Jan. 1, 2017 marks the beginning of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulations. These regulations were developed because of the concern over the use of feed grade antibiotics in production animal agriculture and the possible effects their use in animals may have on human health. The main goal of the VFD is to control the use of the “medically important” antibiotics that are used in both human and animal situations. Just as people must get a Doctor’s prescription to use an antibiotic, livestock producers will need to get a VFD from a licensed veterinarian to use these products on their operations.
The antibiotics most commonly used in animal production that are covered under VFD regulations are: oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline, neomycin, penicillin, sulfamethazine, apramycin, avilmycin, erythromycin, florfenicol, hygromycin B, lincomycin, oleandomycin, sulfamethoxine/ornethoprin, sulfamerazine, tilmicosin, tylosin and virginiamycin. Oxytetracycline and neomycin are the most common of the “medically important” antibiotics used in milk replacers. Since the VFD regulations prohibit the continuous use of antibiotics, milk replacers containing these two antibiotics, or any other VFD antibiotic, will go off the market after Dec. 31, 2016.
In order for a livestock producer to use products covered by VFD regulations the producer must get a valid VFD from a veterinarian licensed in the state where the operation is located. The veterinarian must have a valid veterinary‐patient‐client relationship with the operation. The VFD must list specific details including type of animal, approximate number of animals, name of the drug being used, drug indications, dosage and withdrawal time for the drug, and an expiration date of the VFD order. The VFD order cannot be for longer than 6 months, but can have a shorter expiration date. The vet, the producer and the feed supplier that provides the VFD drug must all have a copy of the VFD order and keep it on file for 2 years. The VFD order on file can be either in paper or electronic form.
Livestock producers need to work with their veterinarian and feed supplier to have the proper procedures in place so that after Jan. 1, 2017 they can obtain and use the products that they need for their specific situation.
There are several feed additives that are commonly used in livestock production that are not “medically important” and therefore not covered by the VFD regulations. These include: ionofores (Rumensin and Bovatec), coccidiostats, larvacides, anthelmentics, and beta‐agonists.
With the reduction in availability of the antibiotics covered under VFD, it is more important than ever to provide top notch nutrition and management to keep animals healthy. There are many types of feed additives not affected by the VFD rule that may enhance production. These include direct‐fed microbials, various yeast products, coccidiostats, essential oils, and immunoglobulins derived from either eggs or colostrum.