When the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) looked at changing the Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) definition in the Model Practice Act, members of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) and AABP’s Committee for Pharmaceutical and Biologic Issues (CPBI) expressed concerns that applying the VCPR in a uniform manner across an ever diverse profession would be a challenging task. Of particular concern to cattle veterinarians was how such a change would impact appropriate veterinary oversight for use of drugs on cattle operations.

AABP conducted an online member survey on the VCPR (view it at www.aabp.org) to find out where members stood. The survey showed that food-animal veterinarians overwhelmingly support a VCPR that includes on-site visits to an operation (70% agreed or strongly agreed), and they also support AABP defining what veterinary oversight is for using/dispensing/prescribing these drugs for cattle operations.

“I think that cattle veterinarians see value in our services and they also see value in ensuring that farmers are using pharmaceutical products appropriately,” says Fred Gingrich, DVM, Ashland, Ohio, chair of the CPBI. “We are there to help farmers be successful, protect the public trust in food production systems, ensure a safe and adequate food supply and improve the health and welfare of cattle. All of these require veterinary oversight.”

On-site visits

“Within the cattle industry, different types of operations such as dairy, cow-calf and feedlot require different levels of involvement by veterinarians,” says AABP Executive Vice President M. Gatz Riddell, Jr., DVM. “Boots on the ground is critical. The veterinarian needs to be on the farm with a regularity supported by the class/type of operation.” This means that a cow-calf operation probably needs fewer on-site visits compared to a feedlot and then a dairy operation which generally has the highest frequency of visits. When asked, 95% of respondents believe an on-site visit is necessary to maintain a valid VCPR. The majority of veterinarians believe monthly or four visits/per are sufficient to maintain a VCPR for a feedlot client. For cow-calf operations, the majority indicated that a veterinary visit two to four times per year is sufficient. While few veterinarians visit dairies weekly, almost half indicated monthly visits were in order, with four times per year preferred after that.

Veterinary oversight

AABP asked its members if they would support AABP developing practice guidelines for oversight of the judicious use of pharmaceuticals on cattle operations, farms, and ranches, and 88% agreed or strongly agreed. “Veterinarians feel that they should have oversight of use of products on their clients’ farms,” Riddell says. “Regardless of distribution chain, the use should be under the oversight of a local veterinarian.” Veterinary oversight also requires ready access to the prescribing veterinarian, Gingrich notes. “Sometimes it is difficult to define what it is and it is easier to define what it is not. We know that a VCPR cannot be established or maintained for the sole purpose of selling drugs. That is a problem with a small portion of our industry.”

Gingrich believes these are important issues that will affect all food-animal veterinarians. “I think AABP can be proactive in this role, helping its members and supporting the veterinary and cattle industry before we are regulated by outside forces.”

Riddell adds, “Veterinary involvement with oversight is critical to assuring the consuming public that the farmers providing their food are doing the right things simply because they are the right things to do.”