By the end of 2016, ranchers and livestock producers will have to follow new rules when medicating stock with commonly used feed-grade antibiotics.
In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will begin requiring veterinary feed directive, essentially prescriptions, for livestock feed additives.
The agency hopes to promote more judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.
Jessica Laurin, veterinarian at Animal Health Center in Marion, said medications that now are available without veterinary approval will require a veterinary feed directive, or VFD.
“Antibiotics that go into feed are like over-the-counter medications,” she said. “If somebody needed Ibuprofen or Tylenol, they could just walk in to the store and buy it.”
New rules, however, will allow use of antimicrobial drugs only under veterinary supervision.
Without regulations, producers might overmedicate their stock with feed-grade antibiotics.
“Around here, CTC (chlortetracycline, tradename Aureomycin) is labeled for anaplasmosis, a bloodborne disease in cattle, but it treats a lot of things,” Laurin said. “CTC is one of the drugs people could be overestimating the dosage on.”
She said the FDA was concerned that antimicrobial drug residues present in food from food-producing animals might cause adverse effects on the ecology of intestinal microflora — the gut — of human consumers.
The new regulations also are part of a call for transparency as to how the nation’s food sources are handled, she said.
“We’ve got the safest, healthiest food supply in the world,” Laurin said, “but consumers who don’t grow up in the same area as where the food is raised don’t always know that.
“If people cook their food right, there really is no chance for cross-contamination. The FDA is more worried about patients with immune problems, but they are looking at everything.”
She said the new regulations would likely affect many Marion County producers, but there is time to prepare.
“The best thing to do is talk to a vet ahead of time,” she said. “Ranchers can’t expect to just walk-in and get a VFD.”
VFDs will be written for a producer and a specific group of animals, she said.
They will be specific, citing just one food grade antibiotic and any allowed combinations with it.
VFDs also will be written for a specific period and per label for duration of treatment, she said.
Once ranchers obtain a VFD from a veterinarian, then they can go to a feed mill or store to get it filled.