Regulations, regulations, regulations…….

There’s no simple, precise formula for how to raise the best cattle, and ultimately the best beef. Producers keep looking for better ways and technology to gain quality and efficiency, but those are continually tweaked by internal and external forces.

Consumer interest in how food animals are raised and antibiotic use along the way has spurred regulatory change at the federal level, according to Zoetis veterinarian Marilyn Corbin. She provided an overview of pending changes in the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulations at the recent Feeding Quality Forums in Omaha and Garden City, Kan.

Among 180 attendees, everyone had heard of the VFD, but nearly all admitted they did not know how the new rules would affect them when they go into effect in January 2017.

“An easy way to think about it is simply a prescription that you have to use if you’re feeding a feed-grade antibiotic,” Corbin said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had VFD rules in place since 1996. These were updated to help assure judicious use of antibiotics (Guidance 209).

By working with the FDA to revise the VFD, producers and veterinarians showed their commitment to using the most informed and effective methods to keep animals healthy while preserving the efficacy of antibiotics in human medicine, Corbin said.

She noted three FDA documents that help explain the VFD.

Guidance 152 lists antibiotics included in the VFD rules, which are all those important in both livestock production and human medicine. Ionophores and coccidiostats are not included.

Next, Guidance 209 defines the goal of the directive – to ensure “judicious use” of antibiotics – stipulating feed-additive and water-soluble antibiotics be used for disease treatment, control and prevention but not for growth promotion. Veterinarians will oversee this process and be responsible for deciding how and when these antibiotics will be used.