A VFD is a written statement issued by a licensed veterinarian authorizing use of a VFD drug or drugs. If you need to administer medically-important medications to food animals in feed or water, you’ll need a VFD. The process begins with establishing a valid Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR). This includes an initial farm visit from a local licensed veterinarian and a once or twice annual visit thereafter. The veterinarian must have full understanding of each farm’s operation, including the type, number, use, management, and health of animals. The veterinarian will write and retain the original VFD that specifies the antibiotic, dose, disease being treated, animal(s) being treated, and VFD expiration date. The veterinarian or producer sends a copy of the VFD to the feed distributor providing the medicated feed. The feed distributor will submit a one-time letter of intent to manufacture or distribute a VFD drug and contact the medication manufacturer to complete the communication chain. A blank VFD provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is provided at the end of this article for educational purposes.
Dr. Mike Apley, Kansas State University Professor of Production Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology, says “Although by weight animal use of antibiotics far surpasses humans, only approximately 20% of the antibiotic resistance that impacts humans can be traced to animal use. In 2007, only 13% of total drugs were used to enhance productivity in animals, while 87% were used to target an identified pathogen” (i.e. treat specific diseases).
The VFD DOES NOT affect these non-medically important medications and production use to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency is still allowed:
The VFD DOES affect these medically-important medications and production use to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency is no longer allowed:
- Other medications
Any of the above medications, whether deemed medically important or not, can still be used in animals with veterinary supervision in the following situations:
- To treat animals diagnosed with an illness.
- To control the spread of illness in a group of animals.
- To prevent illness in healthy animals when exposure is likely.
Feed and medication manufacturers are in the process of revising labels to remove the current legal use for growth promotion claims and withdrawing some products from over-the-counter access; these latter products will require a written directive from a producer’s veterinarian for legal use in food animal feed or water for disease treatment, control, or prevention.
The purpose of these new regulations is to control the development of drug resistant organisms by decreasing antimicrobial use. The VFD eliminates the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion and production in livestock and poultry, but these medications will still be available for use for prevention, treatment, and control of disease under the supervision of a veterinarian. A veterinarian will have to write a VFD whenever medications are to be administered in feed or water.
The VFD is the national regulatory response to citizen’s concerns about antimicrobial resistance. The discovery and development of new antimicrobial medications is declining, so we must work to preserve the effectiveness of the antibiotics we have. One such step will be to reduce the overall use of antibiotics in food animals and unnecessary use in humans. It will be more important than ever for livestock producers to work with veterinarians and prevent disease through management practices such as vaccinations, sanitation, excellent nutrition, and stress reduction
1. National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria March 2015 (PDF)
Example of a VFD, courtesy of the AVMA.