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Phase one of the Veterinary Feed Directive takes effect in December

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

In December, producers will no longer be able to legally use medically important antibiotics for growth promotion or feed efficiency under a new law being enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to Christie Gabel, territory business manager with Zoetis, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) will impact everyone who has livestock.

“Producers should support VFD and the judicious use of antibiotics, so we can continue to use them in livestock production,” she stated.

The goal of VFD is to move all medically important feed grade antibiotics and microbials under veterinary oversight.

“Essentially, this means if we use feed grade antibiotics, we need a prescription from the veterinarian to use those,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates drug-resistant bacteria cause up to 2 million illnesses in humans every year and up to 23,000 deaths in the U.S. The livestock industry is embracing this law because producers want to make sure they are not creating massive antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.

VFD is also a way for the industry to address social media and negative press about animal agriculture from special interest groups that may influence legislation.

VFD origins

This law was first introduced as a bill in Congress in 2007 by Representative Louise Slaughter (D) of New York. It was known as the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act and sought to ban antibiotics for growth, prevention and control in the use of feed-administered antibiotics in shared classes.

“This bill would have essentially taken away the use of all feed-grade antibiotics,” Gabel said.

Through compromise, the groups came to a consensus and agreed to do away with label indications for antibiotics for growth promotion, she added.

By December 2016, the FDA directive seeks to eliminate use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion or feed efficiency.

The second stage of the directive, to be completed by January of 2017, will bring the therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics under the oversight of antibiotics.

“VFD will ensure safe food and sustainable, long-term use of anti-microbials for humans and animals,” Gabel said.

Critically important medications, like penicillins, tetracyclines and macrolides, will all be impacted by VFD.

Guidance 209

In April 2012, FDA established Guidance 209, which stated feed grade antibiotics should be limited to judicious use considered necessary for ensuring animal health.

The guidance said it’s not judicious for these feed grade antibiotics to be used for growth promotion or feed efficiency.

A veterinarian must provide oversight when using antibiotics on all types of animals.

“Essentially, we can use feed grade antibiotics for treating sick animals or for controlling a potential outbreak,” Gabel said. “We just can’t use feed grade antibiotics for growth promotion or feed efficiency, which we can all agree may not be the most judicious use of those technologies. If we want to use feed grade antibiotics for treatment, control or prevention, we need to get a script for it,” she added.

Gabel noted that ionophores, like Rumensin and Bovatec, are not included in the VFD, but they will be impacted if they are fed in combination with antibiotics.

Guidance 213

Guidance 213 outlines three steps to make Guidance 209 happen.

First, the guidance notes that FDA will initiate the process to eliminate growth promotion claims.

They will then allow the manufacturer of each drug to apply for prevention or therapeutic claims.

Finally, the process was slated to be finalized in 2013 and scheduled to go into effect in 2016.

On-the-ground impacts

VFD regulations will require veterinarian oversight on feed additives containing medically important antibiotics.

A distributor, which is defined as a person who distributes a medicated feed containing a VFD drug to another distributor or end-user, is required to maintain receipts and distribution records for two years and manufacturer records for one year. The veterinarian is required to keep the original VFD either in hard copy or electronically. The client must also keep a copy of the VFD.

“The VFD is going to force all livestock producers to have a strong, ongoing, positive relationship with their veterinarian,” Gabel said. “The veterinarian is going to need to feel comfortable with everything we’re doing on our operations to write us a prescription to use these products.”

She noted, “We need to prepare, get ahead of the game and be proactive about VFD.”

Once the veterinarian issues a prescription, it is only good for six months. The prescription will also state how many animals the drug can be used for. Producers will need to have a prescription in hand before a distributor can sell or deliver VFD feed.

Gabel said producers need to understand and obtain clearances for the feed products they are using.

“They need to find out what combinations are okay to feed and which ones aren’t,” she said.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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