The pork industry is ahead of the curve when it comes to the responsible use of antibiotics. Farmers are already using a number of programs voluntarily and have been for some time, says Dr. Paul Ruen, a veterinarian with the Fairmont Veterinary Clinic in Fairmont, Minn. Dr Ruen was one of the featured speakers in a recent webinar hosted by Vance Publishing and sponsored by Zoetis.

He says one of the outcomes of the new Veterinary Feed Directive is that it “will document to the public how we’re already working together on this issue.”

There are, however, a few changes to which producers will need to adapt.

“The timeline will be the hardest thing to deal with regarding the VFD, says Ruen. “If animals are sick, there’s always a lag time between when animals are diagnosed and when they’re treated. The health and the well-being of the animal is dependent on us to have a timely response, to get the right treatment to the right animals at the right time.”

The key will be making it work for the animal, the producer, the veterinarian and the feedmill.

Benefits and Challenges

Ruen says the new rules “will allow us to have only electronic copies and not a paper transfer, so that’s an improvement. However, the changes in the VFD will require more staffing and extra cost.

“We’ll see an increase in veterinary and support staff time, to make sure information is accurate and timely,” he says. “We’ll have at least one more if not two more people trained to help.”

One of the advantages of the VFD is the “common health status” (flow of animals). “There’s a common treatment plan for many groups of animals across multiple locations,” explains Ruen. “We’re pleased to see the revised VFD allows us to have multiple sites listed on a prescription.”

In addition, the prescription expiration dates are six months, which adds flexibility. “Also, the use of calendar dates, rather than a specific number of days, makes it more practical,” says Ruen.

The six-month window works well with the production cycle for pigs, adds Ruen. “Antibiotic treatments are expensive so the timeline allows us to target medications when and where they are needed,” he adds.

“As an industry, we’ve come a long way in terms of our diagnostic information and the knowledge we use today to design the best treatment and prevention plans. It requires efforts on the part of the producer, veterinarian and the feed mill to make it as painless as possible,” says Ruen.