5 Things You Should Know about Veterinary Feed Directives

As part of its strategy to promote the judicious use of medically important drugs in food animal production, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed how producers of food-producing animals will obtain medicated feed containing antimicrobials that are important to human medicine.  FDA began implementation and enforcement of its final rule on Veterinary Feed Directives on Jan. 1, 2017, and here are five key points for producers to know:

  • Under the FDA’s Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) requirements, producers will no longer be allowed to use certain medically important drugs in animal feed for production purposes, such as growth promotion or feed efficiency.  Producers will be allowed to use animal feed containing these drugs for therapeutic uses (preventing, controlling, or treating disease), but only with written authorization from the producer’s licensed veterinarian (the VFD form) within the context of a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship.
  • A valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) exists when the veterinarian assumes responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the patient/animal’s health and the need for medical treatment and/or services, and the client/producer has agreed to follow the veterinarian’s instructions for the animal.  The veterinarian must have sufficient knowledge of the patient/animal to diagnose its medical condition and must be readily available for a follow-up evaluation or arrange for emergency coverage in the event of adverse reactions or treatment failures.  
  • If there is a medical need for medicated feed, producers will then go to their veterinarian to obtain a written VFD order.  The licensed veterinarian will provide the producer a written VFD and will either send a copy of the VFD directly to the feed mill (or other feed distributor) of the producer’s choice, or will provide another copy of the VFD to the producer to take to the feed mill.  Once the feed mill has received the VFD, they may provide the medicated feed to the producer.
  • Producers must abide by the expiration date for the VFD itself and must also comply with the duration of use specified for the medicated feed.  The VFD’s expiration date is the period of time for which the authorization from the veterinarian is valid, or when that authorization expires.  The duration of use refers to the length of time the medicated feed is allowed to be fed to the animal(s) and when the medicated feed should be discontinued.
  • Distributors and veterinarians are also subject to numerous requirements under the FDA’s rules.  A producer who also manufactures medicated feed for others will be subject to additional requirements applicable to feed distributors.  All parties (veterinarians, producers, and distributors) must keep their VFDs for two years.

More producer information

Ohio Farm Bureau members can log in for further explanation of these points and additional resources on the FDA’s VFD rules:

American Farm Bureau Fact Sheet on VFD

Ohio Farm Bureau’s Quick Facts for Producers

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2 thoughts on “5 Things You Should Know about Veterinary Feed Directives

  1. Avatar Matt says:

    Not sure my kids, my wife, or I want any medication in my food, especially antimicrobials. Could this be why Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease is on the rise?

  2. Avatar Roger High says:

    Livestock Producers utilize antimicrobials in animal diets for the prevention and treatment of disease; as humans do for prevention and treatment of disease. Antimicrobial is the term for various drugs that work against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Antibiotics are antimicrobials that work against bacteria. Livestock producers need to have the ability to prevent or treat animal disease to prevent undue suffering of animals, just as we need to have the ability to treat our families when antibiotics or other such drugs are required. Livestock producers who utilize antimicrobials for prevention and treatment are required to follow a drug withdrawal time frame before the animal is marketed. This is to assure that the antimicrobial is not available to be consumed by the human population. Drug withdrawals are a marketing requirement, and there are stiff penalties for marketing animals with drug residue in them. The purpose of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) is to make sure there is a system in place between the veterinarian, the feed mill, and the livestock producer to assure that only antimicrobials that are needed by the livestock can be utilized by the livestock producer. One of the sole purposes of the VFD is to protect human health, and livestock producers will need to abide by the directive or they will be unable to use antimicrobials for their livestock.

    As far as the human disease issues referenced in your question, the concern with antimicrobial use in both humans and animals is not that such use will cause disease, but that unnecessary use could contribute to antimicrobial resistance to these drugs, meaning that the drugs may become less effective against the disease it is designed to treat. Therefore, the continued judicious use of antimicrobials in the treatment of both humans and animals is a step towards combating the issue of antimicrobial resistance.

    Roger A. High
    OFBF Director of Livestock Policy

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