The Veterinary Feed Directive is here. Are you prepared?

What began in 2015 and was implemented in January of 2017 gave time for feed mills and producers to adjust to the new regulations of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). However, the new regulation continues to cause confusion and has become a pain point for those affected across the country. Even though feed mills, veterinarians and animal producers saw it coming, many are still looking for ways to seamlessly and effortlessly adapt. (Spoiler alert: There is a solution). First, it’s important to understand why the change occurred and the significance it brings to the agriculture industry.

VFD, explained

The VFD has been become a critical component of animal feed-grade antibiotic use.

To tell the story, we first have to go back to 1996 when an initial VFD rule surfaced under the Animal Drug Availability Act; this act intended to bring more rapid drug and medicated feed approval by the FDA to assist the animal health industry, while also complying with public health concerns. The implications of the act include:

  • a strict demand for proof of efficacy
  • a definition of adequate and well-controlled procedures for field trials
  • supporting labeling focused on the range of recommended or acceptable dosages
  • more relaxed controls on field studiesunless requested and justified by the Center for Veterinary Medicine
  • creating veterinary feed directive drugs as a new category of animal drugs

Fast-forward to June 2015 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its final rule regarding how the VFD will be used. As previously mentioned, full implementation did not take place until January 2017, but the new rule changed the way medically important antibiotics have been used in animal agriculture, making it illegal to use these antibiotics for preventive purposes. Animal producers are now required to obtain authorization for a veterinarian to use them for prevention, control or treatment of a specifically identified disease.

How feed mills will be affected

As a feed mill or distributor, you’ll now be required to have a completed   VFD form to accompany all feed with qualifying medications.  Medications fed in approved combinations, restricted by the VFD ruling, will be required to have a VFD on file from the veterinarian for that feed to be produced. The final rule indicates that the form could be sent electronically from the veterinarian to the feed mill via e-mail or an Internet service, but it can’t be simply phoned in by the veterinarian. In other words, there must be a paper (or electronic) trail and feed mills, veterinarians and producers are required to keep a copy of the VFD on file for two years.

Here’s a list of questions all feed mills, veterinarians and animal producers should be prepared to answer when a state inspector arrives on-site:

  • Does the client keep copies of VFD orders for at least two years?
  • Did the client feed the VFD feed to the authorized number of animals on the VFD order?
  • Did the client feed the VFD feed for the identified duration on the VFD order?
  • Did the client stop feeding the VFD feed before the expiration date on the VFD order?
  • Did the client follow the withdrawal period for the VFD feed, if any?

Compliance is key

Now you know what kind of questions to prepare for, so how can you make sure you’re compliant? Cheryl Day shares in the National Hog Farmer the two most important procedures to follow to stay VFD-compliant:

“You cannot document enough. Any conversation including a simple phone call about antibiotics on the VFD list needs to be recorded. Although it seems like paperwork overload, it is essential to demonstrate compliance.”

She also shares that, “All parties involved in the VFD process from pig caretaker to veterinarian to feed mill must fully understand the instructions. Clear communication is just as important as documentation.”

Sprout Solutions can help

Our tagline “Advancing Agriculture Through Technology” means we keep a pulse on what’s happening in the agriculture industry and how we can play our part in finding solutions to developing and changing rules and regulations. Our Milling Station and CommodiTrade software services give feed mills and commodity traders 24-hour, convenient access to:

  • VFD Agreements – Create and store VFD agreements between customer and veterinarian for controlled ingredients and feed.
  • Record Keeping – Manage record keeping requirements and provide controls to prevent distribution of any VFD-controlled substance without the proper VFD documentation.
  • Identification and Tracing – Identify and trace all feed and resale products that include the controlled substances.

Rules and regulations are part of the agriculture industry and aren’t going away any time soon. Avoidance will only lead to negligence. By avoiding or neglecting to follow the ruling will have a negative effect on both the mill and the producer. It’s time to adapt and to take advantage of the tools and technology that can make the process seamless and effortless.

Gretchen Henry is the co-founder and CEO at Sprout Solutions, a full-service software platform that provides mills and merchandisers in the agricultural industry with accurate, Web-based tools and systems to ensure the food they produce is not only safe, but traceable. Connect with Sprout Solutions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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