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VDS_insLast fall, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its final rule on the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). VFDs have been used in the feed industry for many years, but the new regulations, which becomes effective on December 31, 2016, provide oversight on how a farmer uses antibiotics delivered to livestock by feed or water. It does not impact the practice of injectable antibiotic use. The goal of this regulation is to ensure that those “medically-important” antibiotics used in human medicine, are not used to improve feed efficiency or for growth promotion purposes in livestock production. These classes of antibiotics can only be used when necessary with veterinarian oversight, and only for the purposes of treating animals that are sick, or the prevention and control of a specific disease.

The first requirement is for the farmer to establish a formal relationship with a veterinarian. This is known as a Veterinary Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). It simply verifies that you and your veterinarian have agreed to work together on animal health issues, and that the veterinarian knows about your farm, the livestock you raise, and your mutual expectations regarding the care of these animals.

The second part of the VFD is to ensure a veterinarian’s instructions accompanies any antibiotics that will be administered through the feed or water. The antibiotic must be used according to label directions; used to treat, prevent, or control a disease; and it cannot be used as “extra-label.” A VFD is a written, not oral, directive by a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian’s practice that orders the use of a VFD drug in or on an animal feed. Your veterinarian will keep the original and provide a copy to the farmer and the distributor of the VFD drug. The veterinarian may choose to provide the VFD in electronic or hard copy form.


The VFD does not impact the feeding of zinc, copper sulfate, or ionophores to livestock. Since these products are not antibiotics, their use is not covered by the VFD.


Records of the use must be kept on the farm and with the veterinarian for a period of two years.


For a list of medically important antibiotics covered by the VFD, view Table A1 from FDA’s Guidance for Industry document.

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