Cattle industry told changes in antibiotic use ahead

Antibiotic use for livestock is set to change fairly significantly as a new rule requiring a VFD prior to use is rolled out in 2016.

Cattle producers gathered in San Antonio, Texas, for the Cattle Industry Convention heard first-hand about the significant changes coming their way in December 2016 when a new rule on antibiotic use in farm animals is set to come into play.

Under the rule, which is currently in the process of being finalized, veterinarians, producers and those that distribute feed containing medically important antibiotics will be required to work more closely together to assure the products in question are indeed the best treatment option. All growth promotion uses of the products will be removed.

Quite simply, all uses of these products will require veterinarian authorization in the form of a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), or in the case of water-soluble products, a prescription, said Dr. Mike Apley, professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University.

About 97% of the medically important antibiotics, on a kilogram basis, that now available for food animal use are sold over-the-counter, with the vast majority of those being sold for use in feed or water, said Apley.

Producers currently can go in to a store or feed mill and pick up say a tetracycline drug, and while required by law to use it according to the label, can do so without any authorization. Under the new rule, producers will be required to have a VFD from a veterinarian that authorizes a particular use.

The VFD process is nothing new for some. Apley noted that the drug tilmicosin, brand name Pulmotil, already requires a VFD when used in pig and cattle diets. There also is a form of fluoroquinolone used in fish that requires a VFD.

Under the present rule related to VFDs, a veterinarian must specify how much of the drug can be purchased over the duration of the VFD, how many animals are to be treated, the dose and an estimate of how much feed will be produced to fulfill the VFD. The new rule removes the part about how much feed is needed, said Apley.

Once a veterinarian determines a VFD is needed, a completed VFD must be provided to the entity that will dispense the product. Basically, Apley said, three copies of a VFD will be needed -- one for the veterinarian to keep, one for the producer and one to go the feed company or entity that will fill the VFD.

For the livestock producer, the most significant change will be that of having to talk through the need for treatment with a veterinarian.

Apley stressed that ionophones will not be affected by the new rule. They will not require a VFD for use.

For feed manufacturers, the current VFD system will likely see some modification as the new final rule comes together, especially for some of the newer labels. With the new rule, Apley said, it is all about the label for the individual products.

Undoubtedly there is a big learning curve ahead for veterinarians, producers and the feed industry alike. Apley advises sitting tight until the final details are known, which will likely be this spring. He noted that the Food & Drug Administration is in the process of hosting listening sessions and is aware of those items that still need to be worked out. The January through November 2016 period will be the time to really get busy and learn what needs changing, he said.

It will take some adjustment for all involved but really it is a win-win for everybody as the end result will be greater interaction between veterinarians and their clients about exactly how these antibiotics are used, where and how, when they are and aren’t necessary, said Apley.

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