October 2015
Feeding Facts

Veterinary Feed Directive Update

August 25, the Farm Foundation held a meeting at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. The purpose of the meeting was to help everyone better understand the new regulation posed by the Food and Drug Administration. The new rule that will ultimately affect how each one of us feeds medicated feeds will take effect in December 2016. The primary purpose of the new rule is to limit the use of medically important antibiotics used in animal feeds. The claims on antibiotics used for growth and feed efficiency will be gone. It will also require a prescription, veterinary feed directive, be issued by a veterinarian before producers can feed medicated feed to livestock or poultry.

One of the issues stressed the most was the extra-label use of medicated feeds. While many veterinarians have felt they could write a prescription for an antibiotic to be fed in a method not directed on the medication label, the FDA representative made it clear that this has never been and will continue to be not permitted. The only way an antibiotic can be used in a method not on the label is if that antibiotic is in injectable or water soluble form. Again, extra-label use of feed-grade antibiotics is not permitted.

The most abused noncompliant extra-label use I have observed is the recommendation by veterinarians to feed chlortetracycline to cattle to help prevent foot rot. This practice has been and will continue to be prohibited, even with a veterinarian’s prescription.

A second point highly stressed was that there will be guidelines to dictate the veterinarian, client and patient relationship. The VCPR just mentioned will be defined and, before a VFD can be written, this relationship must exist. Currently, Alabama doesn’t define this relationship and we would be required to meet the definition as defined by FDA. One of the basic premises to this relationship is that the veterinarian has an intimate working relationship with the client and understands the management practices being imposed on the animals (patients). Without this knowledge, the veterinarian has no basis on which to write a VFD.

In Alabama, this could be a major roadblock in prescribing antibiotics used in animal feeds. In many areas, there are shortages of large animal practitioners and many veterinarians who do work with large animals don’t have a working knowledge of medicated feed formulation. This isn’t to say they can’t do this competently, but it isn’t included in their daily routine. I also worry about how the costs will be passed on to producers and if the costs will adversely affect profits.

The abundance of the new paperwork required to comply with this rule will also potentially affect the costs of medicated feed. More recordkeeping and people will be required to meet the requirements of the new rule. I also feel that some feed manufacturing facilities will no longer mix medicated feeds. Milk replacers could be one of the products affected the most because the neomycin used for growth promotion and feed efficiency will be gone and producers will be required to get a VFD before the antibiotics can be added to the milk replacer for therapeutic use.

Most of the regulatory checks will be conducted at the feed mills. FDA already has a relationship with the feed mills and it will be the most practical place to conduct regular checks. However, it wouldn’t be out of the question for FDA to do monitoring at both the farm and veterinarian.

Most on-farm mixing of medically important antibiotics will stop. If farmers want to mix Type A Medicated Antibiotics (example, CTC 50), they must first notify FDA of their intent to mix feeds containing these drugs and follow the same protocols that apply to commercial feed manufacturers. Farmers can blend Type C medicated articles (example, Aureomycin 4g crumbles) on farm without notifying FDA, but these usually are at a much higher cost per unit of medication than their more concentrated counterparts.

I know this is about as clear as mud, but what is clear is the way we feed and mix medicated animal feeds will change. We will lose the ability to mix medically important antibiotics for feed efficiency and growth promotion. It will require more planning and a relationship with a veterinarian to feed these antibiotics for disease prevention and control. It will change dramatically the way the medically important antibiotics are mixed and fed on the farm. These changes will take place in a little over a year; so we have time to adjust to these regulations to make them fit our production practices. As always, stockmen will adjust and persevere.

Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If I can help any of you, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..