For many veterinarians, stepping into this arena may require additional education. It is anticipated manufacturers and other organizations will offer continuing education courses after the final FDA guidance is published. In the meantime, it can be beneficial to brush up on product labels and feeding guidelines.

For example, Dr. Ives recommends brushing up on feed intake, which can affect how much antibiotic (if present) is ingested by a given pen of cattle.

“The veterinarian has to make a decision on the concentration for the product placed into the ration knowing we’re going to have cattle that are eating four-to-six pounds of dry matter in a starter ration versus other cattle that will consume 20 pounds of dry matter,” he says. “Those are not simple issues to evaluate, but there are options available that would not necessarily include the product in the mixed feed, such as top dress. We need to work with the nutritionist to take into account the efficiency of feed delivery as we establish our recommendations for medicating the cattle.”

Just like traditional prescriptions, veterinarians should be aware of withdrawal times. In addition, some products cannot be combined unless specific approval is granted.

Another important distinction between traditional prescriptions and a feed directive is the lack of extra-label uses available for feed additives, even when a valid client-patient relationship is present. For instance, a veterinarian will not be able to increase (or decrease) dosage of an in-feed antibiotic beyond the label, unless a dose range is included on the label.

“With a VFD, a veterinarian must write the directive at a dose within the approved dose range of the label as well as complete a combination use section, if one exists,” Hufstedler notes. “Off-label use, which includes extra-label use, of feed additives is strictly prohibited.”

Impact To Stockers

The FDA guidance may require more changes for the veterinarian-stocker relationship. The need for veterinary authorization of feed or water uses of antibiotics will likely require more frequent interaction to renew the order and more on-site visits to confirm the disease is treated or controlled.

“So many stocker operations do not have veterinarian involvement,” Dr. Ives says. “The prescription of product to a feed is very specific to a group of cattle. The prescription may last only 45 days and is specific to the pounds of feed to be manufactured. Most stockers are constantly having cattle coming and going, making it more difficult for veterinarians to stay on top of what’s going on in that operation.”

cattle feed addititive

New FDA guidance will require a veterinarian’s authorization to include antibiotics in feed and water, offering new opportunities to further the client-veterinarian relationship.

Denis Matousek, DVM, owner of Matousek Veterinary Clinic in Hennessey, OK, serves mainly stocker and cow-calf clients. He believes the main product affected by this guidance will be Aureomcyin,® which his producers use to control anaplasmosis. He anticipates his clients’ ability to purchase treated mineral or feed quickly will be hampered.

“If you have a herd that has broken with anaplasmosis, the mineral or feed—that has in the past been readily available in feed stores—will no longer be at the feed store. If we see a client in our office and suspect anaplasmosis based on a conversation, we will have to see an animal or visit the farm, write a feed directive and have the producer fill the order,” Dr. Matousek says. “Producers need to have a good relationship with their local veterinarian.”

While the final guidance is still being worked out, Hufstedler says pre-made and warehoused VFD feeds may be available at the local feed store, or stored on an individual ranch, depending on internal policies of the feed company. To purchase the feeds, a producer would need a valid VFD. Hufstedler also believes veterinarians would be able to write a VFD without an on-site visit if the veterinarian and the producer have a valid client-patient relationship in place, including written protocols to establish triggers for use of a VFD feed.

In any event, it will take additional effort from veterinarians, producers and feed companies beyond what is required today. While Dr. Matousek has concerns about the delay in treatment caused by the FDA guidance, he welcomes the increased client contact it will offer.

“We will have to have more contact simply to make these directives legal,” he says. “What you talk about in December is different in July. We’ll see clients more often, go to their place more often—not just for this, they are getting more benefits in that visit. For instance, I’ll look at bunk space and water availability while I’m there. There are a lot of simple things. The veterinarian can bring more than just the feed directive. It’s a chance to get to know our clients better.”