Understanding Free-Choice and Hand-Fed Feeds Which Include Chlortetracycline

As the new VFD labels come into effect, a common question is the status of "free choice" and "hand fed" feeds, especially in relation to medicated mineral feeds.

Free choice is defined as "a method of feeding livestock in which various feeds are kept constantly available and the feeders (animals) are allowed to balance their own diet."

Hand fed, on the other hand, is a designation assigned in the drug approval process in which feed is required to be fed daily in order for the animals to be observed each day when there is concern for adverse drug reactions.

There is only one approved chlortetracycline indication for free choice feeds:
"Beef and non-lactating dairy cattle: As an aid in control of active infection of anaplasmosis caused by Anaplasma marginale susceptible to chlortetracycline when delivered in a free-choice feed."

There are four


FDA approved free choice feed formulations and one


FDA approved free choice feed formulation containing the approved chlortetracycline free choice indication for control of active cases of Anaplasmosis. All other indications and formulations are to be hand fed (fed daily).

It is illegal for a veterinarian to fill out a VFD for a label application of a feed drug knowing that it will be used in another manner (e.g., dose, duration, indication, or feeding practices). It is illegal for a distributor to distribute feed based on a VFD knowing that the intended use is different than on the VFD. It is illegal for the recipient of the VFD to use the feed in any manner than as authorized on the VFD.

Regardless of personal opinions on these new drug labels, previous practices, and the associated VFD process, it is important that all beef cattle veterinarians be on the same page regarding the regulatory situation.

For more detailed and technical information,

download a pdf of the full article here.


Latest News

Is Grass-Fed Beef Healthier or Better for the Environment?

Oklahoma State University meat scientist Gretchen Mafi has studied the scientific differences between beef that comes from animals finished on a grain diet versus those animals finished on grass.

How To Give a Calf Electrolytes, The Dehydration Lifeline

Electrolytes can serve as a needed boost for a scouring calf. Here's a look at what’s in electrolyte products, how much electrolytes should be given and a few ways and tips on how to give electrolytes to a calf.

Colostrum Management A Cornerstone For Dairy Calf Health

Dairies have made great strides in managing colostrum, but about 14% of calves fail to get passive transfer of antibodies. There is still opportunity to improve upon this, encourages Sandra Godden, DVM.

Be Prepared, Wheat Pasture Bloat on the Rise

As growing conditions improve on wheat pastures that have been grazed short all winter long, the threat of bloat rises. Here's how to combat the onset of bloat in grazing calves.

Cows Will Tell You What is Wrong with a Facility Design

As we transition the cows into a new facility, take time to watch the cows' usage of the facility. Cow behavior in the facility will indicate what may need to be adjusted.

What Does the Drought of 2022 Mean for Lactating Pairs in the Spring of 2023?

While some parts of the U.S. remain in drought conditions and the soil moisture profile is in a deficit due to months of below normal precipitation, grass growth will likely be impacted this spring.