Even with this round of regulation from the FDA, the scrutiny on antibiotics is not over, notes Mike Apley, DVM, Ph.D., DACVCP, Professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. To maintain prevention and control uses for feed and water antibiotics, the first step the industry can take is to undergo critical, scientific research to prove the benefit and return on investment.

“Prevention and control is high-profile use that’s going to be scrutinized,” Dr. Apley says. “We’ve seen state and national bills that try to outlaw prevention and control use. We as an industry—be it swine, poultry or beef—need to evaluate and see if we’re still getting the benefit we think we are. We need to reevaluate for ourselves whether those things are really doing anything for us.”

Dr. Apley says aging research on the economic benefit has led to automatic use patterns, which may not hold up for some antibiotics in today’s environment.

With the change in culture required by the new FDA guidance, there is an opportunity for veterinarians to participate in research quantifying the benefit to animals, and therefore the return to producers.

“We need to get our ducks in a row on which feed and water uses actually produce a result that is acceptable,” he says. “We need to understand the potential positive and negative effects of some of the drugs that were approved in the 70s and see if they still provide the same results in today’s systems. We need to apply the same standard of evidence we have now. Not only to respond to consumer and government concerns, but for ourselves. Do we need to be spending this money, and potentially applying a selection pressure we don’t need to be doing?”

Modernizing The Veterinary Feed Directive Process           

The FDA also is looking to modernize the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) process, and veterinarians using Pulmotil® have already experienced a more “modern” process, notes Doug Hufstedler, Ph.D., Nutritionist and Beef Technical Advisor for Elanco Animal Health.

“It’s a therapeutic BRD treatment in feed but requires a veterinary directive to put the product in the feed,” he says. “We do have some experience in that process already, and our job is to help educate the industry on how that’s impacted.”

The timeline on implementation for other products is still being determined by the FDA, but Hufstedler encourages veterinarians and nutritionists to attend hearings regarding the VFD modernization in their area and provide feedback.

“One thing is clear: There will be a much greater degree of cooperation required from producers, nutritionists and veterinarians. The time requirements for a VFD is one area we’re keenly aware of—how often does the VFD have to be written for a particular facility that uses the product. Our hopes are to streamline the process and make it a relatively easy communication between the producer, vet and nutritionist, one that is paper free and as smooth as possible.”

Hufstedler says the process in place for Pulmotil enables veterinarians to write a VFD electronically, which is then transferred to the feed mill and automatically sends a copy to the producer’s facility where the animals covered by the directive are located. In each case, the electronic system (eVFD) sends and maintains the FDA-mandated records for the veterinarian.

“Eventually the industry will figure out how to get this done in a timely fashion, and we’ll keep producing healthy cattle and high quality beef.”