Ready for Veterinary Feed Directive? by Rebecca Mettler

The veterinary feed directive (VFD) discussion has been a hot topic in the beef industry for the past several months. January 1, 2017 is the date in which antibiotic regulations will change the way beef producers administer some types of antibiotics.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) hosted a recent webinar on the VFD. NCBA is committed to providing their membership and beef industry partners with education regarding topics that affect the way the beef industry does business.

To discuss the VFD in length, NCBA invited Mike Murphy, DVM, JD, Ph.D., Federal Drug Administration veterinary medical officer, officer of the director at the Center for Veterinary Medicine along with Tom Portillo, DVM, manager of animal health and wellbeing at Friona Industries. The two provided technical information, regulatory information, VFD practical application and held a question and answer session.

Diving into the Information
 “To sum it all up, medically important drugs were defined, production claims for gain and feed efficiency are coming off of the label and there will be an increase or implementation of veterinarian oversight,” Portillo said.

The reason behind the movement towards VFD is complicated and is being made with respect to antimicrobial resistance. It’s an issue of use driven by the use of antibiotics in humans, animals, horticultural and others, according to Murphy.

“Although it’s been a subject of considerable scientific and policy debate for decades, things have continued to evolve. The intent of the agency was to address the public health concern while assuring animal’s needs are met,” Murphy said.

A VFD 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 animal feed. This is a written statement that authorizes the client (owner of the
animal or caretaker) to obtain and use animal feed bearing or containing a VFD drug or combination VFD drug to treat the client’s animals only in accordance with the conditions for use approved by the FDA.

In order to meet the January 1, 2017 VFD implementation date set for producers there must be prior cooperation with drug sponsors.

“December 2016 is the target for our drug sponsors to implement changes to use conditions of medically important antibiotics in food and water to withdraw approved production uses such as rate of gain or improved feed efficiency,” Murphy said. “After these label changes, these production uses will no longer be legal.”

While production uses will be no longer, therapeutic uses for the treatment, control and prevention of disease are still available. However, those listed as medically important antibiotics marketing status will be changed from over the counter to prescription or under the VFD. Antibiotics classified as medically important are those that are also for human-use. A complete list of the 292 applications that are affected can be found on the Center for Veterinary Medicine website, according to Murphy.

“Antibiotics that are not medically important to use in humans are not affected. Examples are ionophores, bacitracin, bambermycins and carbadox,” Murphy said. “ As well as other drugs that aren’t antibiotics that are used in feed such as anthelmintic, beta
agonists, non-antibiotic coccidiostats.”

“The VFD is an extension of the label. If it’s not on the label, it’s not legal,” Portillo said.

Strategies for Producers
“Everyone understands oversight, but in my opinion, consultation means to some degree that it’s going to be necessary that the veterinarian have at least a part in the design, execution and monitoring of situations where a VFD is required,” Portillo said.

The veterinary feed directive will be a part of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). Portillo said that the VCPR would be a critical point of VFD going forward.

“Before we get into a problem (cattle morbidity and mortality), we need to look at the VCPR as more of a partnership,” Portillo said.

To further explain, the veterinarian has assumed responsibility in the health program of their client’s operation. Knowledge of the client, production facility, production practices, and philosophies will be required. Timely visits to the operation will need to take place in order to maintain a familiarity with the operations.

“One key principle is that the vet doesn’t have to be involved in the administering of the drug, but does require the use to be authorized by a licensed veterinarian in the context of a VCPR,” Murphy said.

Portillo urges producers to establish a VCPR prior to January 1, 2017 if one has not already been established. They also need to think about if they will have feasible access to a veterinarian if a disease outbreak occurs along with access to a feed distributor/manufacturer capable of fulfilling their VFD-related request in a timely manner. He suggests working through a mock VFD exercise as if a disease outbreak was happening on an operation.

“Figure out as much of the logistics as you can before the rule takes effect,” Portillo said.

Understandably, a topic of this nature is impossible to cover completely in one article. If producers need more information on the VFD they are welcomed to go online to the NCBA antibiotic resource page,
which is under the Producer Education tab on As previously cited, the application list and other vital information can be found on the Center for Veterinary Medicine website at