It’s been about a year since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and very little has changed on our Wisconsin dairy farm. Our commitment to healthy cows has stood unwavering, with the prevention of disease and illness at the forefront of every management decision. Their well-being has, and will, continue to be a top priority.
The veterinary feed directive previously applied to a few antibiotics, however with the new guidance enacted in 2017, 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. 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.
It is my goal as the animal health specialist on our farm to prevent disease and illness through proper hygiene techniques and timely vaccinations. Because life isn’t perfect, sometimes our animals do get sick and need medical intervention. Similar to human medicine, denying them treatment and supportive therapies is inhumane.
I am proud of our prudent and judicious use of antibiotics on the farm. Earlier this fall, due to weather conditions, a pneumonia outbreak impacted some cattle on our farm. We worked with our veterinarian, who prescribed an antibiotic and collaborated with our feed distributor for the medication, similar to how a doctor calls in a prescription for a human patient to a pharmacy. The prescription had very specific instructions for the medicine’s dosage and duration. This prescription is kept on record for two years by our farm, our veterinarian, and our feed distributor.
Recently, we conducted a vaccine audit and participated in antibiotic stewardship training on our farm. We worked with two veterinarians and reviewed our vaccinations and treatment protocols to ensure they were up to date and efficacious. These professionals, just like farmers, care immensely about the well-being of our animals.
Looking at antibiotic use at a macro level across the U.S., the FDA recently reported that sales of medically important antibiotics, for food-producing animals, decreased by 14 percent from 2015 through 2016. And this is before the 2017 VFD guidance was implemented. I think this just shows that farmers and ranchers are committed to continuous improvement and focused on preventing disease through proper animal care techniques.
With the new VFD, consumers will continue to see safe, high quality and nutritious food in the grocery store. Antibiotics have been regulated for decades by the FDA with strict withdrawal periods for both meat and milk that farmers must abide by. Having worked with our veterinarian for 12 years, our farm values that relationship, and we will continue to use them as trusted advisors for our animals. They play an integral part in keeping our cows healthy and comfortable.
Katie Roth and her husband TJ farm with their partners John and Luann Shea on Banner Ridge Farms, LLC, 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.