Ready or not, as of Jan. 1, 2017, here comes the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). But what is the VFD? Why is it important to dairy producers? And how can you prepare your dairy operation for it?

Coffeen peggy
Coffeen was a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

Dr. Mark Fox from Thumb Veterinary Services in Sandusky, Michigan, and Mike Milder from Vita Plus covered these important details during the 2016 Vita Plus Dairy Summit.

What is the VFD?

Fox explained that the VFD is “basically a prescription for the feed,” expanding beyond injectables to cover antibiotics administered orally. The veterinarian added that the purpose of the VFD is to “enhance judicious, responsible antibiotic use.” That means the use of drugs deemed “medically important” for human use will now be limited to therapeutic purposes only, as opposed to the purpose of livestock production or growth enhancement. It is hoped this effort will limit the development of microbial resistance.

The VFD is not a prescription, according to Milder. It is a written or electronic license that authorizes a veterinary client to obtain and use a VFD drug intended for use in or on feed for the treatment of that client’s animals in accordance within the conditions of the VFD. Though they are similar in that a vet provides a document that authorizes the drug’s use, the difference is that a prescription needs to be filled by someone authorized within the state (each state may have a different definition for who has this authority); whereas for the VFD, the distributors of the VFD drugs need to send an “intent to distribute letter” to the FDA.

However, medically water-soluble medications will now require a prescription, Milder noted. The script must be issued by the vet, and who fills it depends on the state. He urged producers to discuss with their veterinary office whether or not they will carry water-soluble medications to fill the prescription.


Why is it important?

The VFD matters to dairy producers because they will now be required to have this authorization from their vet in order to obtain some of the antibiotics added to animal feed that were formerly able to be purchased over the counter. A few specific examples include neomycin, chlortetracycline and oxytetracycline.

How can you prepare for it?

Milder offered these action steps dairy producers can take to be ready for the Jan. 1 effective date:

  • Establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR).
  • Review all animal health protocols with your veterinarian.
  • Put one person in charge of all things VFD-related.
  • Take inventory of antibiotics currently used.
  • Add a step in your current record-keeping system for recording and filing VFD documentation.
  • Communicate with your feed mill or distributor.
  • On Jan. 1, 2017, have a valid VFD for any feed or drugs being fed that fall within the VFD category of drugs.

Both Milder and Fox reminded producers to talk with their veterinarian to better understand the VFD and to keep atop of any further changes.  end mark

Peggy Coffeen