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Illinois veterinarian breaks down the Veterinarian Feed Directive; the pros, the cons and why it's happening.

Jill Loehr, Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

July 10, 2016

3 Min Read

Pop quiz for livestock farmers: What new rule goes into effect on January 1, 2017?

If your answer was the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), you are correct. 

Buzz Iliff, veterinarian, Wyoming Vet Clinic, says the main gist is that all feed and water medications will require a form signed by a veterinarian once VFD goes into effect. “We (veterinarians) need to know the animals, what’s going on and decide if they need to go on medicated feed and water-soluble medication,” he explains.

Iliff says producers who don’t have a veterinarian should establish that working relationship now.


Veterinarians will complete the VFD form that livestock producers will keep on file for two years. The form includes: the producer’s name and address, the veterinarian’s name and address, approximate number of animals treated, how much medicated feed or water they received and for how long.

Why VFD?

Iliff has a sense for why VFD is happening now. “I think a lot of it comes from the fact that people want to know where their food comes from,” he says. “There’s all this rhetoric about antibiotic resistance. But there’s never been any proven link between using antibiotics on food animals and creating resistant superbugs.”

And Iliff says the VFD will help keep it that way.

“Anytime you use an antibiotic at a low level for a long time, you’re selecting for resistant bacteria and we need to treat it at the right dosage,” Iliff explains.

“Everyone says we’re using high levels of antibiotics in our animals,” Iliff says. “We aren’t. We’re using therapeutic dosages - the dosages the animals need to cure them of the bacteria and get them over it.”

The VFD will prevent using medicated feed and water-soluble medication for growth promotion, Iliff explains. “The products will be for treatment only, which is not a bad thing and really what we’ve done for the last several years,” he says. “We don’t use low levels continuously at all. We use it at the right dosage for the right amount of time to get animals healthy.

As the VFD start date approaches, Iliff says most livestock farmers are already keeping accurate medication records. VFD forms provided by veterinarians will be valid for up to six months as long as the treatment program for the operation doesn’t change. Iliff says feed companies are updating packaging labels to include “For treatment only” language and removing recommendations for growth promotion.

“Anything for growth promotion is out the window,” Iliff says. “And that’s fine, we haven’t used them (medicated feed or water) at growth levels for several years.”

Iliff adds ionophores, such as Bovatec and Rumesin and coccidiosis treatments, such as Deccox, will not be affected by the VFD. Ionophores and coccidiostats are not antibiotics; they go right into the digestive system and pass without absorbing into the animals’ systems.

“Overall, it’s [VFD] a good thing,” Iliff says. “We can prove to people that we’re not out here drilling antibiotics into our animals for no reason.”

About the Author(s)

Jill Loehr

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer, Loehr

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