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Cooperative effort: Producers encouraged to build veterinary relationship

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As Jan. 1 approaches, industry professionals around the country are working to make sure that livestock producers are not caught unprepared when the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and its resulting management changes go into effect.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hosted an educational webinar titled “Don’t Get Caught Off Guard – Preparing for Changing Antibiotic Regulations,” on Oct. 24.

In the presentation, Friona Industries Manager of Animal Health and Wellbeing Tom Portillo explained important changes and tips for transitioning to the use of the VFD.

The VFD applies to food animals and defines the judicious use of medically important microbials for disease treatment, control and prevention.

  “Basically, medically important drugs are defined. Production claims like feed efficiency, rate of gain and things of that nature are coming off of the label, and we are going to implement veterinary oversight as it relates to the use of these technologies,” continued Portillo.


A critical component of the VFD is the use of veterinary oversight, which is established through a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR), said Portillo.

“It relates to consultation. Consultation, at least to some degree, is going to necessitate that the veterinarian have at least a part in the design, execution and monitoring of these health programs wherever a VFD is executed,” explained Portillo.

He noted that veterinary oversight is not a unique factor to the VFD, but it is important in any treatment program.

“I think that should be applicable to any drugs that are authorized via prescription, as well,” he said.

It is important for veterinarians and producers to educate themselves on the results of label indications in the VFD, stressed Portillo.

“There is some longstanding misunderstandings as related to feed through antibiotics as to what they can be used for,” said Portillo.

He explained that the common perception is that the VFD is narrowing the scope of antimicrobial technologies. However, this perception is not the case.

“Extra label use of antibiotics through feed has always been illegal,” commented Portillo.


To smoothly transition to implementing the VFD, having established trust in the producer’s capabilities is critical for vets.

“A veterinarian is going to need to have confidence in the producer’s ability to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis prior to executing a VFD,” said Portillo.

“It boils down to the veterinarian having a hand in the design and maintenance of the health program of the production facility or producer client where they’re going to execute the VFD.”

As trust is established, Portillo commented that there may be more opportunity for veterinarians to be involved in health programs remotely rather than needing to physically be at the operation as frequently.

Portillo noted that many states were unclear in what constitutes as a VCPR and that part of the VFD ruling will clarify what elements need to be established.

“The VCPR prior to the VFD and education programs had a lot of gray areas in most states,” explained Portillo. “What the federal government has done is gone nationally and said these are some of the things that are going to be required if we are going to say that there is a VCPR.”

Portillo explained that the VFD can ultimately be seen as a partnership between the producer and veterinarian to build the herd health program.

“The producer can see it as a liability or as part of an overall investment in veterinary expertise and partnership,” said Portillo. “The veterinarian can see it as a burden or as part of their overall responsibility as it relates to antibiotic stewardship and animal wellbeing.”

Looking ahead

In preparation of the VFD going into effect, Portillo strongly encouraged producers to establish a VCPR prior to Jan. 1.

He also suggested that producers determine who their feed distributor will be and how long it will take to fill orders.

“Producers should try to figure out as many of the logistics as they can before the rule takes full effect,” said Portillo.

He encouraged producers and veterinarians to write model exercises to think through the best response plans for a variety of disease outbreaks.

The changes associated with the VFD will require veterinarians to expand the knowledge in the nutritional sector of feed through antibiotics, said Portillo.

“We’re going to have to start loading up on nutritional expertise as it relates to things like feed types, classes, formulations and combination clearances. The veterinarian is going to have to become an expert in those areas as well if they’re going to establish the VCPR with the goal in mind of executing the VFD,” he explained.

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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