By Mike King
It’s official. With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issuing the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule on antibiotic use, the countdown has begun for the nation’s livestock producers, veterinarians and feed providers to come into compliance by December 2016. Fortunately, through their Pork Checkoff, America’s pig farmers already may have many of the tools in place that will put them well on the road to adhering to this new regulation.
“Antibiotics aren’t going away, but on-farm use will change. Producers should sit down with their veterinarians to discuss how to apply VFDs and other herd-health strategies,” said Jennifer Koeman, DVM, director of producer and public health for the Pork Checkoff.
The FDA’s goal is to work with the production sector to eliminate the use of medically important (to human illness) antibiotics for growth promotion and to bring therapeutic use – to treat, control or prevent specific disease – under veterinary oversight. Pork producers should take steps now to prepare for the changes.
“The end of 2016 may sound like a long way off, but producers need to start getting ready,” Koeman said. “Producers should sit down with their veterinarians to discuss how to apply VFDs and other herd-health strategies.”
At the centerpiece of FDA’s policy are 283 products that will be added to the VFD list, said Bill Flynn, DVM, deputy director for science policy at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. Over-the-counter sales of the products will be eliminated, and their use will require veterinary oversight and diagnosis for a specific animal-health condition. Producers will need a VFD to gain access to the affected feed-based antibiotics and a prescription for water-based products.
Koeman added that the new rules coming from FDA’s Guidance 209, 213 and VFD in December 2016, will change the requirements needed to use certain antibiotics and will more directly involve veterinary oversight. Although a change for the industry, Koeman noted, the new rules also provide a great opportunity for farmers to work with their veterinarians to revisit all herd health practices. The goal should be to decrease disease, enhance performance and produce a safe, wholesome product for the global market.
“We realize that producers will face a substantial change in how they use antibiotics with the impending policy rule changes, but they can feel good in knowing that they already are doing much of what they need to do to be successful,” Koeman said. “If farmers continue to work with their veterinarians, talk with their feed suppliers, diligently keep records associated with VFDs and prescription antibiotic use and retain current Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) certification, they will be well prepared to be in compliance.”
The Pork Checkoff’s PQA Plus program continues to provide a firm foundation for on-farm antibiotic use, together with its animal well-being and food safety components. According to the National Pork Board’s latest statistics, more than 60,000 producers are certified in the PQA Plus on-farm education program. All of the major packers require producers to participate in PQA Plus before they will purchase producers’ market hogs. The 2016 revision of the program also will emphasize antibiotic stewardship and stress the importance of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship in deciding when to use antibiotics.
Four Steps to Take Today
“Most producers already work closely with their veterinarian to achieve proper decisions and use of antibiotics when needed to ensure healthy pigs and safe food,” said Paul Ruen, a swine veterinarian at the Fairmont Veterinary Clinic in Minnesota and former president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarian. “But there will be some individuals – producers and veterinarians both – that will need to get on board as changes come into play.”
Here are Ruen’s recommended steps to initiate today: