The biggest change is all about feed. Feed-grade antibiotics that have an over-the-counter label will transition to a veterinary feed directive form. So unless you have a VFD from your veterinarian, you will not be able to buy or use medicated feed or premixes. Over-the-counter sales of these products will end.

The Basics

Starting January 1, 2017, how producers use and access certain feed-and water-based antibiotics will change. Medically important antibiotics will no longer be available for growth promotion purposes on any farm of any size. Medically important antibiotics are animal health products that are also important to human health. Use of these products for the prevention, treatment or control of a specific disease will require direct veterinary supervision.

How will VFDs affect dairy producers?

For most dairy producers, the updated VFD regulations should cause minimal, if any, changes to operations. Since there are currently no antibiotics approved for improving growth or feed efficiency in dairy cattle, these changes should have no effect on dairy operations. However, the FDA update that requires veterinary oversight to obtain feed-grade antibiotics could have some implication for dairy farms. For example, some dairy producers may add antibiotics to milk replacer to treat calf diarrhea. In that case, producers will eventually have to source these antibiotics through a veterinarian.

It may also be a good idea to start planning for possible future changes to VFD regulations. Such rules may be extended to oral antibiotics so that they too are no longer available without a veterinary prescription.

At this point in time, these laws will not apply to any injectable antibiotics. Products like penicillin will still be available for purchase over the counter.

First steps toward a successful transition

Build a relationship with your veterinarian

The only way to get a VFD to purchase and use certain animal health products in feed and water is to establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with your veterinarian. A VCPR exists when the veterinarian knows your animals (the patient) well enough to be able to medically treat them, and you (the client) agree to follow the instructions of the veterinarian. If you do not already have a veterinarian that is part of your project team, contact your Extension agent to help find one in your area.

Make a list of all animal health products

Many feed-and water-based antibiotics will be affected by the new VFD changes. Make a list of all the animal health products you currently use on your animals. Review the list with your veterinarian to determine if any of those products will require a VFD to keep using them.

Keep VFDs records for two years

You will need to keep VFD records from your veterinarian on file for two years. VFDs may be stored electronically or as hard copy paper, so you will need to figure out the best method of maintaining these records on your farm or at home.

Continue working with your veterinarian

Written VFDs from your veterinarian are specific to the set of animals receiving that treatment for a specific time line. Leftover medicated feed cannot be fed past the duration of use on the label or fed to other animals. Know when you will need your VFDs renewed and develop a renewal plan with your veterinarian.