On Monday prior to the Minnesota Pork Congress I had the opportunity to be part of a swine nutrition discussion group that meets quarterly in southern Minnesota. The topic of this quarter’s meeting was to share experiences after the first 2 weeks of the conversion of medically important feed additives to VFD (veterinary feed directive) status. Joining our group for this discussion was Dr Tyler Holck from GlobalVetLINK, the primary electronic VFD service used by veterinarians.
The good news for the swine industry – while not without some problems, for the vast majority of feed mills and companies represented at the meeting the VFD process has worked ‘ok’ so far. Both Dr Holck and the feed industry people around the table felt the swine industry in general had done a good job of preparing for the January 1 change and was working hard to overcome the minor problems associated with the new method of ordering feed containing medically important antibiotics.
One of the issues that did come up was how the implementation of the VFD process was impacting the feed mills and the veterinarians writing the VFD’s. In both cases, VFD usage adds time to the feed ordering process and this people time and 2 year storage time of VFD’s adds costs that must be recovered.
In a survey around the table, veterinarian charges to write a VFD ranged from $5 to $35 per VFD. One reason for the large range was how closely the veterinarian was tied to the pig flow in question and how they were compensated for other services they might be performing for the pig owners already. For sure, don’t expect a veterinarian to write a VFD for free! If they charge $100/hr for their office services and it takes 5 minutes to either handwrite a VFD or to fill out the GlobalVetLINK electronic form, this is $8.33.
At feed mills, as the full impact of VFD usage accumulates, managers are starting to think about how to recover the added costs. These costs include people time dealing with VFDs, dealing with grower and mill miscommunications regarding VFDs, storage of the VFDs for 2 years, etc. Right now it appears the options mills are considering are either a service charge (either a flat fee per order or $/ton) for any feeds made that incorporate VFD required products or a mark-up in cost for the VFD required product.
Another impact of VFDs is the availability of products. Mills are now only going to inventory products that are most likely to be frequently used by customers, such as CTC/Denegard or CTC. For lesser used products, they may not have inventory on-hand when the VFD is sent to the mill and the feed order based on the VFD is submitted. For some products it may take more than a 24 hr notice to have feed made and delivered whereas last year this same product was available for inclusion in diets on short notice.
All of the mills/companies at the roundtable discussion urged producers (growers and pig owners) to be in contact with their mills on any VFD product in swine diets so everyone better understands any production limits that may be in place at a local mill. For any antibiotic on the medically important list, the mill MUST follow the VFD in formulation and mixing of the diet. It is up to the pig owner and grower to further follow the VFD directions as to timing of feeding of the product.