By Russ Daly, South Dakota State University professor and Extension veterinarian and State Public Health veterinarian
The beginning of this year brought new veterinary feed directives that livestock producers and their veterinarians have had to learn to operate under. Feed-grade antibiotics that producers could once purchase and administer without guidance from their veterinarian, are now under the guise of the new VFDs and now, in order to use those medications, a VFD form from a veterinarian must be obtained.
Understanding the VFD rules
As all parties have quickly discovered, the VFD process is more than just having a vet’s signature on a scrap of paper. Because there is no allowance for using feed-grade medications in an “off-label” manner, veterinarians completing the VFDs have had to pay exquisite attention to every detail on the label, including the dose, duration of feeding, reasons (disease treatment versus control) for feeding, and the diseases the medication could be used for.
A VFD can’t provide for refills, like a prescription one might get from a family doctor. This means a producer can’t use the same VFD form to come back and get another quantity of medicine if it’s determined to be needed later on.
All VFDs have expiration dates, and that’s a point of confusion as well. A VFD actually expires when the treatment is done (or the expiration date is reached — whichever comes first). Even though a VFD might not expire until February (authorizing a treatment any time until then), if a five-day treatment is finished in November, the VFD is finished too.
A VFD can’t contain a statement authorizing a “retreatment as needed” or “repeat treatment in xx days.” An animal can’t show up on a VFD form more than once. If another round of treatment is necessary, a veterinarian will have to issue another VFD for the second treatment.
A VFD can’t be written for more animals than the veterinarian expects you’ll have on the farm. The veterinarian is responsible for indicating the number and location of the animals to be treated. Veterinarians might decide to only write the VFD for what is currently on the farm, or they could write it for the number eventually expected, if they are confident that number will be eventually procured.
It’s understandable that some livestock producers are feeling pinched by what a VFD can’t do. However, these new rules can do one very valuable thing: giving livestock producers an opportunity to interact with the one local professional who can best guide them through health-related decisions about their animals — their veterinarian. Since the new VFD’s implementation, many of these interactions have resulted in more effective and efficient use of these tools and consideration of disease prevention methods that preclude the need for antibiotics. These conversations are definitely a positive byproduct of these new regulations.