Veterinary Feed Directive and your animals

Holstein dairy cows.

The Food and Drug Administration is taking action to protect public health and promote the judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food animals. The FDA amended the distribution and use of Veterinary Feed Directive antimicrobials and animal feeds containing such medication.

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, the use of any “medically important” antimicrobials in or on animal feed is considered a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) order.

Therefore, the VFD order must be authorized by a licensed veterinarian and used in compliance with the new FDA regulations.

What do these federal regulatory changes mean to you and your livestock operation?

Basically, antimicrobials that you may have purchased in the past as over-the-counter to be included in your feeding program(s) will now require a VFD from your Veterinarian of Record with whom you have a valid Veterinary-Client-Patent-Relationship (VCPR).

According to the FDA, the new VFD will “bring the therapeutic uses of such drugs (to treat, control, or prevent specific diseases) under the oversight of licensed veterinarians”.

Livestock operations will no longer be able to use these medicated feeds for growth promotion or improved feed efficiency. If you are planning to continue using the antimicrobial(s) listed as a VFD in your feeding program, a VFD for each drug is required to be able to buy the product containing such drug(s).

The terminology

There are two very important abbreviations, VCPR and VFD. Let us review both of them:

What is a veterinarian-client-patient-relationship?

A veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) is defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association as the basis for interaction among veterinarians, their clients, and their patients and is critical to the health of your animal.

The practical explanation is that it is a formal relationship that you have with a veterinarian who serves as your primary contact for all veterinary services and is familiar with you, your livestock/animals, and your farm operation.

This veterinarian is referred to as your Veterinarian of Record (VoR), and both the VoR and the client should sign a form to document this relationship. You can download a VCPR template developed by the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association Drug Use Task Force at

This can be thought of as similar to having a primary “family doctor” where that individual is the one whom you consult with regarding prescription needs, changes in health status, or specialized services.

Because the VoR somewhat regularly provides veterinary services to you, they may be able to provide consultation over the telephone. Having an established VCPR is important to help protect consumers and avoid residues in meat and milk.

The definition

What is a Veterinary Feed Directive?

According to the FDA, it is a “written (nonverbal) statement issued by a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian’s professional practice that orders the use of a VFD drug or combination VFD drug in or on an animal feed”.

This can be thought of as similar to having a prescription. Many medicated feeds that previously could be purchased over-the-counter now require a VFD (prescription).

A VFD is written for a specific drug for a specific animal or group of animals and cannot be used for other livestock or species not indicated on the VFD. All VFDs will also include both an expiration date and a specified duration of use.

How Does the VFD Work?

This written statement authorizes the client (owner of the animal(s) or other caretakers to obtain and use animal feed bearing or containing a VFD drug or combination VFD drug to treat the client’s animals only in accordance with the conditions for use approved by the FDA.

The following link ( provides an overview video of the new VFD regulations, a complete list of Food Animal Drug Applications affected by the VFD, and the VFD Feed Distributors listed by state.

Preventing health problems

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! There is no magic bullet to solve or prevent health problems at the farm level, and proactive management practices matter when it comes to health management of the herd or flock.

Prevention of diseases at the herd level requires an ongoing and constant effort with effective coordination of the whole system (animals, feed/water, facility, environment, and personnel).

Every livestock operation is an integrated system; decisions made in one area of the farm will have an impact on other areas of the farm.

Perhaps reviewing the consistency of your feeding program (making sure animals receive a balanced diet), proper housing conditions and health program, and having a reliable and well-trained group of workers who can properly handle the established protocols will likely prevent many health disorders and the need for antimicrobials.

Considering the genetic selection of animals for improved health, or visiting new housing facilities designed for best animal comfort are holistic ways of reducing antimicrobial use at the herd or flock level.

Remaining competitive

In practice, the VCPR offers a great opportunity for these types of on-farm consultations. How to remain competitive is the “big” question. Perhaps a conversation or exchange of ideas may lead to developing the “know-how” of a more economically sustainable management system that ensures the safety of our food supply with best animal welfare practices for years to come.

Please have this discussion with your veterinarian and nutritionist. These little details make the difference at the end of the day!

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