Antibiotic Rules Change Jan. 1

December 2, 2016 03:21 AM

By John Maday

Communication will be key between livestock producers and their veterinarians

Big changes to rules governing antibiotic use in animal agriculture will take effect Jan. 1, 2017.  

The medical rules in question include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Guidance for Industry 213, which removes performance or production claims from the labels of medically important antibiotics. Also at issue is the expanded veterinary feed directive (VFD) rule, which ends over-the-counter (OTC) purchases of medically important feed-grade antibiotics. 

This rule expansion places OTC purchases and usage under the direct oversight of veterinarians. 

A list of medically important antibiotics currently used in cattle feed for therapeutic purposes includes chlortetracycline, chlortetracycline plus sulfamethazine, neomycin plus oxytetracycline, oxytetracycline, tylosin and virginiamycin. 

Typical OTC products that might be unavailable without a prescription under the new rule include milk replacers, mineral supplements and finishing feeds.

“This means any feed additive medication used for livestock that contains an antibiotic considered to be medically important will need to be accompanied by a [VFD] order,” says Gerald Stokka, North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. 

“The order is a written or electronic order from a veterinarian to a producer and feed distributor,” he says. “It grants permission to purchase and use a particular feed additive medication in accordance with label directions as listed on the order.”

This working relationship is known as a veterinary client/patient relationship, or VCPR. The practical meaning of the VCPR is the veterinarian must have visited the producer’s operation and be familiar with the producer’s capabilities.


Stokka stresses that feed additive medications with VFD status must be used specifically as stated on the label.

He advises producers to consult with their veterinarian, nutritionist and feed suppliers about which products will be impacted by the new directive.

“If any of these products have been used in previous years and will be needed in the future, producers must make sure they have a working relationship with their veterinarian,” Stokka says.

Livestock producers can be proactive by saving a feed tag from each product they currently use that contains antibiotics and discussing  managing herd-health with their veterinarian. 

A website endorsed by the major livestock producer associations, www.together, provides information about how the FDA’s new policy will change the way antibiotics are used to keep food animals healthy.

Producer opinions of the rule on the AgWeb, Drovers and Pork Network discussion boards range from cautious support to skeptical opposition, with some producers opting to take a wait-and-see approach. 

Overall, the responses suggest an ongoing need for veterinarians to help educate their farmer-clients on the new rules and their impacts, and to demonstrate to producers the financial benefits of veterinary involvement in an operation’s herd health and overall management.  

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