The new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) has caused many changes for farmers, ranchers and their dealers this year, both in how they feed their animals and in how they keep track of their records. But the big picture also affects other groups like veterinarians and how they manage antibiotics for their clients.
With many affected by these changes, it is important that the industry as a whole maps out the issues and works together more closely to reduce any risk of errors or additional challenges in this process. To help address some of these issues, we asked our team in the field:
What are the most frequently asked questions across the U.S. following the new VFD?
1. How does my VFD look?
This one is a big worry for a lot of people, and for good reason. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will eventually start auditing to ensure the VFD is working and that people are in compliance. This means it is important for dealers and their customers to have a proper recordkeeping system and accurate information in their VFDs. The FDA has provided examples of properly filled out VFDs that you can reference on pages 12–16 of the Common Format Q&A.
It is also very important to make sure your figures are accurate. With no feed amount specified in the VFD, number of head and days are the two most important figures. It is important that the vet knows the approximate number of animals for the VFD, which should include any animal that has the potential to be fed a VFD feed, and it is also good for your vet to have an understanding of the capacity and normal animal turnover in your facility. This enables them to make sure the amount of feed sold under the VFD is consistent with the number of head covered. During inspections, VFD orders may be compared to manufacturing records, so these need to match up.
You also want to make sure to include everything that is required when filling out the form. For example, there is a cautionary statement that should be included on all invoices for customers. The FDA wants feed distributors to ensure all labeling and advertising prominently and conspicuously displays the following cautionary statement: “Caution: Federal law restricts medicated feed containing this veterinary feed directive (VFD) drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.”
2. Can we store VFDs digitally?
Dealers and farmers can store their VFDs in any format, including digital or paper. However, errors seem to be more common with handwritten VFDs. To help reduce the risk of an error, it may be beneficial for veterinarians to use an electronic VFD. This can make storing your VFDs digitally even easier. Additionally, since you have to retain a copy of the VFD for two years, this will help reduce the amount of paper you have to have on file.
3. Can I use a VFD for multiple groups?
You can use a VFD for multiple groups, provided the veterinarian has a VCPR and is comfortable with the health and management of each of the sites covered by the VFD.
This is why making sure you have a good relationship with your vet is so important. They need to have a strong understanding of your animals and their conditions to make the best decisions for you and your operation.
Many other challenges are going to come up as the VFD continues, so it is vital that you are able to discuss these matters with your vet. For example, you may need a second VFD for different feeding periods, or a VFD may expire and the vet will need to write a new one. This is a process that requires constant communication with your veterinarian to ensure accuracy and that your animals are kept as safe and healthy as possible.
As our industry comes together to deal with the VFD, we are learning more about what works and what we need to change.
“Though it comes with its challenges, the VFD has created a great opportunity for the industry to review what they are doing in terms of feeding their animals,” says Lori Stevermer, marketing specialist for Hubbard Feeds. “Often, antibiotics were fed because that’s what was done in the past. Now, we need to work more closely with our veterinarians to determine what is best for our animals, and our future.”
By requiring us to take a closer look at our feeding processes and our relationships, the VFD presents an opportunity to strengthen our industry. This will help us determine what is best not only for our animals, but what is best for our families and the consumer.