Nebraska cattle producers urged to prepare for new regulations

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Nebraska cattle producers urged to prepare for new regulations

Nebraska beef cattle producers are encouraged to begin preparing for the Jan. 1, 2017, implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive regulations.
UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Nebraska beef cattle producers are encouraged to begin preparing for the Jan. 1, 2017, implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive regulations.

Nebraska beef cattle producers should begin preparing for the Jan. 1, 2017, implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive regulations, according to Rob Eirich, Nebraska beef quality assurance director with Nebraska Extension. The regulations will be implemented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and will require producers to work directly with their veterinarian when they use feed-grade antibiotics with all food-producing livestock.

A Veterinary Feed Directive is a paper or electronic written order by a licensed veterinarian approving the use of a feed-grade antibiotic for the prevention, treatment or control of a diagnosed disease. The regulations will apply only to antibiotics in livestock feed and will not affect feed-use medications such as ionophores, coccidia, other parasite and insect control drugs, or reproductive control medications. They also will not apply to antibiotics administered by injection.

“The first step producers should complete before January is to develop a valid Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship, which includes an operation site visit and discussion about herd health,” Eirich said. “A complete herd health plan should be created for vaccination and treatment protocols during this discussion.”

Eirich said producers must look at their operation production calendar to determine what health risks they may encounter over the course of the year, how to prevent the risks through vaccinations and how to treat diagnosed diseases with antibiotics. This is an opportunity to look at alternatives to help reduce animal health risk, such as mineral programs or probiotic additives, he added.

If a treatment protocol calls for using a feed-grade antibiotic, producers will be required to obtain a Veterinary Feed Directive from their veterinarian prior to purchasing and feeding the product. The veterinarian must provide signed written or electronic copies to the feed distributor and producer before the directive product is delivered to the producer. The directive must state what is being treated, the product used, rate of inclusion, duration of treatment, number of head being treated and at what location or operation. Each directive must also include an expiration date, which is the last date the product can be fed.

Another key point for producers to understand, according to Eirich, is that the regulations allow no extra-label use of medicated feeds. These regulations will also be enforced more within the livestock industry, he said. Directive products can only be used for prevention, treatment or control of diseases indicated on the FDA Approved Labels.

All feed manufacturers have submitted new labels removing all performance improvement claims and adding the new regulation requirements. The new labels will help veterinarians determine how directive products can be used and how the directive is to be implemented for that specific product. All labels will be approved by January 2017 for implementation of this new FDA regulation. A list of common beef cattle products can be found here.

As with any federal regulation, the new regulations will involve documentation and record keeping, according to Eirich. Veterinarians will be required to keep a record of the diagnosis and the original directive document. Feed distributors will keep a copy of the directive with the purchase or delivery receipts. Producers also must hold a copy of the directive, purchase or delivery receipts, and feeding records. All documents must be filed and kept for two years from the directory issue date.

“The Veterinary Feed Directive regulations will be a new way of doing business for everyone involved in the livestock industry, and there will be growing pains for everyone as the implementation takes place,” Eirich said. “Producers can ensure that they are more prepared for final implementation by taking the first step of developing a valid (Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship) with their veterinarian through discussions on their herd health plan.”

For more information on Veterinary Feed Directive regulations, visit the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance website or contact Eirich at 308-632-1230 or

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