Veterinary-client relationships have always been built on trust. Producers know their veterinarian has their best interests in mind, and wants them to be successful by having healthy animals. With the new Veterinary Feed Directive rules, that relationship is more important than ever.

Establishing a Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship

In order to use or prescribe approved prescription new animal drugs a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) must be established. The rule states a VCPR is present when all of the following requirements are met:

1.  The veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the patient and the client has agreed to follow the veterinarians' instructions.
As a producer, you can’t just call up your veterinarian and say, “My pigs have a cough – will you prescribe an antibiotic for me?” The knowledge and expertise of the veterinarian is important to the overall profitability of your operation. Developing a closer ongoing relationship and scheduling visits on a regular basis will help you catch problems before they get out of hand.

2.  The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the patient. This means that the veterinarian is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the patient by virtue of a timely examination of the patient by the veterinarian, or medically appropriate and timely visits by the veterinarian to the operation where the patient is managed.
This is similar to the first point – it’s a more formal relationship, with your veterinarian having the background on your farm to make educated decisions about the health and well-being of your animals.

3.  The veterinarian is readily available for follow-up evaluation or has arranged for the following: veterinary emergency coverage, and continuing care and treatment.
The relationship isn’t a “one and done” proposition. Rather, it’s an ongoing partnership based on a mutual respect for what each party brings to the table.

4.  The veterinarian provides oversight of treatment, compliance, and outcome.
While a VCPR requires more of producers, it also requires more of veterinarians. Where the potential for complacency may have existed in the past, the new rules mean your veterinarian is involved throughout the process in a hands-on manner.

5.  Patient records are maintained.
Records must be maintained by all parties for a period of two years, or as required by the longest of the federal or state law; and they must be made available to FDA-designated personnel as requested.

Although the guidelines may require more time and input, following them will help you develop a stronger working relationship with your veterinarian. Furthermore, if a drug residue problem were to arise, you, your veterinarian, and your feed mill will have the proper documentation to show officials in the event of an audit.