2017 Scholarship Essay: Alan Duttlinger
Alan Duttlinger is a 2017 Targeting Excellence Graduate Award scholarship recipient from Indiana. To learn more about Alan check out his profile.
How will the VFD as it pertains to the use of antibiotics in food animal production impact producers and the perception of our industry by consumers?
The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule outlines the process for legal use of medically important antibiotics in complete feed. Starting Jan. 1, 2017, this Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule requires a VFD from a licensed veterinarian, based on a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). The goal of the VFD is to help ensure safe food and judicious use of antibiotics for food producing animals.
The VFD impacts producers in several ways. This new rule fundamentally changes the way livestock producers use antibiotics in feed and, for some producers, the way they work with their veterinarian. The need for a strong veterinarian-client-patient relationship is very important for the issuance of VFD’s. The VCPR is the framework of the entire program. Many producers already have a very thorough working relationship with their veterinarian. Many large producers even have veterinarians on staff. The transition to VFD’s has been simplified for these producers due to their previously existing VCPR. Other livestock producers have had to establish VCPR’s. This can be challenging for small livestock producers and those that live in more remote geographical locations where food animal veterinarians are scarce.
Livestock producers working closely with their veterinarian does come with benefits. By working together, the production management team and the veterinarian can better understand the health status of a flow of animals and use antibiotics at prescribed intervals to help prevent or treat health challenges.
However, if an unexpected health challenge occurs, the VFD program could create a lag in time of getting feed with antibiotics to the affected barn. This is because the steps required include: the producer needs to contact the veterinarian, the veterinarian needs to send the VFD to the feed mill and the producer, then the producer needs to place the feed order to the feed mill, and finally the feed mill can deliver the feed containing the antibiotic. With additional steps now needed to order and deliver feed containing antibiotics, the response time may be extended. This reaffirms the need for good and efficient communication between all parties involved.
Another impact to the producer is the need for additional record keeping. Producers can be subjected to on-farm audits from the FDA. Records needing to be stored include: the VFD itself, feed orders, feed delivery records, and information containing that the feeding of antibiotics were within the limits of the VFD (i.e., fed for appropriate duration, concentration, and during the valid time frame). This documentation must be kept for two years. The largest benefit of the VFD to the producer, in my opinion, is that the producer still has access to these antibiotics. Antibiotics are important animal health tools and their ability to be provided to livestock at appropriate times is paramount to the safety and security of our food supply.
How the consumers perceive our industry with the addition of the VFD is a topic that will be played out in the coming years. By having the VFD in place, the livestock industry can now better document judicious use of antibiotics and the FDA can gather better data on quantities being used and reasons for use. I hope a lot of quality epidemiological data can result from all the data being collected. It is my belief that this data and documentation helps us tell our story of proper antibiotic use, however I think this new direction allows some consumers to be critical of the old method regarding antibiotic use.
It is my belief that some consumers perceived that, historically, there was no regulation over antibiotic use. Even though this is not accurate, this was still their perception. The need for livestock producers and all involved in the livestock industry to share positive accurate stories with consumers is ever important. It is paramount that what the consumer perceives is factual and that livestock producers are using antibiotics judiciously and properly to produce wholesome safe food products.
The implementation of the VFD has created some logistical challenges in the implementation of a new program. However, with change comes opportunity. I feel that the livestock industry has an incredible story to tell and now has better documentation in place to better tell its story. I am confident that the livestock industry will continue to overcome the obstacles that lie ahead.
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