Are you ready for the Veterinary Feed Directive?

(Catie Noyes photo)

It’s almost the new year, which means, as of Jan. 1, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), will take full effect. Producers have been hearing about the change and receiving updates along the way, but for those producers who still haven’t fully prepared for the change, here are some important things to note.

What is it?

The VFD was initiated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine to reduce antimicrobial resistance by addressing the use of medically important antibiotics given to production animals in feed and eliminate the use of these drugs for performance enhancement. A veterinary prescription will also be required for water-soluble antibiotics.

Related:Veterinary Feed Directive, What producers need to know for the new year

The VFD order is a basically a prescription issued by a veterinarian to allow a producer to use a medically important feed in a manner instructed by the veterinarian.

Recent updates

Throughout the year, concerns from livestock producers and veterinarians have resulted in some changes and modifications to the ruling. According to Justin Keiffer, clinical veterinarian for Ohio State’s Department of Animal Sciences, one of the most recent updates to the VFD was a clarification on minor species use of VFD drugs for small livestock such as sheep and goats.

Sheep and goat producers “were in a quandary because there weren’t many approved drugs for those animals,” said Keiffer. The FDA has since made some clarifications to the ruling allowing sheep and goat producers to use VFD feeds in an extra label manner.

Another clarification was made in the use of certain VFD feeds for beef cattle and dairy beef cattle. Beef producers using tetracycline crumbles cannot use that feed to feed dairy heifers because they are a lactating animal, explained Keiffer. Dairy steers intended for the feedlot, however, can be fed these VFD feeds.

Analyze feed inventory

VFD affected drugs and examples of each:
Avilamycin: Kavault
Chlortetracycline (CTC): Aureomycin, CLTC, CTC, Chloratet, Chlorachel, ChlorMax, Chlortetracycline, Deracin, Inchlor, Pennchlor, Pfichlor
Chlortetracycline/Sulfamethazine: Aureo S, Aureomix S, Pennchlor S
Chlortetracycline/Sulfamethazine/Penicillin: Aureomix 500, Chlorachel/Pficlor SP, Pennchlor SP, ChlorMax SP
Florfenicol: Aquaflor, Nuflor
Hygromycin B: Hygromix
Lincomycin: Lincomix
Oxytetracycline (OTC):    TM, OXTC, Oxytetracycline, Pennox, Terramycin
Oxytetracycline/Neomycin: Neo-Oxy, Neo-Terramycin
Penicillin: Penicillin, Penicillin G Procaine
Sulfadimethoxine/Ormetoprim: Rofenaid, Romet
Tilmicosin: Pulmotil, Tilmovet
Tylosin: Tylan, Tylosin, Tylovet
Tylosin/Sulfamethazine: Tylan Sulfa G, Tylan Plus Sulfa G, Tylosin Plus Sulfamethazine
Tylvalosin: Aivlosin
Virginiamycin: Stafec, Virginiamycin, V-Max
Drugs not affected:
Injectable medications: No injectable products affected
Ionophores: Monensin (Rumensin)
Anthelmetics: Ivermectin, Fenbendazole (Safeguard)
Beta agonists: Ractopamine (Paylean)
Coccidiostats: Decoquinate (Deccox)
Source: Penn State Extension

Keiffer said now is a good time to asses what VFD drugs have been used in your operation and if they are really necessary. Take inventory of what feed products are currently being used and note any VFD drugs they include. “If you are feeding VFD drugs to your animals, ask yourself, ‘why am I feeding them this’ and ‘are they really working’,” said Keiffer.

Although feed companies had to update labels to reflect the feed contains a VFD drug, they were not required to include efficacy data, explained Keiffer. That means producers don’t really know the effectiveness of that drug unless they have been keeping adequate records. “That’s a conversation producers should have with their vet,” said Keiffer.

Producers should also note any VFD feeds already being used on their farm will still require a VFD to use after Jan. 1. “If producers stockpiled a bunch of this stuff this fall, even if it was purchased before Jan. 1, they still have to obtain a VFD to use it,” said Keiffer.

Know your vet

If producers haven’t already, they really should be thinking about getting a vet out on their farm to get to know their operation, said Keiffer. A veterinarian client patient relationship, or VCPR, is going to be necessary in order to obtain a VFD and continue to use those medicated feeds for the animals’ health and well-being.

In a VCPR, the veterinarian assumes the responsibility for making clinical judgment regarding the health of the animal (patient), and the animal owner (client) has agreed to follow the veterinarian’s instructions. The veterinarian must have enough knowledge of the operation and the livestock in order to make a diagnosis and write a VFD and the veterinarian must be readily available for any follow-up treatment or evaluations.

The vet will provide oversight in the treatment process and maintain records of the animal(s) for which any VFDs were issued.

Keep good records

The veterinarian, producers and the feed mill all have to keep records of any issued VFDs for a minimum of two years. It’s also important to note VFDs have an expiration date, so just because you get one, that doesn’t mean you can give VFD feed to your animals indefinitely.

A duration of use, indicated by the veterinarian, is the actual number of days the producers is allowed to feed the animal that drug. According to an FDA example, a VFD-approved drug for swine, tilmicosin, has a duration of 21 days and an expiration of 90 days. This means the farmer has 90 days to obtain the VFD feed and complete the 21-day course of therapy.

4-H, FFA projects

Small- and medium-scale producers and youth livestock projects like 4-H or FFA are most likely to feel the new directive change the most because those small producers often seek out veterinary help only when there is a medical problem. “They are not going to be exempt,” said Keiffer. He encourages youth livestock showers to develop those relationships with a local vet now.

“It’s a good contact for them to have,” he said, adding it’s also a good way to determine if those VFD drugs are really necessary. A lot of livestock health issues that require these VFD drugs can be attributed to their environment, he explained.


As far as the enforcement of this ruling goes, Keiffer says not to panic when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. “The FDA is not going to be heavy-handed in enforcing these rules for the first part of the year, and the FDA has said as much,” said Keiffer. “It’s going to be a transition as everyone works through to figure this all out,” he said.

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