In just a few weeks, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) will become effective. That means, when Jan. 1, 2017, rolls around, everyone in the cattle business will face a new and different landscape regarding the use of antibiotics in animal feed that are medically important for humans.
That changing landscape means if you don’t have a valid veterinary client-patient relationship with a veterinarian, you’re rapidly running out of time.
However, a recent survey of BEEF readers as well as practicing bovine veterinarians shows that there are a significant portion of beef producers who may very well be surprised when they try to buy certain medicated feeds or mineral after the first of the year.
While a more detailed rundown will be available in the December issue of BEEF magazine, the survey results waved a red flag that many BEEF readers may not be prepared for the new antibiotic landscape they will face after the first of the year. So let this be fair warning—if you don’t have a relationship with a veterinarian, get one.
Of the 912 beef producers who responded to the survey, 55.7% say yes when we asked if they have a valid veterinary client-patient relationship with their veterinarian. These producers are well situated to navigate the new antibiotic regulations next year. Unfortunately, however, 25.7% say no and 18.6 don’t know.
That means 44.3% of the respondents may very well find themselves confused and unable to obtain the medicated feed and mineral they have been accustomed to buying over the counter at their feed store or co-op. If these results are reflective of the beef business in general, and they probably are, lots of folks have a lot of catching up to do.
The other side of that equation, however, is the availability of veterinarians. The flight of veterinarians from rural practice to urban and suburban practice has long been a point of consternation with beef producers. If you need a veterinarian to sign a VFD so you can buy medicated mineral but no veterinarian is available to visit your operation, that’s a problem.
Of the beef readers who rated the availability of large-animal veterinarians, 59.2% say it is adequate in their area. Beyond that, 21.7% say there is a slight or seasonal shortage, 13.7% see a significant shortage and 5.4% have a severe shortage.
When we asked veterinarians the same question, the results were similar. Of the veterinarians who responded, 61.2% say availability of veterinary services is adequate, 22.9% see a slight or seasonal shortage, 12.3% see a significant shortage and 3.5% have a severe shortage.
So does that translate into difficulty scheduling a veterinarian to visit your operation? Perhaps. When we asked readers how often they had difficulty scheduling a veterinarian for routine services or consultation, 52.1% say seldom and 31.5% say never. However, 13.9% say usually and 2.4% say nearly always or always.
Going back to the discussion about the VFD, what does this portend for life after Jan. 1, 2017? For the 16% of producers who have difficulty scheduling a veterinarian for routine visits to their operation, it could well mean obtaining medicated feed or mineral may be difficult.
So are you ready for the new Veterinary Feed Directive regulations? If you regularly use a veterinarian as part of your herd health program, you’re in good shape. Have a conversation with him or her about what you need to do after January 1. If you don’t routinely use a veterinarian, now is the time to start initiating a relationship. You’ll be glad you did.
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