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Panel: Pork producers should meet with veterinarians now to prepare for new VFD rules

Meeting with a swine veterinarian to review your herd-heath program and the medications being used is a good way to prepare for the new veterinary feed directive (VFD) regulation that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

A panel of swine industry professionals explored ways pork producers can meet these new requirements during a recent webinar hosted by PORK Network and sponsored by Zoetis.

“Producers need to look at their [feed] medication usage with fresh eyes,” said Laura Bruner, DVM, Swine Vet Center, St. Peter, Minn.

Questions to ask

Bruner urged producers to work with their veterinarian to answer these questions:

  • Does the medication feeding rate match the diagnosis rate on the product label?
  • Are you overfeeding a VFD medication through a combination of starter and nursery feed?
  • Is the VFD written correctly with the specific medication requirements? (Tilmicosin, for example, can only be written for 90 days.)

Bruner also discussed the importance of establishing and maintaining a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) — a prerequisite for a VFD.

Under the new VFD rules, she added, pork producers will need a robust relationship with their veterinarian maintained through regular farm visits. Federal guidelines require a farm visit every 6 months but several states have their own timeframes.

Bruner says the increased veterinary oversight associated with the VFD process may result in increased costs initially for farm visits and diagnostics, but making the right antibiotic choice at the right time may actually save producers money in the long run.

Prior to Jan. 1, the panel also urged producers to develop a complete list of all production sites and their addresses and work with their veterinarian to determine how many VFDs will be needed for each.

Look beyond antibiotics

Producers also need to work with their veterinarian to look beyond antibiotics and focus on management techniques that may reduce the need for antibiotics.

“Simple changes such as increasing weaning weights from 19 to 23 pounds, improving grower focus on starting nursery pigs and switching from antibiotics to vaccines wherever possible are important steps the producer can take to ensure the productivity of their animals,” said Ethan Spronk, DVM, Eichelberger Farms, Wayland, Iowa.

Management practices will play an increasingly important role in keeping the pigs growing and healthy, especially as producers move away from sub-therapeutic levels of some medications, Spronk explained.

“At Eichelberger Farms, we’re focusing on a system improvement process that places more emphasis on diagnostics, underlying causes such as environmental conditions and water quality, and alternative solutions to antibiotic therapy including probiotics, biosecurity and increased sanitation efforts.”

Good records essential

Recordkeeping lies at the center of the new VFD guidelines. According to Jerry Broderick, quality director for the Farmers Co-op Society, Sioux Center, Iowa, pork producers must be able to recall specific feed and ingredient orders and trace them to individual groups of pigs within 4 hours. Their VFD records may be kept electronically but must be available at the farm site.

Swine-farm managers at each site also need to be aware that the VFD must be written and submitted by the veterinarian before medicated feed can be delivered.

“Producers can no longer call their vet on the road, ask for medicated feed for a group of pigs and get it delivered immediately,” Broderick explained. “The veterinarian responsible for their VCPR must hand or electronically write and file the order before the feed can be manufactured and delivered.”

Watch the full 49-minute webinar:

 

 

 

 

 


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