VFD a year later: Is it helping or hurting livestock producers? | TheFencePost.com

VFD a year later: Is it helping or hurting livestock producers?

LOVELAND, Colo. — The Veterinary Feed Directive is major issue facing the dairy industry and was one of the main topics discussed during the dairy council meeting as part of the first day of the Colorado Livestock Association’s annual meeting April 4 in Loveland, Colo.

Bovine tuberculosis and the VFD were important topics at the meeting, but producers were still left with many unanswered questions after the presentations.


The latest round of antibiotic regulations went into affect January 2017, and Gary Sides, a veteran with Zoetis, an animal health company, talked about studies looking at the way tetracycline — one of the antibiotics now requiring a slip from the veterinarian to give to livestock — is used and the most effective way to apply antibiotics.

But there is still questions about whether antibiotics given to livestock leads to human resistance. The Center for Disease Control said about 50 percent of human antibiotic prescriptions are unwarranted. So is it the livestock industry administering too many antibiotics or human doctors?, Sides asked.

He said there are three main categories for antibiotics given to livestock, and the idea behind the VFD was to limit the use of a few, but it’s imposed limits on other antibiotics out of fear rather than scientific evidence.

Part of that fear stems from the idea that antibiotics given to livestock will create resistance in humans. While Sides didn’t dispute that antibiotic resistance happens, he said there have been studies to show antibiotic resistant bacteria can be found in so many places, even in caves. It’s not likely the rocks in caves were treated with antibiotics.

The point, though, is swift action was taken that now affects dairy producers. The antibiotic focused on was tetracycline, which often was used as a preventative measure, but now is limited. But if the reason behind the VFD was to limit resistance, why would an antibiotic that’s not even common in medicine anymore be limited? Sides said it stems from when people see the large amounts of tetracycline used in livestock versus humans, they get alarmed. But it still didn’t answer the question as to why, when the reason was to prevent antibiotic resistance, tetracycline now requires a prescription even if it’s not a common antibiotic for people anymore.


The original goal of the VFD was to limit a few types of antibiotics, but when the newest limitations went into affect last year, it took the original policy a step further.

There was a study that suggested producers are limited because of the system, and the original purpose of the VFD is falling behind.

One study done in 2016 had a control group of livestock that wasn’t given Aureo — a type of tetracycline — versus those given Aureo as a preventative measure.

The outcome?

In the control group, 25 percent of the animals not given Aureo as a preventative ended up getting sick versus only 1.3 percent of those given the antibiotic as a preventative.

When that happens, the critically important antibiotics the VFD attempts to limit are more likely to be used.

“VFD is doing the opposite of what it was meant to do. Rather than limit critically important antibiotics, there are a lot more critically important ones being used and more regulation and less use of the highly important antibiotics,” Sides said.

Tetracycline, by the way, is a highly important antibiotic. ❖

— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at sfox@thefencepost.com, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.


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