By now, more and more producers are learning about the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) that will bring about a change in regulating feed-through antibiotics. There’s been a lot of recent popular press and blog chatter on this subject. The intent of the rule, now finalized, isn’t really that different from when it was introduced and debated at the Food and Drug Administration in 2009. The industry comment period has resulting in some changes related to documentation. The final rules have been published this year (June), and have already taken affect for some drugs and more (the main ones concerned in cattle feeds) will go into effect on January 1, 2017.
The rationale behind this rule is the concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock feeds, and the potential for being a causative factor to antibiotic resistance in the human population. Whether you agree with the rule or not, it is going to be the rule that producers, feed producers and veterinarians alike will need to follow. I’d encourage all feed professionals, veterinarians and producers to study the rule and make a game plan in advance on how to comply and evaluate how the rule may affect your operation.
It’s important to note that this rule is not a ban on the use of antibiotics in feeds, and not all antibiotics will be covered under the rule. Some labeling of how and for what the antibiotics can be used for will change. For example feeding CTC for growth promotion will no longer be an approved label. The antibiotics of concern are those that are “medically important for human use,” meaning antibiotics that can be fed to livestock that are also used in human medicine. The most significant of these for beef cattle will be tetracyclines such as Chlortetracycline (CTC), Aureomycin and Sulfas. Ionophores such as Rumensin® and Bovatec®, albeit chemically classified as antibiotics but not used in human medicine, are exempt.
So is CRYSTALYX® affected by this rule?
Directly? No. CRYSTALYX® is not affected by this rule as the brand has no products that include antibiotics under the rule. In fact, all but one CRYSTALYX® product to date are non-medicated and the one that is happens to be Iono-lyx® which contains Bovatec®. You will not need a VFD to feed any CRYSTALYX® product.
Indirectly? Yes: CRYSTALYX® products and the nutritional benefits they provide will only become more important to the overall health and performance of livestock. If our livestock were to rarely get sick or were not put at risk to being sick, there would be no need for antibiotics. Zero risk may not be reality but better nutrition through proper supplementation can greatly enhance immunity and make vaccine programs more effective.
Get off to a right start with CRYSTALYX®
The most crucial times in livestock production systems would have to be the events involved in a starting phase. Calves when born need colostrum in the first few hours for passive immunity. Weaned and receiving calves always perform better and have less sickness if they start consuming feed quickly and get off to a “good start.” Supplemental nutrition to a cow during pregnancy sets up how well the calf in utero will perform later in life. This too could be viewed as a “starting point.” Many CRYSTALYX® products such as Brigade® fed to weaned calves or a product like BGF-30™ used as a supplement to gestating beef cows help provide the “right start.”
Where Do We Go from Here?
Getting a VFD for certain antibiotics to prevent certain problems that have no approved label claim will not be possible. An example of this would be using CTC to prevent pinkeye or foot rot. Again, we will not see feed through antibiotics go away, they will just need to be fed under the guidance of a veterinarian with the producer, feed supplier, and veterinarian all keeping records and following rules of the VFD. CRYSTALYX® has many tools that will only become more helpful in the future. We will be working with our parent company, Alltech, and have manufactured several products to date containing BioPlex® trace minerals for better mineral absorption, Sel-Plex®, a selenium yeast product that can enhance selenium status and immunity, and Bio-Mos® for better gut health. The best cure is prevention and CRYSTALYX® can help. Again, no VFD is required with CRYSTALYX®
Looking ahead, this will only make us better livestock producers. The goal is to utilize better nutrition and management as to be less dependent on antibiotics. The European countries are already dealing with these types of rules and practices. I trust our U.S. industry can handle it too, and only get better.