Prepare for New Antibiotic Regulations Now

Jennifer Koeman, DVM

If ever the old adage “There’s no time like the present” carried meaning, it is today. Pork producers need to start preparing for the Jan. 1, 2017, deadline, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will implement new regulations for antibiotic use on the farm.


Under the new rules, medically important (to human health) antibiotics will no longer be available for growth promotion purposes in food-animal production. They will be able to be used only to treat, control or prevent specific disease under veterinary guidance. Both feed-grade and water-based treatments will be affected, and over-the-counter (OTC) sales of these medically important antibiotics will end.

To gain access to feed-grade antibiotics, producers will need to work with a veterinarian to obtain a veterinary feed directive (VFD), which will be required for a feed mill to produce any diet with antibiotics for which a VFD is required. This holds true even if feed is made by producers themselves on their farms. For water medications, producers must get a prescription from their veterinarian before treatment may begin for a specific group of pigs.

Before a veterinarian issues a VFD, he or she must have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with the producer requesting it. This means that the veterinarian must be familiar with a herd’s production and health profile ahead of the issuance of the VFD. More information about the VCPR requirements can be found at www.pork.org/antibiotics under the FDA tab.

Most antibiotics labeled for use in swine production will be covered by the VFD rule. The compounds that will not be affected include bacitracin, tiamulin, carbadox, ionophores and bambermycin. As always, it’s a good idea for producers to talk with their veterinarians to discuss how to apply the new VFD and prescription requirements, as well as other herd health strategies.


The other big change will be record-keeping requirements, which will affect not only pork producers, but veterinarians and feed mills as well. Here’s a snapshot of key compliance steps:

  • The veterinarian issuing a VFD is required to keep the original VFD form; the feed mill/distributor and the producer (client) must keep a copy. These records can be in print or electronic formats.
  • All parties must keep the VFD records for two years; one year for water prescriptions.
  • Each VFD includes a specific expiration date for a specific group of animals. Any leftover feed cannot be fed to any animals without obtaining a new VFD.
  • Any of these records must be accessible to FDA upon request.

The Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) program provides guidance on antibiotic use records. Specifically, the “Pen or Individual Pig Treatment Record” within PQA Plus provides guidance in recording the number of animals, reason for treatment, product name and who administered the treatment. An updated version of PQA Plus will be launched in June, including a section on responsible antibiotic use and a reference booklet describing how to be ready for the upcoming regulatory changes. For more information about PQA Plus, go to pork.org and click the certification tab.


Now is the best time for producers to visit with their veterinarians, feed mills and distributors to ensure that they are prepared or soon will be regarding FDA’s new requirements. To stay informed about the VFD and FDA’s new antibiotic requirements, bookmark Pork Checkoff’s Antibiotics Resource Center— pork.org/antibiotics. It will provide the latest information and resources that you need to be prepared for these major changes.

You Need To Be Prepared For These Major Changes.

To ensure producers are staying ahead of the changes, the Pork Checkoff’s science and technology team has prepared a checklist. The USCARE acronym is an easy way to remember the six key steps that producers need to complete before January 2017. Taking this action is critical to ensure successful compliance with the upcoming changes. So, don’t wait… be ready!

  • Understand the new feed (VFD) and water (prescription) rules: As of Jan. 1, 2017, growth promotion use of medically important (to human health) antibiotics will not be allowed. Only therapeutic use (treatment, control, prevention) for a specific animal health condition will be allowed under a veterinarian’s direction.

  • Strengthen the Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR): Schedule periodic herd visits with your veterinarian and review health monitoring, treatment and biosecurity protocols.
  • Communicate with feed suppliers: Ensure the mill personnel understand and are prepared to implement new VFD record-keeping procedures and that stringent feed delivery protocols are in place.
  • Assess herd health and welfare strategies: Sit down with your veterinarian to outline production and management changes to maximize animal health and minimize antibiotic use.
  • Renew a commitment to responsible antibiotic use: Stay up to date with PQA Plus certification and make it part of the farm’s worker education program.
  • Ensure record-keeping compliance: For producers, this means keeping copies (print or electronic) of VFD for two years and prescription records for one year.

- Jennifer Koeman, DVM
Dr. Jennifer Koeman is Director of Producer and Public Health for the National Pork Board.