I need to update this post to clarify which antibiotics are being switched to Rx, please read this update if the changes may impact you.
Changes will go into effect on January 1, 2017 in the way that livestock medications are distributed. The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) will stop over-the-counter sales of many of the antibiotics used today for livestock. After January 1st, it will be necessary to get a prescription from your veterinarian in order to purchase some antibiotics that are currently carried on the shelves in your local feed and supply store. You can read the details of the directive on the USDA website here.
Why’s A VFD Needed?
In the words of the FDA, the directive is being implemented to institute “several key measures for ensuring the appropriate or judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. These measures include eliminating the feed and water use of medically important antimicrobial drugs for production purposes in food-producing animals and bringing all remaining therapeutic uses under the oversight of licensed veterinarians”.
To me, this means they are trying to control the overuse of antibiotics in animal feeds that’s leading to the development of “superbugs” in humans that no longer respond to antibiotics. Since we raise our own chickens for meat/eggs and goats for milk because we’re concerned about the overuse of antibiotics/hormones in commercially raised products, we think the directive is a good thing and long overdue. But even though we seldom use any antibiotics, it will create some inconvenience and there are some steps everyone should consider taking before the directive goes into affect.
The directive will affect several of the water soluble medications commonly given to livestock such as Sulfamethazine (Sulmet), Tylosine (Tylan), Oxytetracycline, Penicillin, and others (you can find the full list here). Medicated starter feeds for baby livestock often contain antibiotics to help combat coccidiosis but most of these feeds are not affected and will still be available from local feed stores.
Obviously, it’s more important than ever to have a good working relationship with your veterinarian. If one of your animals does suffer from an injury or illness and really needs one of these antibiotics, trying to find a vet to prescribe them for you at the last minute is not a good idea.
It’s somewhat difficult to determine from reading the FDA wording whether all antibiotics on the list or just those that are water soluble are being affected. According to several distributors, the following statement identifies those antibiotics that will be impacted:
Preparations To Consider
We have never given antibiotics to our adult livestock via water or feed, (and it appears that the injectables are not impacted on January 1, 2017) so it doesn’t seem that the VFD will initially have a large impact for us. However, I intend to go through the injectables that we do keep on hand for emergencies, and make sure they will still be available “over-the-counter” after January 1st. If I find any that are being impacted, we’ll be stocking up on those.
Keeping our animals in good health to prevent the need for antibiotics is obviously something to strive for, but it becomes even more important as further restrictions are implemented. Good feed, a constant supply of fresh water, lots of space, fresh air, access to appropriate minerals, regular vaccinations, and supplements as appropriate go a long way in keeping them healthy.
Other things to consider are investigating and implementing natural remedies to help keep them healthy, particularly in times of stress. Adding organic apple cider vinegar to drinking water, sprinkling probiotics on feed, and exploring herbs to help boost immunity are a couple of strategies known to help.