The Veterinary Feed Directive from a vet’s perspective: A conversation with Hannah Klein at High Plains Cattle Supply
February 16, 2016
By Jan. 1, 2017, livestock producers who use feed-grade antibiotics will have to comply with a new regulation called the Veterinary Feed Directive. The VFD will regulate the sale of previously over-the-counter antibiotics and require producers to obtain prescriptions from veterinarians.
To learn more about the impact this will have on veterinarians and producers, The Fence Post talked with Dr. Hannah Klein, veterinarian with High Plains Cattle Supply in Platteville, Colo.
Q — What are the biggest steps you're taking to prepare for the Veterinary Feed Directive?
A — As a private practice vet, I'm mostly just trying to get the information out to my clients, because I don't want anybody to be surprised or stuck in a situation where they need a feed-through antibiotic in a hurry.
“If a producer’s going to take the time to have me out on the farm to discuss VFD and have that in place, that goes a long way toward having me write that prescription when the time comes, because once I’m on a property, we can discuss any problems I see, any improvements that need to be made.”
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For example, the classic (situation) is going to be a producer with a small feedyard who feeds out a couple hundred head and buys them from auction, so doesn't really know where they're coming from and puts together a mixed pen, goes to buy his aureomycin at the feed store and can't get it. Those are going to be the producers that are most directly impacted because they're unaware and they're not planning ahead. You know the big feedyards, they're all going to have their consulting veterinarians that are going to be well aware of this. They all have a valid veterinarian-client patient relationship. It's the smaller producers that are going to get surprised. As a veterinarian, I'm just trying to get the word out and get producers prepared so that they can take steps to get ready.
As a veterinarian through High Plains Cattle Supply, I am making sure that we know which feed manufacturers are going to continue making feed. One of the things that we are worried about is that our most common feed manufacturers (may) stop making feed because of the paperwork that it's going to create.
The other concern were going to have is that where we used to have maybe 20 or more different types of medicated feed in the warehouse at all times, we're probably going to cut back to several of the most common medicated feeds that we have, so turnover keeps the feed fresh. We will be able to special order large batches of medicated feed, but small orders will be the challenge.
We're also trying to make sure that local veterinarians and producers know that we are going to continue carrying medicated feed, so we can be their sources when the "big box" stores quit selling it because they aren't equipped to handle the paperwork.
Q — What do producers need to do prepare for the VFD?
A — From their end, the biggest thing is they need to have a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship. That means the small producer that hasn't had a vet out for numerous years, either because they're a good manager and they don't need them or they just aren't a good manager and don't consult a veterinarian, (will) need to have that veterinary relationship in place before they get into a problem.
Having the veterinarian out to their property, to their ranch, where they can evaluate the herd, where they store their feed and how they take care of the rest of the drugs that are on the property is the first step. Are (the medications) in the fridge, clean and still within the expiration date, or are they dirty, on a shelf, probably frozen and the labels have all worn off?
If a producer is going to background some calves or buy some calves at the sale barn, are they talking to their veterinarian about where to source preconditioned calves? Are they talking about arrival protocol?
If they wait until they already have an outbreak of respiratory disease or an outbreak of foot rot and they wait until that day, the veterinarian may not have time.
Q — What are some of the issues that might keep a producer from getting a VFD prescription written by a veterinarian?
A — If a producer's going to take the time to have me out on the farm to discuss VFD and have that in place, that goes a long way toward having me write that prescription when the time comes, because once I'm on a property, we can discuss any problems I see, any improvements that need to be made. We have that opportunity.
If I am sitting at the office and somebody walks in and wants to buy medicated feed, and asks me to take his word on how many calves he has, what they are sick with and how well he cares for his herd, if I have never been to that property, I cannot prescribe that no matter what he says.
I don't want to cause a panic —if a producer is having a disease outbreak with sick animals, a veterinarian can examine them and write a VFD for that group without a problem, just like a prescription for injectable medications.
Our goal is animal health and consumer confidence in the meat we are raising. ❖