Leveraging VFD Information to Improve Decision Making


By J. T. Holck, DVM, MS, MBA

Many American producers and veterinarians are still adjusting to the changes that the expanded Veterinary Feed Directives (VFDs) brought at the start of the year.

To help ensure judicious use of antibiotics in food-producing animals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) requires that medications used in animal feed are permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

The majority of previously over-the-counter (OTC) feed medications are now classified as “important to human medicine” and have transitioned to VFD status.

While the industry navigates through these changes, GlobalVetLINK (GVL®) sees an opportunity to get a bigger, more accurate picture of animal health trends than ever before. Veterinarians and producers alike look for solutions to help them make sound, scientific decisions for the health of their animals and the safety of our food supply.

The ability to align diagnostic results with treatment data is crucial to making those decisions. In addition, the potential to connect treatment information with performance data or outcome data will further enable our industry to lead the world in producing high-quality, safe and nutritious pork.


A valid vet-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is also necessary under the new VFD requirements. Establishing a relationship with a veterinarian who can help you as a producer answer questions about the VFD and prescription changes is also a positive outcome of these new regulations. Asking questions related to the most appropriate treatments to address specific disease challenges, as well as specific questions on dosage and duration of use, helps ensure judicious use of antibiotics in your swine operation. Having tools in place to document a VCPR is critical for maintaining VFD compliance. The industry should embrace this change and work together to build further confidence with consumers.

Accessing and tracking VFD information

Most producers have worked with their veterinarians to plan their VFD process and already have that process in place. But it’s important to continue to evaluate this process moving forward to determine if it’s as efficient as it can be. Now that veterinarians, producers and feed distributors are working with new VFD drugs, situations will arise that had not been considered before January. There are many resources available to address commonly asked questions about VFD compliance but your veterinarian should be your first choice.

To maintain VFD compliance, producers/owners must save copies of any VFDs issued for their animals for two years. Storing paper copies of VFDs can present several concerns. First, the amount of space needed for storage. Second, accessing the records in the event of a VFD inspection. Third, maintaining those records for two years and the risk of loss (fire, flooding, etc.). If your veterinarian has chosen to write VFDs on paper and provide printed copies, this can also impact the speed of the communication between you, your vet and your feed distributor.

The FDA encourages electronic VFD communications, as the information is easier to track and maintain in the event of an inspection. An electronic VFD system offers multiple benefits to veterinarians, as well as producers, including automatic two-year storage of VFDs with 24-7 online access – even on your smartphone or tablet. As soon as the vet signs the VFD, the feed distributor and the producer are notified.

Keep communicating with your vet to express your concerns, to learn about the options available to you, and to acquire answers to any of your questions. Whether you choose a paper or electronic VFD process, be sure that you’ve considered how it will function long-term based on your experience over the last few months. PigCHAMP is partnering with GVL’s FeedLINK® electronic

PigCHAMP is partnering with GVL’s FeedLINK® electronic VFD solution to eventually allow producers to access VFDs, request VFDs from their veterinarians and combine VFD information with other relevant production information. This solution provides more access to producers who want to manage as much information and records as they can through a single platform.


With the addition of more VFD products to manage in January 2017, GVL’s FeedLINK system is designed to help simplify the creation and management of electronic VFDs. The use of the FeedLINK system will be significantly more efficient and secure than paper records. It will also help to simplify the logistics surrounding the VFD process by enabling legal options for a specific drug and indication of use, as well as providing VFD expiration date reminders to all parties involved.

Utilizing animal health information

The American Veterinary Medical Association states that, “Veterinarians are committed to ensuring that animal health and welfare needs are met, and that needed medications be available and administered in a timely manner for treating, controlling, or preventing animal disease. Animals will still receive antibiotics when there is a clear indication of their need. Food producers are able to work with veterinarians to ensure that animals have the care and medication they need, when they need it.”

Having systems in place that document when there is a “clear indication of need” for antibiotics will ultimately support the decisions that are made about animal health. This is where all of the industry can come together to develop and implement solutions that do just that.

Ideally, systems in place would provide tools that help document the veterinarian and producer working together for surveillance, prevention, control and treatment of disease. Not only would this system help to prove judicious use but it would also support evidence of a valid VCPR.

GVL offers a wide range of web-based products that together create a Herd Health Management Solution to aid in compliance with the new antimicrobial regulations. Not only do these tools make it easy for users to create new documents from stored client information, there are also integrations with other industry software providers to add more value for users to combine information as desired.

Systems like these provide tools to support better decision making when prescribing interventions for clients, while helping practitioners save time.

Practitioners are accustomed, for example, to receiving diagnostic results on a case-by-case basis, often from multiple laboratories. Some practitioners then take the time to cut and paste those results into a spreadsheet or other database for analysis and reporting purposes.

GVL’s LabLINK HIMS™ system is the first veterinary diagnostic database that automatically aggregates diagnostic information from multiple veterinary diagnostic laboratories (VDLs) in one place, and provides reporting tools for disease monitoring, historical data analysis and pathogen response.

Custom reporting tools allow users to group cases utilizing a variety of parameters. Users also have the unique ability to access historical data using a searchable database and can instantly upload diagnostic results, where they are stored securely and segregated from other client’s data.

Water soluble and injectable prescriptions

Affected antibiotics (important to human medicine) administered in water require a veterinary prescription, not a VFD. A prescription also requires a valid VCPR. Unlike VFDs, veterinarians can prescribe certain water and injectable products under Extra Label Drug Use (ELDU).

Prescriptions for extra label use are regulated by the State Board of Pharmacies and therefore will vary from state to state. Visit www.avma.org/Advocacy/StateAndLocal/ Pages/veterinary-prescription-orders.aspx for a list of state language.

Food animal owners should have a written treatment records system in place to decrease the risk of violative residues in meat, milk or eggs. All patient treatments should be recorded. Food animal owners must keep records when engaging in ELDU. Owner treatment records have been developed by several producer organizations and are available in conjunction with quality assurance programs. In the oversight of antibiotics usage in water solubles and injectables, GVL’s ScriptLINK™ Electronic Veterinary Prescription System provides a secure digital Rx software system for multiple species and delivery methods. ScriptLINK helps by optimizing the prescription, fulfillment and tracking of all prescription medication supporting the judicious use of antibiotics in food animals.

Similar to FeedLINK for VFDs, ScriptLINK has the potential to gather and organize treatment information, diagnostics and performance data. These integrations will help ensure judicious use of antibiotics and further build confidence between pork consumers and producers.


Being able to access VFD and animal health data and combine it with other production information helps contribute to better farm management decisions. GlobalVetLINK continues to develop solutions that help improve efficiencies, enable timely communications and support judicious use of antibiotics for U.S. pork producers. To learn more about these digital animal health solutions from GVL, visit www.globalvetlink.com, or contact the GVL team at info@globalvetlink.com or 515-817-5703.

Dr. J. Tyler Holck, Swine Veterinary Consultant
Dr. J. Tyler Holck has 27 years of experience in food animal production, primarily the pork industry. He has worked with both large, international and small, entrepreneurial corporations. Holck now operates Feed His People, LLC, where he works as an independent swine veterinary consultant.

GlobalVetLINK (GVL®) is the leader in providing easy-to-use, webbased software solutions for the animal health industry that assist in managing herd health. Learn more at www.globalvetlink.com.