Will the Swine Veterinarians Standup and Pork Producers Step-Forward

The new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will go into effect January 1, 2017. The goals are to: promote judicious use of antibiotics, protect public health, and help limit the development of microbial resistance to antibiotics.  What does this mean for the swine farmer in the state of Wisconsin?  What do the 4-H and FFA members need to do next year to be ready for this regulation implementation? What do the small farmers who raise just a few pigs need to know?

First things first

You need to develop a valid veterinarian-client–patient relationship (VCPR). This concept has been discussed each year in Meat Animal Quality Assurance (MAQA) for youth and adult Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) for several years. So will the veterinarians who want to practice swine medicine please stand up and be counted. Let producers know you have basic swine knowledge as well as firsthand experience with swine disease and other swine production practices. The VCPR requires a veterinarian to be involved enough on the farmer’s operation to make sound medical judgments about animal health and medical treatment, make enough visits or examinations to make a general or preliminary diagnosis, and provide follow-up evaluation of treatments. In some parts of Wisconsin this is not a problem, but in other areas veterinarians are wonderful bovine veterinarians with a vast knowledge of dairy production insights with practical solutions, but have little time or practice with swine.

The small swine farmers need to step forward and make connections as well.  No longer will you be able to call the feed store and purchase feed with drugs that are deemed medically important for human medicine.  This includes penicillin, sulfas, tetracycline and other drugs like Tylan to name a few.   Likewise, the drugs that you run to a farm store to get to mix in the water will need a prescription if the drug is used in human medicine.  So some drugs should come off the shelves at  farm stores that have been selling soluble tetracycline and even certain injectables that will now need a prescription.

How does this work

This new rule will require a written or electronic VFD which will include name of drug, address and phone of client and veterinarian, approximate number of pigs to treat, location of pigs, dosage or inclusion rate, duration of treatment, date issued and expiration date of VFD.  It also must have a veterinarian’s signature.  Veterinarians, feed dealers, and farmers will all have an obligation to maintain VFD records for two years.  The VFD must be signed and delivered to the feed mill before they can mix, load, and deliver the product.  How this process will work for new arrivals coming on the weekend or when the veterinarian and feed mill are closed will need to be worked out.   If we plan on using a medically important drug based on past performance or experience a VFD will need to be signed and passed to the key people prior to arrival of pigs.

So start planning for the change early.  Find a veterinarian who wants to practice in the swine industry. Develop a relationship between the farmer, veterinarian and your feed supplier. Discuss protocols that might include inclusion of drugs in the feed, or determine what new regimen might work just as good without the medications in the feed.  For me an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or an ounce of pre-VFD discussion and protocol changes might be worth a pound of post January 1, 2017 VFD phone calls when the pigs are sick.   As always enjoy the pork.

This article was written by Zen Miller, UW-Extension Dairy Livestock Agent and UW-Extension Swine Team Leader.