The Veterinary Feed Directive is soon to arrive, courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug and Administration. Now’s the time to have a heart-to-heart chat with your veterinarian about your use of any medicated feed or water products for livestock or poultry.
You’ll be required to seek veterinary approval for many over-the-counter antimicrobial drugs that have been available. By the end of 2016, FDA will eliminate all food animal growth promotion uses of “medically important” antimicrobials – ones used to treat human disease.
Remaining animal health uses meeting FDA’s “judicious use” standards will require your veterinarian’s approval. All extra-label use of drugs will be banned. That means a veterinarian won’t be able to use his judgement in approving a drug for a purpose not specifically listed on the label – except for injectable or water-delivered medication.
Much blame for causing antibiotic resistance in humans has been placed on feeding antibiotics to animals. But we know this:
• A relatively small percentage of the antibiotics used in livestock production are used for routine growth promotion. That practice is steadily being phased out.
• A report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that U.S. doctors prescribe enough antibiotics to treat 80% of all Americans every year. In other words, antibiotics are clearly overused in humans.
• A 2014 Centers for Disease Control report found that half of all prescriptions given to humans were unnecessary.
• A recent FDA antibiotic use summary found the following usages in humans versus animals (by volume of drug used):
Penicillins: 44% vs 6%;
Cephalosporins: 15% vs 1%;
Sulfas: 14% vs 3%;
Quinolones: 9% vs less than 1%;
Macrolides: 5% vs 4%;
Tetracyclines: 4% vs 41%;
Ionophores (monensin, etc.): 0% vs. 30%.
Note: Monensin isn’t considered a medically important antibiotic.
So it seems a bit unfair to put all the blame for antibiotic resistance in humans on livestock producers doesn’t it? Why do we hear very little about the over-prescribing of antibiotics in human medicine?
Back to your vet chat...
Granting you a VFD is at your veterinarian’s discretion, so don’t assume it’s an automatic process. It’s up to them to decide if:
• you have a genuine need.
• the feed antibiotic will do the job you expect
• there are alternative products that aren’t antibiotics
• you’re able to meet pre-slaughter withdrawal times
If you haven’t done so already, make sure you have a close working relationship with your veterinarian before VFD’s are required at year-end.
For more on what cattle drugs will be affected by the VFD, click on Cattle drugs
Harpster is a beef producer and retired Penn State University animal scientist.