Pork Congress panelists work to answer VFD questions

MINNEAPOLIS – Producers had lots of questions following a panel on the veterinary feed directive rule Jan. 19 at Minnesota Pork Congress in Minneapolis. The rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017, will require livestock producers to have a VFD...

MINNEAPOLIS — Producers had a lot of questions following a panel on the veterinary feed directive rule Jan. 19 at Minnesota Pork Congress in Minneapolis. The rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will require livestock producers to have a VFD in place before feeding medicated feed. Panelists Paul Ruen, of Fairmont Veterinary Clinic; Laura Bruner, of Swine Vet Center; and Peter Davies, of the University of Minnesota, talked about the change and did their best to answer farmer concerns.

Q: Can I buy a pallet of medication and feed it during the course of the year?

Ruen:You would need a VFD for usage. The (Food and Drug Administration) understands if you're making feed, you're going to have to have product. You will need to follow the labels on bags; it's not legal to use off-label (unlike injectible products).

Q: What's resistance like now?

Davies:Antibiotic resistance causes 23,000 deaths annually, according to the CDC, and hundreds of thousands of infections. There is substantial underreporting and lots of guesses with that.


Q: What are other countries' experiences with cutting back agricultural antibiotic use?

Davies:There's quite a bit of experience. In 1986, the Swedes cut back and in 2000, the Danes did. Initially, the countries reported increased antibiotic use, but producer have adapted. The industries are still there and still competitive. They did see some small producer exits. As for the impact on resistance, some get justified by the human resistance concern, but that gets left aside and reduced use becomes the goal.

Ruen:Denmark, after 15 years, has not seen a reduction in resistance.

Q: What about feed for show pigs, which is often sold in bags?

Ruen:There are some glaring holes in the process and this is one of them. The FDA doesn't have an answer for us today. We're in contact with them and trying to get ahead of the curve as much as we can. Llamas, sheep and goats will likely have the same problem. We're looking at other routes of treating those animals, including water and injectables.

Bruner:A lot of floor stock will be unmedicated. It's going to be really hard on the show pig level to get medicated feed. It will be more expensive. You will need a VFD and it will have to be made on order.

Ruen:We're not done dealing with the FDA. A lot of producer groups have been engaging FDA so they're aware of scenarios.

Q: If I have multiple issues, how many VFDs do I need?


Ruen:The regulation as is says you need a prescription (including an amount) and a vet/client relationship. The vet must be involved with consulting the farm, but specific definitions are set at the state level, though if there is none, it defaults to the federal level. It will require a more intent relationship for some. They don't have to be at every site every six months, but they do have to have good information on your flow to help. You may need to reevaluate health plans and pig flows.

Q: What about antibiotics for water?

Ruen:If you have a prescription, it's OK to have onsite.

Bruner:Diagnostics can be really powerful to show you're trying to make the best medication decisions.

Q: How is oversight going to work?

Ruen:During the next 12 months, FDA hopes to be involved in a lot of training sessions. They do already have the ability to come on your site. High users are more likely to get a visit or a contact. They may start at mills. (Pork has) had a good track record.

Davies:There's not a lot of money for enforcement. The focus is more on education.

Q: What makes an antibiotic important versus critically important?


Davies:The FDA has five or six criteria. At the top is if it is used to treat food-borne illnesses such as salmonella. Also, is this drug the only thing we've got to treat certain ailments; is it the last ditch? The World Health Organization did the same with different criteria and came up with a different list.

Q: How might this affect cost of production?

Ruen:I haven't seen anything. The FDA has said we would be more efficient and cost would go down.

Bruner:You might make better medication decisions and bring your cost of production down.

Q: Will VFDs cause the need for more manpower?

Ruen:It could go a few different directions. For veterinarians, they can use Global Vet Link, there are data management add ons, some may develop their own VFD form or they could even use spread sheets. The FDA doesn't care as long as it's written. It takes about 7 to 10 minutes per VFD. It will help to write for flows. The tough ones will be emergency ones. We may have to see about electronic signatures.

Bruner:It's a lot of paperwork and customer service. You need the right diet and the right feed mill. Start thinking about the number of diets in the nursery alone. Have conversations with your veterinarian now.

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