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Feeding Facts

Veterinary Feed Directive Feeds

By Jimmy Parker

In light of the alarming trend of increasing antibiotic resistance among bacteria that are relevant in human medicine, our government decided to review and restructure the way antibiotics are used in livestock. Sweeping changes were made in the way that drugs are supplied, sold and utilized. These changes have been in place for a couple of years and I thought this would be a good time to review what we have seen, talk about what is working and what we as producers can do to make life easier for all those who are involved in feed through antibiotics.

While the new regulations may be tough for the farmer, the feed store and the local veterinarians, it has worked well for the government and we have seen a dramatic reduction in the use of antibiotics in livestock. Regardless of how aggravating it is for those of us who deal with it on a regular basis, Washington’s different agencies have achieved their desired goal and hopefully it will stem the tide of antibiotic resistance in some way, though I still have doubts about that.

Thankfully, there are few things we use that fall into the category that requires Veterinary Feed Directives. The most common product we see VFDs written for is aureomycin and we have dramatically reduced the ways we sell that and your local Quality Co-op stores have most likely stopped stocking any of them. They can order them and most will once you, the producer, have a VFD in hand.

It seems about half of the VFDs that cross my desk have to be rewritten and that is a pain for everyone involved. To help prevent that I want to provide some information and maybe a bit of guidance to help prevent some confusion.

At one time, we carried several different strengths of aureomycin products. Now, for all intents and purposes, we have two choices. The first one is 2g (2 grams of active ingredient per pound), an end-use product typically “top dressed” on whatever you are feeding. The other product we stock is 50g (50 grams per pound), and it is a product that has to be mixed into a feed. It is not an end-use product and legally has to be further mixed into a feed.

If you plan to use the 2g product, there are some things you need to know before you visit your local vet. First, you need to know how much your animals weigh. Without this information, your vet cannot tell you what the correct dosage will be. Your vet will also need to know that you have access to a 2g product so he or she can check the correct boxes on the VFD paperwork. If you plan to use a 2g product, it should clearly say either 2 grams per pound or 4,000 grams per ton. Without that exact wording, your local Co-op cannot sell you a 2g product and your VFD paperwork is pretty much useless for buying a 2g top-dress product.

The good news is that the 2g scenario above is the simple one. The bad news is that it won’t be what is needed for every situation. That brings us to the 50g option, which is one that cannot legally be fed without further mixing. It is not an end-use product. It has to be mixed with other things and be diluted enough to safely and legally feed. You can buy it and mix it yourself if you have the ability to accurately weigh and mix it correctly. You are still required to have the VFD and, in my experience, veterinarians are a bit more cautious about writing those unless they believe you are equipped to mix the medicine correctly.

We can and do use the 50g product to make larger quantities of medicated feeds for farmers. That still requires a VFD. For your local veterinarian to write that correctly, he or she needs the same information required for the 2g VFD, and he or she will need to know how much feed each animal will eat each day. This allows the vet to tell us how many grams per ton of aureomycin we need to mix into each ton of feed so each animal will get the required dosage. So, technically, you will need to provide the vet with the weight of the animals so the vet will know just how much medicine each animal will need every day. You will need to know how much you plan on feeding each animal each day so the vet can calculate just how many grams per ton will be needed. Finally, you will need to know how many animals you will be feeding so the vet can calculate how many pounds or tons of feed will be needed. As I said, it is a bit more complicated, but still can be done.

If you have a good working relationship with your vet and take all the right information when you go, there is a really good chance you will get a VFD that your Co-op can use to legally get you the product you need. If you don’t go through those steps, most likely you will have to waste time getting things redone. Hopefully, this will get you thinking about what is needed to make the process work efficiently and remove some of the headaches for everyone involved.

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