Dr. Thomas interviewed about new veterinary feed directive

posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 in AMVC Veterinarians in the News

In a hog barn in rural Iowa, veterinarian Paul Thomas’s approach sends pigs scurrying. He watches for unusual behavior. As he walks the length of the barn, Thomas notices one of the two-month-old hogs nestled against the railing at the edge of its pen and reaches over to gently pet the pig’s back. The pig shakes its head and drowsily gets up.

“He’s just sleepy,” Thomas says, and by the time he’s spoken the words, the pig has trotted off to join its pen-mates.

In the next room, Thomas hears something different.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, there’s a little bit of a sneeze in here?” Thomas says. These pigs, he explains, have a bit of a sniffle.

“There’s a good chance that whatever’s causing that might be viral or might be environmental,” Thomas says, noting that it is not a condition that requires treatment. “An antibiotic in that case is not appropriate, it’s not going to do anything.”

In this barn, Thomas doesn’t identify any new need for treatment of this herd, but he’s already authorized an antibiotic for some 2,500 or so pigs. And that’s pretty common for the animals that become our pork chops and steaks. Thomas says because they were recently weaned, these young hogs are susceptible to a bacterial diarrhea.

“That’s predictable, so we might use a VFD on a product to prevent that,” he says, referring to what’s known as a Veterinary Feed Directive. That’s the most stringent part of the new rules for antibiotics in livestock: all antibiotics important for human health can only be obtained with this written permission from a veterinarian, similar to a prescription.

For example, piglets might get penicillin for meningitis or cattle might get treated with tetracyclines for a liver condition. Those same classes of drugs are prescribed to people for strep throat and acne. In the past, farmers could buy feed containing antibiotics at the local feed store without even consulting a vet. Now, they can’t. They need to obtain a VFD.

“I do think it will ensure that antibiotics are being used appropriately,” Thomas says, “and I think that’s what’s important.”

?Content was written by Amy Mayer with Harvest Public Media. The full article can be found here: http://netnebraska.org/article/news/1057598/new-federal-rules-using-antibiotics-farm-may-fall-short