Food Dialogues Blog

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The Veterinary Feed Directive from a Farmer’s Perspective

I recently spent time with Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Chief Veterinarian from the National Pork Producers Council, conversing with radio personalities from across the nation about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new guidance – the veterinary feed directive (VFD).

In a dual role as both a public and animal health agency, the FDA realized the public’s concern over antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are used to prevent, treat, or control disease in sick or at-risk animals. With this in mind, the purpose of the VFD is to ensure animal health and well-being while providing consumers with the safest food possible.

The veterinary feed directive previously applied to a few antibiotics, however with the new guidance enacted January 1st, more antibiotics fall under this VFD. Set up in a similar process, a VFD is required for medically important antibiotics added to feed and a prescription is required for medically important antibiotics added to water. This regulation is not voluntary; we are required to follow the laws and rules that come under it.
It’s important to note that medically important antibiotics can no longer be used for growth promotion. However, some antibiotics, that are not medically important, are still labeled for growth promotion or feed efficiency and used for these purposes.

I am the animal health specialist for 260 Holstein cows on our dairy farm is Wisconsin, and their well-being is our top priority. Prevention is key through proper hygiene techniques and timely vaccinations. Most important of all, I use antibiotics judiciously and when only medically necessary. Animals deserve a high quality of life and denying them medicine is inhumane. As a farmer I have a moral obligation to be their caretaker.
A common misconception I hear is that people should be concerned about antibiotics being present in their food purchases. Simply put, this isn’t the case, and it’s illegal. Antibiotics have been regulated for decades by the FDA with strict withdrawals for both meat and milk that all farmers adhere to. Our license can be revoked if we are found in violation of antibiotic residues.

What’s going to change on our farm because of this new veterinary feed directive?

  • Our commitment to healthy cows? No
  • A desire to produce safe, high quality food we are proud about? No
  • Increased veterinary oversight for medically important antibiotics added to feed or water that are important to humans? Yes

Having worked with our veterinarian for 12 years, I’ve built a great relationship with them and will continue to use them as a trusted advisor on our farm. With the veterinary directive, consumers will continue to see safe, high quality and nutritious food in the grocery store with confidence it was produced responsibly. The consumer-friendly website, togetherabx.com, is a great resource for those seeking more information about the directive.

Also, keep in mind, the cold and flu season is in full swing! With the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimating one-third to one-half of antibiotic usage being unnecessary or unwarranted in people, everyone needs to be cognizant of antibiotic resistance. As a farmer I am willing to do my part. As a consumer, are you willing to do yours?

Katie Roth and her husband TJ farm with their partners John and Luann Shea in the southwest corner of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin. They milk 260 Holsteins and all of their feedstuffs are grown on the farm including corn, soybeans, alfalfa and wheat.

All opinions expressed are the writer’s own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs.