Fluctuating temps bring attention to VFDs

Frustrated by the new FDA VFDs? Here are some thoughts for ‘making lemonade out of lemons.’

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By Sherry Bunting, reprinted from Farmshine, Feb. 10, 2017

EAST EARL, Pa. — Fluctuating temperatures in Pennsylvania and elsewhere this winter have suddenly brought the FDA’s Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) to the attention of farmers who may not have realized prescriptions are needed for respiratory crumbles and medications for milk replacer, among other things.

While the VFD has been discussed and published for two years before the FDA’s January 1, 2017 implementation, many farms with dairy cattle and other livestock did not realize the impact it would have on them… until they went to order medicated crumbles or feed for a group of coughing heifers or medication to add to milk replacer for scouring calves this winter.

These fluctuating temperatures have Dr. Joy Lenker of Great Creatures Veterinary Service seeing a lot of VFDs in Central Pennsylvania.

Dr. Lenker shared how the FDA’s VFDs work and what producers need to know during the R&J Consulting Dairy Seminar, attended by around 350 dairy producers at Shady Maple Smorgasbord, East Earl, Pa. on Tuesday, January 31.

She noted that the whole process isn’t going over well with many farmers. Some view it as a “veterinary financial deal”, when in reality, the VFD is truly a “very frustrating deal.” Frustrating for producers and for veterinarians, but is something that Lenker says should be embraced.

“There’s no looking back. Agriculture is changing, and we have got to move forward. These are the lemons, and we can make lemonade,” said Dr. Lenker. “We have to put our best foot forward. Let’s show the medical community that we are committed to responsible care, even though we already know we are not responsible for the antibiotic resistance in human medicine.”

Lenker chooses to see the benefits and said that if farmers choose to view this in a different light, it helps.

“We can look at this as an opportunity and use that relationship to ask your vet what you can do differently to be more proactive on animal diseases,” she said. “This year has been very difficult with the fluctuating temperatures. We keep feeder cattle on our own pasture. We have never had to treat these cattle in the past, but this year needed to. Yes the VFD is restrictive and brings more paperwork, but if we look at this in a different light, we can take the bull by the horns and make it work for us.”

As Lenker, and other veterinarians visit farmers who now realize they must have that valid Veterinary Client/Patient Relationship (VCPR) in order to have VFDs written for medications added to feed or water, they bring other benefits to the table

“The FDA VFD orders require producers to be working with a veterinarian who knows what is going on on the farm,” Lenker explained. “That can be a good thing if you choose to use it to your advantage.”

So what exactly is the VFD? According to the FDA, it is a written (nonverbal) statement issued by a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian’s professional practice that orders the use of a VFD drug or combination VFD drug in or on an animal feed. It also pertains to these drugs used in water or milk replacer or whole milk from the tank. What it does not cover are ionophores, coccidiostats and bacitracins, which are exempt.

The first main component of the VFD is that it covers the use of medically important antibiotics – those that are important to human health – in food production animals to limit their use to necessary treatment to ensure the health of the animal.

The second component is that it gives the responsibility of prescribing and administering medicated feed additive antibiotics to a licensed DVM / VMD, who is responsible for authorization of antibiotics in both feed and water.

As of Jan. 1, 2017, farmers who use crumbles to treat respiratory disease in calves, medicated milk replacer to treat calves with scours, and L-S 50 soluble powder to treat a hairy heel wart must have a VFD from a licensed veterinarian to even purchase these items, which used to be available over the counter.

In addition, the practice of preventive medication for incoming cattle is eliminated and sulfa drugs are completely prohibited for all classes of dairy animals. Period.

Dr. Lenker explained that the VFD must contain:

  1. Veterinarian’s name, address and phone number;
  2. Client’s name, home and business address and phone number;
  3. Premises at which the animals that are located for treatment;
  4. Date of VFD issuance and expiration date;
  5. Name of the VFD drug(s);
  6. Species and production class of animals to be fed the VFD feed by the expiration date;
  7. Approximate number of animals to be fed by the expiration date of the VFD;
  8. An indication for which the VFD is issued, the level of the VFD drug in the feed and the duration;
  9. Withdrawal time, special instructions and cautionary statements necessary for use of the drug in conformance with the approval;
  10. Number of refills authorized;
  11. Statement on no extra label use;
  12. DVM / VMD signature.

These records must be kept by the producer, the veterinarian and the feed mill for two years. “If you have a residue violation, I guarantee someone from FDA will be knocking on your door wanting to see this paperwork,” said Lenker.

Farmers cannot buy these medicines for mixing into milk replacer or whole milk without the prescription, and the mill can only mix the legal limit according to the prescription for the duration prescribed.

Lenker urged producers not to shoot the messenger when they get to the feed mill and are given a different quantity of feed bags, for example, because the amount mixed must match the details of the veterinarian’s prescription exactly.

Conversely, the new FDA directive prohibits the selling of an open bag of medicated feed, meaning that in the case where just a few show animals need crumbles after the Farm Show, the script is written for a complete bag size.

The positive side of the VFD, according to Dr. Lenker is that the required Veterinary Client / Patient Relationship can work for the producer — with a veterinarian knowing the operation being the one to write the prescriptions. This improves the vet/client relationship to more proactive collaboration on animal health, comfort and performance — beyond calling for an emergency calving situation in the middle of the night.

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