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Ask a Vet: VFD questions answered

Megan Tiffany for Progressive Dairy Published on 27 November 2019
Baby calves

What is the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD)?

A change to the guidelines by the FDA regarding antibiotics for food animals in feed or water took effect in January 2017.

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Under the ruling:

  • All antibiotics labeled to go into feed or water are no longer over-the-counter and fall under veterinary oversight. Antibiotics labeled to go into water require a prescription, while antibiotics that go into feed require a VFD.
  • A prescription may be valid for up to one year. A VFD will be applicable for up to six months and written by a veterinarian.
  • A feed mill needs a VFD in order to sell feed-grade antibiotics or medicated feeds.
  • All growth-promotion labels were removed. An antibiotic is considered a growth promotant if it is fed at a low dose for an extended period of time.
  • Any extra-label use of a feed-grade antibiotic is illegal, so all usage is restricted to the label directions for treatment or control of specific diseases for a limited duration.

How did this change impact dairy producers?

As of January 2017, any antibiotics added to drinking water or powdered tetracycline for hoof trimming, such as sulfas or tetracycline soluble powder, require a prescription. Importantly, if a producer’s hoof trimmer uses a powdered tetracycline for hairy heel warts, the farm has to supply the tetracycline. Since the cow is not owned by the hoof trimmer, a veterinarian cannot establish a valid client-patient relationship (VCPR) with them; that relationship must be with the producer.

Medicated feeds currently labeled “for increased feed efficiency or weight gain” no longer bear these claims. This does not include feeds with coccidiostats, such as monensin (Rumensin), lasalocid (Bovatec), Corid or Deccox, as these are not antibiotics.

Antibiotics such as aureomycin crumbles and medicated milk replacers that contain neomycin or tetracycline require a VFD. If a producer wishes to use these products, their veterinarian will have to determine if there is a definite need for them. VFDs do not apply to products with coccidiostats (as previously listed).

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Are there VFD-alternative products that can be used?

There are times when a VFD or prescription will be required, but producers are finding VFD-free product alternatives. Among the alternatives for prevention are vaccines, nutraceuticals and probiotics. VFD-free treatment options also include electrolytes for supportive treatment and non-VFD antibiotics when necessary. Veterinarians can be your guide, not only to alternative products but also to better on-farm management practices improving overall herd health.  end mark

PHOTO: Baby calves. Staff photo

Dr. Megan Tiffany
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