Veterinary Feed Directive

This page covers the basic information of the Veterinary Feed Direct that will impact livestock producers January 1, 2017, if you have further questions contact Rob Eirich at (308) 632-1230 or email: reirich2@unl.edu .

VFD Webinar

What is a Veterinary Feed Directive

The VFD is a written statement issued by a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian’s professional practice that authorizes the use of a VFD drug or combination VFD drugs in or on an animal feed.  This written statement authorizes the client (owner or caretaker of animals) to obtain and use animal feed bearing or containing a VFD drug or combination VFD drugs to treat the client’s animals only in accordance with the conditions for use approved, conditionally approved, or indexed by the FDA.  A Veterinary Feed Directive is also referred to as an VFD order.

Producer VFD Preparation Steps

  1. Develop a Valid Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship (VCPR Form (pdf))
  2. Develop a Herd Health Plan (Vaccination and Treatment Protocols)
  3. Herd Health Observation and Diagnosis
  4. Follow Treatment Protocols
  5. Obtain Proper VFD for Feed Grade Antimicrobials with Valid Veterinarian's Signature (AVMA VFD Example Form (pdf)
  6. Feed as Directed on FDA Approved Label and VFD
  7. Maintain VFD for 2 Years

VFD Form Examples

FDA Animal Drug Lists

  • Green Book - List of FDA Approved Animal Drugs
  • Blue Bird Labels - List of Animal Drug Type A Articles Labels with Copies Type B and Type C Medicated Feed Labels

Common Beef Cattle Feed Grade Antimicrobials Requiring VFD

(Complete List of Drugs Requiring VFD or Prescription - PDF)

  • Chlortetracycline (Aureomycin, CLTC, Pennchlor)
  • Chlortetracycline + Sulfamethazine (Aureo S 700)
  • Neomycin + Oxytetracycline (Neo-Terramycin, Neo-Oxy)
  • Oxytetracycline (Terramycin, Pennox)
  • Tylosin (Tylan)
  • Tilmicosin (Pulmotil)
  • Virginiamycin (V-Max)

Common Beef Cattle Feed Additive NOT Requiring VFD

  • Amprolium (Corid)
  • Bacitracin (Albac, BMD)
  • Bambermycin (GainPro)
  • Decoquinate (Deccox)
  • Fenbendazole (Safe-Guard)
  • Laidlomycin (Cattlyst)
  • Lasalocid (Bovetec)
  • Melengestrol Acetate (MGA)
  • Methoprene (Altosid)
  • Monensin (Rumensin)
  • Morantel (Rumatel)
  • Poloxalene (Bloat Guard)
  • Ractopamine (Optaflexx, Actogain)
  • Tetraclovinphos (Rabon)

Additional Veterinary Feed Directive Resources

VFD Distibutor List by State

Feed distributor/dealers registered with FDA to sell antimicrobials or feeds containing antimicrobials for food producing animals, are list on the following list:

Veterinarian VFD Certification Webinar

USDA has partnered with ISU Veterinary Medicine School to develop a certification webinar to cover antimicrobial stewardship and the Veterinary Feed Directive.  This link also is a great resource for anyone interested in the VFD Regulation.

VFD Questions and Answers

WHY HAS THE FDA DEVELOPED THE VETERINARY FEED DIRECTIVE (VFD)?
The driving force is the concern for antibiotic resistance associated with daily antibiotic use in animal feeds.  Over a decade ago the decision was made to move toward removing all antimicrobials use in livestock that was associated with growth and/or feed efficiency or long term use, over 21 consecutive days that allowed extended time for bacteria to develop resistance.  The VFD concept became the option for allowing vital feed antimicrobial use in livestock for protection of their health and well-being.  Antimicrobials approved for use under the VFD regulations will be for “prevention”, “treatment” and/or “control” of specific bacterial diseases.

WHAT IS THE VFD REGULATION TARGET?
Antimicrobial used in livestock feed and minerals will be the ONLY drugs affected, AND THEN only the antimicrobials considered “Medically Important to Humans”.  Ionophores are antimicrobials NOT important to humans and will not be affected.  Additionally no other drugs such as parasite control, insect control or reproduction control feed additives will be affected.

WHAT EXACTLY IS MEANT BY DRUG USE FOR "PREVENTION", "TREATMENT" OR "CONTROL" IN THE VFD REGULATION?

  • “Prevention of Disease” with a VFD can be approved when a known disease risk is present and the VFD antimicrobial can be administered to prevent animal infections.  None of the animals in the group are exhibiting clinical signs of disease but where the disease is likely to occur if the drug is not administered. 
  • “Treatment of Disease” with a VFD antimicrobial can be approved when animals are exhibiting disease signs.
  • “Control of Disease” with a VFD antimicrobial can be approved to decrease the spread of disease when a percentage of the animals in the group have exhibited disease signs and the clinically sick are being individually treated.

WHAT IS A VETERINARY FEED DIRECTIVE?
A Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) is a written order (paper or electronic) by a licensed veterinarian in the course of their practice approving the use of a VFD medication.  The difference between a VFD and a Veterinary Prescription is a VFD isn’t governed by a state’s “Board of Pharmacy” which simplifies the inventory control, dispensing and required records.  VFD regulations do not apply to injectable antimicrobials.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR VETERINARIANS?
Veterinarians will become responsible for all feed use of antimicrobials considered by the FDA as medically important to humans.  The following bullet list outlines many of the specific tasks that will be required of licensed veterinarians to issue a VFD for a cattle farm or ranch client.

  • Veterinarians must be licensed in the state in which the cattle reside.
  • Must have a proper VCPR (Veterinary Client Patient Relationship) with the cattle operation.
  • Must prepare and sign the VFD supplying all the required information.
  • The VFD they authorize must comply with all conditions of approved use.
  • Must include required information if the VFD drug is to be used in combination with other VFD drugs.
  • Must restrict or allow the VFD drug in combination with one or more approved Over-The-Counter (OTC) feed medication.
  • Must assign the approved VFD expiration date and the “drug withdrawal time” following approved duration of the VFD use.
  • Can indicate if a “generic” VFD drug can be substituted for the “pioneer” VFD drug.
  • Must develop a mixer “flushing” or “clean-out” protocol to prevent a VFD drug from contaminating subsequent mixed feeds.
  • Must provide the feed distributor or mill (if other than “on-farm” mixing) a copy of the VFD, which can be transmitted by fax, email or electronic, however, the distributor must receive a hard copy of the “VFD order” from the vet within 5 working days.
  • Must provide the client (cattle operation) a copy of the VFD. If the “client” is also the “mill” they also receive the “mill” copy.
  • Must keep original VFD for two years (Two year retention is also required for the client and feed distributor copies).
  • Must provide VFD orders for inspection and copying by the FDA upon request.
  • Some VFD medication will allow disease diagnosing by trained non-veterinary cattle care takers.  For VFD medications that allow this, the veterinarian must develop training for the non-veterinary care takers, provide documented training and have a copy of the training outline or materials on file in the cattle operations office .

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR CATTLE PRODUCERS?
Cattle producers must have a relationship with a licensed veterinarian.

  • The FDA and the state’s agency regulating “Veterinary Licensure” specifically defines this relationship in their regulations as a “Veterinary Client Patient Relationship” (VCPR).  It requires the licensed veterinarian writing the VFD to: 1) be familiar with the care and management cattle receive by a client including being able to make a preliminary diagnosis of the targeted concern, 2) is willing to assume responsibility for making clinical judgements and the client agrees to follow the veterinarian’s instructions, 3) the veterinarian is willing to provide treatment oversight and will be readily available for follow-up evaluation and case management, 4) case and treatment records are maintained and evaluated by the veterinarian.
    Cattle producers will find obtaining VFD antibiotics simpler and less frustrating if they will visit with their veterinarian ahead of the need for the feed antibiotic.
  • Let your vet know about upcoming cattle management issues that may require a feed use antibiotic. Examples might include; weaning, anticipated cattle purchases or a seasonal endemic disease such as Anaplasmosis.
  • Visit with your vet about how a VFD medication will be obtained on a timely basis through your feed distributor.
  • In your conversation be sure to discuss other feed additives you typically use and ask about specific limitations that will have to be considered when a VFD medication is used.

Cattle producers considering a VFD medication might find it useful to visit with their feed distributor about the details to be considered when obtaining the VFD medication from their distributorship.

WHAT INFORMATION WILL THE CATTLE OWNER OR MANAGER BE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE ON THE VFD FORM?
The VFD form requires the veterinarian’s client’s name, address, phone, location of the cattle, the approximate weight of the cattle and the number of cattle that will be covered under the VFD.

WHAT RECORDS WILL CATTLE OWNERS AND MANAGERS BE REQUIRED TO KEEP?

  • A copy of the signed VFD received from your veterinarian must be kept for two years.
  • VFD medication use records, which includes feed mixing records, must be kept and be made available to the FDA if requested.
  • No FDA inspectors will come to the cattle operation using a VFD unless they are using the most concentrated VFD product available and the VFD requires a withdrawal time.  The most concentrated FDA approved feed additive is known as a “Type A Article” drug and it is classified as a “Category 2” drug if a withdrawal time is required.

WILL A CATTLE OWNER OR MANAGER HAVE TO SEE A VETERINARIAN TO GET A VFD?
Not necessarily. If the cattle owner or manager has a VCPR with a veterinarian, together they can develop outlines for situations when VFD medication use would be appropriate.  Using these outlines VFD usage can be anticipated and in many situations the VFD medication can be available as required to address the health and well-being of the cattle without the veterinarian personally evaluating the cattle.  For example, a veterinarian can develop guidelines and training for tentatively diagnosing a disease listed on the approved VFD medication and documentation of the trained personnel will allow the use of the VFD medication without the cattle being personally evaluated by their veterinarian.

WILL ONE VFD COVER CATTLE OWNED BY ONE PERSON IN DIFFERENT PASTURES?
Yes, a VFD can be written to cover the same health condition in cattle owned or managed by the same operation if the cattle are in multiple locations, including across county lines.  However, some VFD antibiotics will have labeling inclusions similar to; ‘'Use only in cattle fed in confinement for slaughter" and/or “fed in a complete feed” and/or “included in the sole ration”.  If these type statements are including on the label, use in pasture situations would not be allowed by the FDA.

WILL A VFD ANTIBIOTIC BE ALLOWED TO BE USED IN BREEDING CATTLE?
It will depend on the approved label.  Some VFD antibiotics will have not been studied in breeding cattle or replacement heifers/bulls and will not be labeled to feed breeding cattle.  There currently is a feed grade antibiotic approved for controlling anaplasmosis.  The current labeling allows its use in breeding beef cattle. If the company that controls this antibiotic applies for VFD approval there is no reason to think restrictions on its use in breeding cattle would be added.

WILL ONE VFD COVER CATTLE OWNED BY ONE PERSON IN DIFFERENT STATES?
No, a separate VFD will be required. Additionally, the veterinarian that writes the VFD is required to be licensed to practice in the state where the cattle are being kept when the VFD antibiotic is being used on those cattle.

WHAT FLEXIBILITY WILL CATTLE PRODUCERS HAVE IN HOW THEY DOSE A VFD MEDICATION?
Simple answer is NONE! Regulations governing feed medications have NEVER allowed usage other than as labeled! “Off label Use” or “Extra Label” has never been allowed and this legal requirement will continue with the use of VFD medications.  For cattle producers that also have sheep and/or goats, the FDA will not allow a VFD written for cattle to be used for sheep and/or goats.

WILL A VFD ALLOW PULSE FEEDING?

Pulsing feeding can be used but for each pulse of treatment a seperate VFD is required.  An animal can only to treated once per VFD.  Example of a 5 day on, 3 day off, 5 day on feeding would require two seperate VFD, one for each 5 day treatment.  It must follow FDA Approved Labels!

WILL A VFD ANTIBIOTIC BE ALLOWED FOR PINK-EYE OR FOOT-ROT?
Pink-Eye and/or Foot-Rot “prevention”, “treatment” and/or “control” are not listed on the labels of any of the feed grade antibiotics currently approved and therefore use for these disease is not allowed by the FDA.  Use for these disease may or may not be allowed in the future depending on the approval requests by companies applying for VFD approval for their feed grade antibiotic and the FDA’s ruling on those requests.

WHAT FLEXIBILITY WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR MIXING A VFD MEDICATION?
The cattle operation will have the same flexibility for how the VFD is mixed in a complete feed as has been available previously for use of FDA approved feed additives.  Restrictions on which FDA additives can be used together and how much of an additive can be added per ton of feed have long existed and these restrictions will continue with VFD regulation implementation in Dec 2016.

WILL SPECIAL PROCEDURES OR MIXERS BE REQUIRED TO USE A VFD MEDICATION?
An issue often overlooked by producers that practice on-farm feed mixing is cross contamination of feeds with FDA approved feed additives.  A procedure to “flush-out” a feed mixer after using a VFD will need to be developed.  Their veterinarian, nutritionist or extension educator can assist with developing a flush-out procedure.  Typically this involves running a small amount of a coarse feedstuff through the feed mixer after a VFD medication has been mixed. The feedstuff used to clean or “flush-out” the feed mixer can be used in the ration for the cattle receiving the VFD on the following day.

WILL VFD ANTIBIOTICS HAVE A MARKETING WITHDRAWAL TIME?
It will depend on the specific VFD antibiotic being considered.  The VFD, tilmicosin (Pulmotil) currently approved by the FDA has a 28 day withdrawal time.  There are a number of antibiotics the FDA currently approves for disease prevention, treatment or control that do not require a withdrawal time and there is no reason to think the FDA will add withdrawal times to medications for which a withdrawal is not currently required.

HOW LONG DOES A VFD REMAIN IN EFFECT AFTER IT IS WRITTEN BY MY VETERINARIAN?
VFD orders will have both an “Effective Date and an “Expiration Date”.  The “Effective Date” is not necessarily the date your veterinarian signs the VFD order. On the VFD order a veterinarian is required to indicate an “Effective Date” and the VFD antibiotic for which the order is written will have a “VFD order Expiration Date” requirement.  The VFD antibiotic cannot be fed after the end of the “Expiration Date”.

WILL THE LENGTH OF TIME FROM THE “VFD ORDER EFFECTIVE DATE” TO THE “VFD ORDER EXPIRATION DATE” BE THE SAME FOR ALL VFD ANTIBIOTICS?
The FDA has indicated the expiration date could vary between the different VFD antibiotics approved.  If the VFD antibiotic does not explicitly indicate the length of time for an order to expire, the VFD regulations require the veterinarian to limit the VFD order expiration date to 180 days or less.  Pulmotil, the only VFD the FDA has currently approved expires 45 days after the date the veterinarian indicates as the “effective date”.  The effective date will be the last day the use of a VFD antibiotic can be used. For example, if the a VFD antibiotic intended for use has a 45 day expiration time and the course of therapy is 14 days, the last day a course therapy can begin is day 31 of the 45 day window between the ‘Effective Date” and the “Expiration Date”.

WHEN DOES THIS REGULATION TAKE EFFECT?
It went into effect June 3, 2015. Currently, feed manufactures are revising medicated feed labels to remove all feeding performance statements.  These labels will read for use to treat, control or prevent a disease.  The first of these revised labels will be available January 1, 2016.  Labeling transition will continue to January 1, 2017 when all feed grade antibiotic will require a valid VFD.

WHAT PRODUCTS REQUIRE A VFD?
All feed use antibiotics that the FDA, World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers “medically important to humans”.  Currently, the FDA has approved one VFD antibiotic, tilmicosin (Pulmotil) for use in cattle feed to control Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD).

Medically important antibiotics currently being used in cattle feeds that have label indications for prevention, treatment and/or control of specific bacterial disease as required by the VFD regulations, but that will require new approvals by the FDA to continue the feed antibiotic use when the VFD regulation becomes effective in December 2016 include:

  • Chlortetracycline (Aureomycin, CLTC, Pennchlor)
  • Chlortetracycline + Sulfamethazine (Aureo S 700)
  • Neomycin + Oxytetracycline (Neo-Terramycin, Neo-Oxy)
  • Oxytetracycline (Terramycin, Pennox)
  • Tylosin (Tylan)
  • Virginiamycin (V-Max)


WHAT PRODUCTS DON'T REQUIRE A VFD?
VFD regulations focus on “Medically Important Antibiotics” as these represent the only medication type that has been identified that the use in livestock feed could potentially jeopardize the drug’s effectiveness in humans.  Therefore medications used to control parasites, reproduction, bloat, etc. will not require a VFD. These include:

  • amprolium (Corid)
  • bacitracin (Albac, BMD)
  • bambermycin (Gainpro)
  • decoquinate (Deccox)
  • fenbendazole (Safe-Guard)
  • laidlomycin (Cattlyst)
  • lasalocid (Bovatec)
  • melengestrol acetate (MGA)
  • methoprene (Altosid)
  • monensin (Rumensin)
  • morantel (Rumatel)
  • poloxalene (Bloat Guard)
  • ractopamine (Optaflexx, Actogain)
  • tetraclovinphos (Rabon)


CAN A VFD MEDICATION BE USED IN A FEED THAT CONTAINS OTHER FDA APPROVED FEED ADDITIVES?
Yes, provided the FDA has approved the medications to be used together in the same feed.  For decades the FDA has approved combination use of monensin (Rumensin), tylosin (Tylan) and melegestrol (MGA) in the same feed. Tilmicosin (Pulmotil), the only VFD antibiotic currently approved by the FDA is approved for combination use with monensin.  There is no reason to think the FDA will not continue to approve combination use of VFD medications approved in the future with other FDA approved feed medications.