“A Cowboy’s Guide to the VFD”
by Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist
The veterinary feed directive (VFD) is essentially a prescription, written by your veterinarian, to your feed supplier, authorizing the supplier to sell you a medicated feed, and authorizing you to use an antibiotic in your feed, for some label-approved purpose. This will create some change in how we do business, and there will be some challenges. But to best prepare for those challenges, there are three key elements ranchers and cattle feeders should consider sooner, rather than later.
The first issue is that the veterinarian cannot write the VFD unless the veterinarian has a valid veterinarian-client-patient-relationship, or VCPR. The veterinarian has to have intimate knowledge of you, your operation, and your livestock, in order to be authorized to write the VFD. The basis for this VCPR will be determined independently by the veterinary governing body in each state, but a veterinarian friend of mine, Dr. Dave Rethorst of the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab puts it simply: “If the vet can find your ranch, in the dark, at two in the morning to attend to a calvy heifer, you’ve probably got a valid VCPR.”
The second issue is that the VFD is a written document. A digital version can be transmitted to the feed supplier initially, but a written version must follow shortly thereafter. The point is two-fold: (1) because the VFD is written and signed by your veterinarian, use of the medicated feed cannot be approved by a phone call. You had better give your veterinarian time to get the documents submitted prior to your need for the medicated feed. (2) The VFD is submitted to the feed supplier, with a copy going to the producer, and a third copy remaining with the veterinarian. This is certainly an additional layer of management which hasn’t been required before. But for all parties to demonstrate that the sale and the use of the product was legal, the paper trail must be in place throughout the system.
The third issue is simply that the label-approved uses of the medications will not change with implementation of the VFD. Put another way, producers will still be able to use the drugs in the manner for which they have already been approved. However, some unapproved uses of certain products will most likely stop or be greatly curtailed, because a veterinarian must sign a document stating the intended purpose of the medicated feed, having prior knowledge of the need and the use.
The VFD won’t change the ranching world a great deal, but it will require some additional planning and subsequent record keeping. And if you don’t currently have a veterinarian involved in your operation, you’ll need to choose to either get a vet involved in your operation now, or lose the ability to buy certain medicated feeds in the future.