this prescription may include extra-label use.

Q: Who keeps the VFD records?

A: “Your veterinarian will keep the original VFD and provide you and your designed feed provider with a copy,” Apley said.

Q: Will costs be associated with the VFD?

A: Apley expects that there will be costs involved.

“I could imagine that veterinarians may charge a fee for their time and the extra paperwork involved with the VFD.”

More practical answers to VFD questions

Practical examples offer some of the best way to understand complex rules like those contained in the VFD. Apley shared the following examples:

Q: If I want to feed a milk replacer with neomycin and oxytetracycline, will I need a VFD?

A: Yes, because these are both on the list of medically-important drugs.

Q: Can I feed chlortetracycline in the feed to treat an outbreak of foot rot with a VFD?

A. No, because this would be an extra-label use. All extra-label use is banned under the new VFD guidelines.

Q: Can I get a VFD to provide a mineral or feed with chlortetracycline for anaplasmosis prevention?

A: Yes. This is a labeled use.

Q: Can I get a VFD to feed Tylosin to reduce liver abscesses?

A. Yes, this is a labeled use for Tylosin and would continue to be a viable use under the new regulations, Apley said.

Q: Do I need a VFD to use monensin (Rumensin) as the only antibiotic in my ration?

A. No. This is not a medically important antibiotic and so does not require a VFD, Apley said.

Q: If I feed monensin concurrently with Tylosin, would I need a VFD?

A. Yes. The VFD for Tylosin would need to authorize concurrent feeding of monensin, Apley said. If a combination feed contains one or more VFD drugs, the combination product requires a VFD.

Q: Will I need a VFD to use chlortetracycline or oxytetracycline in the feed for treatment of bovine respiratory disease?

A: Yes, you will, because either compound is labeled for such use but both fall into the category of being medically important for humans.

“Your veterinarian will only be able to authorize uses of fed antimicrobial products which conform to the label,” Apley said. “No extra-label use is allowed under the guidelines.”

However, a veterinarian may still prescribe extra-label use of an injectable or water-delivered medication, Apley noted. An antimicrobial delivered in the water is regulated differently and requires a prescription from a veterinarian, not a VFD.

Q: Will I need a new VFD for each pen of cattle in a feedlot or backgrounding operation each time I pick up a medicated mineral?

A: Not necessarily, but it depends. The veterinarian will determine multiple specifications on the VFD that may allow a producer to treat more than one set of cattle.

“These specifications include the regiment of the antibiotic, including dose and duration within label options; the number of cattle to which the VFD drug may be fed; and the expiration date, which specifies the last day the VFD product can be fed,” Apley said.

Livestock producers can be confident their veterinarians are actively engaged with the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine as the VFD is implemented, Apley said.

“Veterinarians are working hard to be ready for this change,” he said. “The goal is for your vet to be your key source of information so you can effectively work with the VFD in the months ahead.”

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