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VCPR key to grower protection, profits

Katrina Huffstutler Published on 18 January 2013

The FDA recently tightened regulations on some drugs used in food-producing animals. The Food Safety Inspection Service of the USDA has instituted new broader-based residue testing schemes. Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association has approved modifications to the Model Veterinary Practice Act involving the veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR).

The goal behind regulation changes is to produce a safe, wholesome food supply. However, working past the complexities of the regulations and understanding why they are important may be an obstacle. Many veterinarians are still coming to terms with the provision under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act.

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One suggestion for avoiding these obstacles is looking at the VCPR. According to the FDA, a valid VCPR is one in which:

• The veterinarian assumes the responsibility for making medical judgments and providing medical treatment regarding the health of animals and the client (the owner) has agreed to follow the veterinarian’s instructions.

• The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the animals in order to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animals.

• The practicing veterinarian is readily available for follow-up in the event of adverse reactions of the regimen of therapy.

This relationship is built after the veterinarian has recently seen and become personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the animals. This includes examining the animals and regularly scheduled visits to the premises where the animals are kept.

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But Dr. Fred Gingrich, owner of Country Roads Veterinary Services and Ashland Veterinary Clinic , says a solid VCPR offers a lot more than protection against government regulations – it’s beneficial to calf and heifer growers in other ways, too.

“As veterinarians, we often see producers choosing the wrong antibiotic or misdiagnosing a disease and then using the drugs in an inappropriate manner,” Gingrich said.

He continues, “There’s plenty of evidence that giving those animals antibiotics is not the appropriate way to treat them, so we’ve gone into places and said, ‘Hey, you’re not using these drugs right. You need to do this.’”

The result is not only healthier animals but a lower pharmaceutical bill for the grower.

He adds while residue prevention isn’t usually at the front of heifer growers’ minds, in some cases it should be – and that’s another way a good VCPR can help.

“There are certain drugs, like penicillin, we use in young heifers that can possibly have a very long meat withhold. So you want to make sure,” Gingrich says. “Because if it was used in a higher dose than was on the label and then that animal went back to the dairy and they beefed her as a fresh animal and there was a residue there, that could be traced back with the heifer grower. So, a veterinarian can not only improve the treatment success but also help to prevent residues, which will protect the owner as well.”

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Gingrich says there are two steps every heifer grower should take toward developing a strong VCPR.

The first is to choose a veterinarian to be the operation’s primary vet. That practitioner should then visit the farm on a regular basis.

The second part of the equation, according to Gingrich, is good record-keeping that the veterinarian regularly reviews. It’s his peek into the operation when he can’t be there in person and an important part of the overall health picture.

“Producers have to keep records of the animals they treat,” Gingrich said. “And have your veterinarian review those records.”

Regular contact and good communication go a long way, and you never know how much it will help your operation in the long run. PD

Huffstutler is a DCHA staff contributor.

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