VFD: One year later
In January 2017, the U.S. livestock industry was wondering what the logistics of following the newly implemented Veterinarian Feed Directive (VFD) would look like and how difficult it would be to remain in compliance when getting a prescription for feed-grade antibiotics.
One year later, ranchers, veterinarians and feed dealers are weighing in on the realities of the VFD and ways they have worked with the new regulations.
“A year into this, things are going much better than they were initially,” said Jake Geis, DVM, veterinarian at Sioux Nation in Freeman, S.D. “We’ve worked out the kinks in the system, and now that producers have gone through it once, it’s typically a lot less frustrating the next time they need to get a VFD.”
Geis said producers have a greater understanding of what the VFD can be used for and what it can’t, and there is less confusion now than there was when the guidelines were being discussed and decided upon.
“For cattle producers, it’s pretty straight forward; it’s been nice to see that for the most part producers were already using these products the way they were intended to be used in the first place,” said Geis. “I believe the VFD has increased interest in probiotic and prebiotic use, and as a result, research in these products has been accelerated. Both producers and veterinarians see that in many cases, these products combined with good management could potentially displace a significant portion of feed-grade antibiotics used, especially for calves post-weaning.”
Although the industry has taken a big step forward in appeasing public concerns about antibiotic resistance with the introduction of the VFD, Geis said there will very likely be additional regulations down the road for livestock producers.
“The FDA has indicated that more regulations are coming, so it’s up to cattle producers to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Geis. “The FDA has discussed the need to address VFD products that have continuous use, and these could potentially have a duration of use label added. I could also see over-the-counter products and injectables like penicillin moving to a prescription status. To see these regulations extend to these products would be an easy next step.”
For producers, the VFD has required having more conversations with their veterinarians, but many say the extra steps haven’t been difficult, particularly if they already had relationships with a veterinarian in the first place.
“The hardest thing for many has been developing an ongoing Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCRP),” said veterinarian Jessie Christensen, DVM, owner of Mid River Veterinary Clinic in Chamberlain, S.D. “This can be tough for those cowboys who are just used to doing things on their own; however, the VFD has increased communications between producers and veterinarians. Doing site visits for my clients, we not only look over the animals, but we discuss protocols, as well. It’s been an adjustment for some to get used to that extra level of communication and working with someone they haven’t had to previously, but I think it’s a good thing.”
Christensen said she hasn’t received any pushback from clients on the cost of the VFD, and most are now pretty familiar with the ins and outs of being in compliance.
“Many of my clients are surprised at how quickly I can finish a VFD, and they are happy about the ease and speed of getting an electronically submitted VFD sent to their feed supplier,” said Christensen. “I think the VFD has also encouraged more diagnostic calls; producers want to have a better idea of what they are treating for. As a veterinarian, that makes me happy because I can help provide the proper treatment and management plan, and it also gives me a good idea of which diseases are impacting the region and have a better understanding of what other producers might be dealing with, as well.”
“It’s been an easy deal for us,” said Craig Moss, a cattle feeder from Hull, Iowa. “My supplement supplier is also a veterinarian. He writes a VFD for us each time, usually on a pen by pen basis. I don’t get charged directly for the VFD up front since I buy the CTC product from him. I could always have one written for a number of head, as well, but this way is easy. I just write a lot number on the VFD sheet and what days and how many pounds were fed and put it in the binder with my closeouts.”
Moss adds that the VFD has also encouraged a switch in protocols for his feed yard, which has ultimately helped improve the rate of gain on his calves.
“I actually think the VFD has helped us a little,” said Moss. “I used to use my regular Rumensin supplement from day one of receiving cattle, but now I’ve switched to using the Bovatec liquid up front. It allows me flexibility to use CTC on arrival if needed, but it’s also helped me increase dry matter intakes in the first few weeks, although the switch to Rumensin will plateau intakes for few days.”
Naomi Loomis, manager at Double A Feeds in Bridgeport, Neb., said with the adjustment period over, the process has become pretty smooth.
“Handling VFDs has gotten easier for myself and our clients, and so far, we haven’t had any major hiccups, except for questions with some of the wording on the VFD documents,” said Loomis. “We’ve seen a significant drop in sales of CTC since the implementation of the VFD; however, we’ve seen an uptick in products like Bio-Mos and Rumensin.”
Despite being a year into the process, Loomis said there is still some lack in clarity on what paperwork needs to be kept on file and what they might look for in an audit.
“As a feed supplier, we’re just trying to do the best we can to keep our books as accurate as possible, and I think our producers are doing the same thing. Most ranchers already keep good records, so this is just one more thing to keep in their files. Ultimately, even though it’s just one more thing producers must do, I think the VFD helps show consumers that we do care for our animals the best way we can, and that work hard to put safe, nutritious meat on dinner tables around the world.”