With Agriculture, you can count on change, uncertainty, challenge, risk and opportunity. It’s only 7 months from 2017 when the new Veterinary Feed Directive becomes law of the land. This directive/ruling will regulate the feeding of Antibiotics in food animals giving oversight to veterinarians and has been well described in previous blogs by my colleagues. For producers, veterinarians, feed dealers and manufacturers, it will require more paperwork, recordkeeping, and being cognizant of the rules. I have heard a lot of talk about the rules in my industry circles and the opinions range from “no big deal” to apocalyptic in attitude. I believe that some producers are simply going to avoid the hassles and may look at using more “Natural or Antibiotic Free Programs.” or look at ways to lessen the need for feeds that would require a VFD.
In situations where a small amount of medicated feed is needed (e.g., small numbers of animals), a producer may no longer go through the hassle to obtain a VFD in order to purchase that medicated feed. For example, a producer that needs one bag of medicated milk replacer will probably just buy a non-medicated milk vs going through the hassle of obtaining a VFD for one bag to feed to a bucket calf. The same could be said for situations where a few bags of CTC crumbles are used. Situations where larger groups of animals are involved will likely be more of a focus on obtaining a VFD and many feeding practices and protocols will continue with the only change being the VFD.
The Alternative to needing a VFD? Better Nutrition?
Really the alternative should be the first step and not the alternative when it comes to nutrition. The reason antibiotics are used is to prevent and treat bacterial disease. These diseases often occur due to stress, environmental factors, poor nutrition and immunity, or management issues. A good nutrition program in the overall herd will be key to lessening the risk of disease in the first place.
While the new VFD Rules will be a change and undoubtedly an added cost to some in time and management, I’d like to look at this as an opportunity to simply highlight the value of better nutrition.
What is better nutrition?
I’d like to suggest that better nutrition is all about defining programs that describe product being used, timing of use, and feeding management.
- Product being used would be in reference to supplements. Is a properly balanced mineral being offered? What are the source and forms of mineral ingredients, is protein supplementation needed?
- Timing of use could refer to when do we start supplementing? Are we supplementing ahead of a problem to prevent it? Are we feeding for performance or just to get by and satisfy our conscious?
- Feeding Management is a combination of the above and how a supplement, especially a free-choice supplement is offered. Do we put enough out? Do we run out? Do we place it correctly and strategically?
There’s a lot of data available showing the value of good nutrition in animal health, performance and immunity. With the new VFD requirements on the horizon, I urge all of us in the industry to not only be familiar with the rules and requirements of feeding antibiotics, and to do so properly, but to also educate ourselves on how we can lessen any dependence. Whether an antibiotic-free or natural program is being used or not, good nutrition programs and understanding how to implement them should be the first focus and not the alternative. Read the CRYSTALYX® blog, visit www.cyrstalyx.com or visit a CRYSTALYX® dealer for good advice on how to make your cattle healthier and better performing.