Veterinary Feed Directive and what it means


vfd-1 (2)

In the last few years, it has been nearly impossible to open and read any Ag news
publication and not see an article about the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and the changes by the Food and Drug Administration. When the Veterinary Feed Directive went into effect in 2017, it impacted nearly everyone in the livestock industry. Depending on whom you ask this has been a good and a bad thing.

Typically, the new regulations are not well received by the producer, who has been using
these over the counter products for years in an effort to raise healthy animals. As of January 1, 2017, every livestock producer who uses an antibiotic that is considered important to human health, such as penicillin or tetracycline, now has to comply. The regulation covers not only antimicrobial drugs administered via feed, but also water, but does not include injections. This also covers animals not intended for food consumption (AVMA, 2016).  This rule change has even affected every retailer that sells these products and every veterinarian as well as any feed mill.

In short, a veterinarian now has to see the animal and diagnose it before the animal can receive the antibiotic. The feed provider keeps a record of every sale that contains antibiotics. This does not leave out the feed manufacturers, who are busy reformulating much of their feed and mineral products to comply. This regulation affects literally every person in the production of livestock in one way or another. The livestock producer is certainly the person who will feel the biggest impact from this mandate. As they are the last person in the line of production who cares for these animals, the producer has the ultimate responsibility to take care of their animals to the best of their ability. This mandate takes control of freely feeding antibiotics out of the hands of the producers, and puts this responsibility on the backs of the veterinarians.  By doing this the vet-to-client relationship has strengthened immensely. The feeding practices of producers are being forced to change also. The antibiotic is no longer to be fed as a preventative feed, to keep the cattle healthy, but rather as a prescription feed, to be fed after the animal is already ill. This is hard for livestock operators to see, because as a producer, the main goal is to keep the animals as healthy as you can at all times. Now instead of preventing illness and keeping the herd from suffering, the producer must wait until an animal is ill to have a veterinarian come to the farm and diagnose and prescribe the use of antibiotics. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is more of a golden rule that a livestock producer lives by; the VFD is going against this time old tradition.



According to the VFD final rule, a producer’s veterinarian will fill out the form,
specifying the farm and animals to be treated, the drug to be used, its feeding rate, and the duration of treatment. The veterinarian will also indicate an expiration date on the VFD, which can’t exceed six months. Some drug labels may allow for a number of refills.
It will function similarly as when you go to your doctor because you are sick. Your
medical doctor then writes a prescription that you take to your local pharmacy. However, when the VFD drug category was created, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the Act) made it clear that VFD drugs are not prescription drugs. This category was created to provide veterinary supervision without invoking state pharmacy laws for prescription drugs that were unworkable for the distribution of medicated feed (FDA, 2015).
Once the producer has secured the copy of the VFD, they will have to show proof of the veterinary approval to the feed salesmen or whomever they are purchasing their feed from. After the feed salesman provides the producer with the appropriate feed additive, the feed salesmen will have to keep a copy of the VFD, along with a sales receipt of sale of the product in his or her personal store record.
This puts an added expense on the farmer, having to pay for a vet visit or farm call along with the paperwork required for these essential antibiotics. It also places a toll on the small town rural veterinarian who is short staffed.

This also puts added pressure and liability on to the veterinarian, because they are now responsible to formalize this very simple task. If a vet does not actually see the animal that they are prescribing the antibiotics for, they are then breaking the law. In addition, the VFD limits extra label use. “Extralabel use” (ELU) is defined in FDA’s regulations as actual or intended use of a drug in an animal in a manner that is not in accordance with the approved labeling. For example, feeding the animals a VFD for a duration of time that is different from the duration specified on the label, feeding a VFD formulated with a drug level that is different from what is specified on the label, or feeding a VFD to an animal species different than what is specified on the label would all be considered extralabel uses. Extralabel use of medicated feed, including medicated feed containing a VFD drug or a combination VFD drug, is not permitted” (FDA, 2015). In some ways, this ties a veterinarian’s hands because the minor species of animals have very few labeled products available to use.
This issue is not only of concern to the people who are feeding and selling the product; it will also raise many questions for the companies who manufacture the products. Companies like Zoetis, a drug company and Purina a feed manufacturing company, have to change their whole supply of products. Now that the producer cannot buy a product freely, these companies are limited in what they are able to produce. The VFD forces these companies to discontinue some of their products that were conveniently combining antibiotics with other types of feed.

The impact of the VFD was first seen in common over the counter products sold in feed
stores. Medicated milk replacer was one of the first feed-grade antibiotic products to fall under the Veterinary Feed Directive. Typically, after the initial feedings, a dairy calf is placed on milk replacer, which is often medicated. When the new rules started, for any dairy farmer to put a calf on medicated milk replacer, he is now required to get a VFD from his veterinarian, fill it at a distributor who has registered that specific prescription with the FDA and ensured every qualification of the directive is met, then keep the records of that transaction for two years. Instead, most companies that manufacture milk replacer have changed their formulations to make it over the counter ready, without antibiotics.

So, what happens when the dairy producer suddenly has a calf that requires medicated
milk replacer over a long holiday weekend? It certainly isn’t the same-day process of
walking into the local farm store and buying it off the shelf; the dairy farmer isn’t able to call distributors with last-minute requests under the new regulations.

One can see that the final ruling from the Veterinary Feed Directive is affecting everyone in the livestock industry and will continue to due so for years to come. While the VFD is not a new thing it has certainly made some changes to the way people are used to doing things. This regulation is all in attempt to meet the ongoing concern and fear that the public has towards the use of feeds containing antibiotics in livestock production. Even though this ruling has come with much discussion and debate, the end result was an implementation date of January 1, 2017 (Zoetis, 2016).

A little about me

320 picture (2)  My name is Luke Daniels, I am a junior at Western Illinois University majoring in ag science with a minor in animal science.  I grew up on a small farm near Shelbyville Illinois raising beef cattle and quarter horses.  This is where my love for animal agriculture was started.  I am a member of a few organizations on campus a few of those being Hoof and Horn club, Ag Vocators, and Lutheran Student Fellowship.  Western Illinois has been a great learning environment for me and I am thankful for all the people who have helped me along my journey.  I hope you enjoyed my blog and thanks for your time.


American Veterinary Medical Association. 2016. The 123’s of VFD’s. Available at:

Food and Drug Administration 2015. (Released December 17, 2015). Fact Sheet: Veterinary Feed Directive Final Rule and Next Steps, FDA. Available at:

Zoetis. 2016. Helping you understand the changes. Available at:



Aerial Application: Life On the Load Pad

In the past three summers, I have probably spent more time at an airport on a loading pad than the typical college student would in the months of June, July, and August. As a summertime employee for Palmer Flying Service, which is an aerial application company based out of Manito, Illinois, there isn’t much time to do anything besides, well, go to work. In the busy time of the year when co-ops and growers are wanting fungicide and insecticide applied right then and there, the average work day consistently starts out around four-thirty or five O’ clock in the morning, and it’s possible that it may not end until ten or eleven O’ clock in the late evening hours. Fourteen to eighteen-hour days are expected once the end of June hits, and we will work these long days for seven days a week for the whole month of July into August as long as weather and crops are permitting.

Airplane Funnel

The reason this is an extremely busy time of the summer for us is because it’s a prime time for fungicide/insecticide application. When heat and moisture are becoming very prevalent, so are the diseases and insects that may start to infect or feed on a corn or soybean plant. A key part of my position at the airport is mixing proper ratios of insecticides, fungicides, and water that will be put into the airplane each time the pilot takes a load out to a set of fields. In a days’ time in good weather conditions, which are cooler temperatures and low wind speeds, our three pilots can spray around 8,000 acres a day. This is remarkable in comparison to a ground-rig sprayer. Especially when crops are too tall, or fields are too wet for the ground rigs to get in. The crop-duster has a better contact rate of pesticide and causes no damage to the crops along with no compaction in the soil.

Besides mixing chemical, there is what seems to be about a million other duties for an employee of the flying service and airport. A few of them being, washing planes almost every evening when the pilots are done spraying for the day so bugs and chemical aren’t getting built up on the plane to the point they won’t come off, fueling up planes and cleaning windshields in between each load the pilots take, making sure there are no leaking nozzles on the sprayer booms or leaks in the hopper or pump, unloading semi’s and chemical trucks that bring chemical and fuel throughout the week, making sure all water tanks remain full so there are no water shortages throughout the day when loading planes, and this list could go on and on.

Doing all of these jobs is not a one-person job either. In a days’ time it takes an incredible amount of team work and an extreme amount of consistent communication between all of employees and the pilots to make a day run smooth and fluent. The airport and flying service is owned by world renowned pilot, auctioneer, cattle farmer, iron worker, and all-around connoisseur of hard work Kevin Palmer and managed by his daughter Suzi. The experience, knowledge, and extreme work ethic between these two is what makes Palmer Flying Service a highly respected and top-notch aerial application company in Illinois.


Despite missing quality summertime activities and enduring extremely long hours and very stressful weeks of working on the load pad; the past three work-filled summers have been an incredible experience. I have gained an immense amount of knowledge, and a special respect for hard work and hardworking people. The intense work environment and variety of responsibilities I was instilled with at the airport have prepared me for about any future occupation I may choose to do and I’m grateful to have been employed in such a unique environment such as the airport.


My name is Noah Sarff, I am from Manito, Illinois and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am a member of Alpha Gamma Rho, and I will be graduating in December with a bachelors degree in Ag Science and a minor in Ag Economics. I will no longer work at Palmer Flying Service being I have accepted a Sales Internship through AgriGold for the Summer of 2018. I look forward to the many opportunities that my education will provide.

(All pictures in this blog are my own)

What farmers would like consumers to know about agriculture

Coming from a small town in Central Illinois, I have grown up around agriculture all my life and have a good understanding of how food, fiber and fuel is produced for our consumption. I was aware that some people did not understand what the farmers’ role is and how they produce food for our consumption. However, I did not fully understand how uninformed consumers were about the agriculture industry until I went to college.

I currently attend Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois, where I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business with minors in Agronomy and Animal Science. I also work on campus as a Resident Assistant (RA) and as a student worker in the Agriculture/ Engineering & Technology advising office. Through both of  my positions on campus, I have met many people from many walks of life and I find myself constantly hearing some funny and appalling claims about the agriculture industry.

For example: cow tipping is not a thing kids in the country do when they are bored.

cow tipping

Below I have made a list of a few things I have taught people during my time in college and some basic food labels that are misunderstood.


What are GMOs?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.

A Genetically Modified Organism is:

“an organism or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered
by means of genetic engineering.”

While this term carries a negative connotation by some consumers for a farmer it can be a very beneficial tool. GMOs allow us to produce more crops with less land, inputs and chemicals.

Misconception: GMO are not harmful or unhealthy. No scientific evidence has shown negative effects from eating GMOs. They contain the same if not more nutrients than conventional or organic products.

Non-GMO Project


Non-GMO Project is not regulated by a government agency. It is a third party certification. That means it is not regulated or overseen by a government agency and they have their own set of rules to certify their products as “NON-GMO.”


What does “Organic” mean?

USDA Organic means that the crop  was produced by following a list of guidelines that is regulated by the USDA. For products to be certified as USDA organic 95% of the product can not contain GMOs. If the product is a meat item it can not be fed GMO grain.

Misconception: Organic can use chemicals, but they must be natural chemicals. That means the chemical can not synthetically made or made in a laboratory.

For example using manure from an animal instead of a man made spray.

For more information on the USDA Organic guidelines click here.

What does Natural mean?

Natural: USDA defines natural products as those being free of artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives and minimally processed.  Products can be labeled as being made with all-natural ingredients provided a portion of the ingredients are natural, but not all ingredients have to be all-natural to earn that label.

This means that products can be labeled “made with all-natural ingredients” but they can contain artificial ingredients and chemical preservatives.

What does “Free Range” means?

The USDA states in order for an operation to be labeled Free Range:

“Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”

This simply means that the chicken can go to an outside area at anytime. They are not always outside roaming around like the commercials show.

Why do we farm?

What some people do not understand is farming is a gamble. We plant crops hoping the weather cooperates, no natural disasters hit, pray for rain and a good price at the market. We do not negotiate our prices; we take what we can get and make it work. Many small farms experience tough times and ultimately some sell out.

“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays freight both ways.” -John F. Kennedy

Bottling feed a calf with my grandpa.

Our farm has been in our family for generations and farming is something you are born into. The passion, tradition and responsibility is instilled into you at a young age. I am a proud member of the agriculture industry and I love every part of agriculture. I was taught by my grandfather from a young age to love and care for all of God’s creatures and plants. It is our responsibility to watch over the land and take care of it. Our goal as farmers is to produce crops and livestock to the best of our abilities while taking care of the land as best we can. That is why my family farms.

Check out Beck’s Why I Farm campaign for testimonials from other farmer family.

We eat what we Grow

Everything we grow in our fields we eat fresh and preserve some to enjoy later. Farmers would not produce something that is unsafe because their kids and grand kids are consuming that very same product.

wyatt corn
I took this photo last summer. My nephew Wyatt loves his dad’s sweet corn.

About the Author

My name is Stephanie Miller and I am currently a Junior Agriculture Business major with minors in agronomy and Animal Science at Western Illinois University.  I am currently the President of Horticulture club, a member of Ag Council and I love my agriculture family! I am from Manito, IL and my family farms in Mason County. We raise Polled Hereford cattle, corn, soybeans, hay and specialty crops such as green beans and peas. My love for agriculture runs deep and I love sharing my passion.

headshot fall 2017

Share the Roads: Farm equipment and Cars

I am sure at some point we have all or will experience the traffic jams that agricultural equipment can cause.  People in agriculture understand why they are on the road but for people not involved in agriculture, it may seem to be just a pesky inconvenience that they run into every now and then.  For people that experience this but might not know how to deal with the situation can be a cause for safety concern.

Farm tractors as well agricultural implements can take up to at least fifteen feet of the road.  This equipment ranges in top speeds of about 20-35 miles per hour and can be very unwieldy to keep straight on the road.  This makes it very difficult to navigate especially down narrow or high traffic roads.  Farmers try to be as safe as they can while transporting but operator error on both the civilian and farmer can occur as well as many other unplanned accidents.  Farmers need to use the roads to transport their equipment from farm to farm or farm to field.  The busiest times tend to be in planting and harvesting seasons.

For farmers to use the roads, they need to follow all of the normal rules of the road as well as their own set of specialized rules. Some of the major or obvious rules include the equipment having proper lighting that can be seen, have slow moving vehicle signs on the back of the equipment, properly hook up attachments, use pilot cars and drive as far right as possible along with still being in the proper driving lane to prevent unsafe passing.  Regular drivers on the road should already be following the rules of the road but should be extra cautious when around farm equipment or on rural roads.  When behind farmers, it would not hurt to turn on your hazards and only pass when suitable.


I am from the east coast and agriculture is very different than out here in Illinois.  There is a large difference in what is produced between the two areas as well as environment.  Field sizes in the east are a lot smaller. Most fields average around 30 acres which requires more transportation between fields.  The farm that I work for has farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia so we spend plentiful time on the road. I have taken farm equipment across or under small bridges, down extremely narrow roads and through city settings. I have been in some interesting situations while transporting equipment, some that may have been avoided if people were more aware of the situation.

They say getting stuck behind farm equipment on the road for two miles is equivalent of stopping at two stop lights in the city.  As planting season is around the corner, please be patient, enjoy the scenery and share the road.


My name is Jarred LeVeque and I am a junior here at Western Illinois University studying Ag Business.  I am from Smithsburg, Maryland, where I have worked with many types of agricultural productions including dairy, feeder cattle, poultry, row crops, tomatoes as well as other types of produce production.  My future goals include working in agricultural lending or farm management.

How “Meatless Mondays” Affect the Illinois Beef Association

Meatless Monday is a worldwide movement whose intention is to persuade all people to refrain from eating any form of meat every Monday. According to their website’s homepage, the goal of this organization is to “improve the health of the public and the health of the planet.” This group’s ideas have reached some hospitals, restaurants, and many other public places, but the biggest impact has been made on the lunches that schools are providing for their students.


Some California elementary and grade schools have implemented Meatless Mondays in their weekly lunch menu. This simply means that if you are a student that eats school lunch, whether that be by choice or not, you are being forced to refrain from eating meat at lunch time every Monday. Personally, I do not think that is something that should be forced upon a person. If a person chooses to not consume animal protein and become a vegetarian, that should be his or her own personal choice and that choice should only have an affect on that person’s own diet.


The Illinois Beef Association is an organization that aims to advocate for a profitable and sustainable beef industry in Illinois. The association puts on many events throughout the year that support the production of beef cattle, such as the Beef Expo and other events of that nature. The Hancock Beef Association, which is a smaller part of that larger association, puts on the Cattlemen’s Ball every year. The Cattlemen’s Ball is a fundraiser to help promote the role that cattle play in agriculture. I briefly spoke with the President of this organization, Cody Holst, about the Meatless Mondays movement and he said, “California’s adoption of Meatless Mondays makes me worry about the future of the production of beef cattle and the Illinois Beef Association because both would be nothing without the consumer.”


I also talked to a family friend, who is a doctor, about the issue and she told me that this could potentially have a detrimental effect on people’s health. Obviously, individuals can obtain protein without eating meat, but I learned that it is not the same type of protein. She said, “People who never eat meat do not get a sufficient amount of B12 in their diets because it is a type of protein that can only be found in animal protein. It is a fact that those who do not eat meat simply are not as healthy as those who do because of the issue with B12.” I found that to be interesting, especially since the goal of Meatless Mondays is to make people more healthy.


Animals were put on this Earth as a source of food for humans and as long as they are being raised in a humane and healthy living environment, I do not think we should feel guilty about the production of beef for human consumption,  or any meat for that matter.


Hi, my name is Madeline Ward and I am a junior at Western Illinois University. Currently, I’m on the right track to graduate in May of 2019 with a degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in business.  I’m from Rushville, Illinois which is a small town about 30 miles south of Macomb. I grew up on my family’s corn and soybean farm. We also raise about 170 head of black angus cattle. After graduation, I hope to be able to continue living near my family’s operation and obtain a job in the field of agriculture.Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 8.06.31 AM

If you do not hunt this article is for you!

Cover Photo Courtesy of Matthew Paulson Photography

The connection between hunting and agriculture can be easily overlooked at first glance. In reality the bond between farmers and hunters is beneficial and necessary. It is important to keep conservation in mind when thinking of either of these groups. Farmers’ work 24/7 365 to ensure their land is as good as it can possibly be, to achieve maximum yields and in turn maximize profits. Ethical hunters devote their lives to protecting our natural resources and ensuring the sport they love is around for future generations to enjoy, harvesting that giant buck or limit of waterfowl is a nice bonus at the end of the day.

Courtesy of Sharon Watson

When thinking about the vast differences in these two lifestyles it is important to keep our natural resources in mind. With the current grain prices, growing machinery, and pressure to harvest as many bushels as possible; it is easy for farmers to remove an old fence row, push a timber line in to get that extra few foot of tillable, remove a patch of trees entirely, or plow under that old (insert conservation program here). As agriculturists it is important to keep future generations in mind. Sometimes it might make sense to leave that old CRP (conservation reserve program) or HEL (highly erodible land) as a conservation area; even after the check from Uncle Sam stops showing up in the mail. This land may qualify for other government conservation programs, this list list can also be found on the IL DNR website.  Many times these types of terrain are unproductive anyway with high risk of erosion and low yield potential. While you are doing cost analysis on adding these acres to your tillage program be sure to take into account the value of conservation and wildlife.

Some people might think “if I don’t leave anywhere for the deer to live then they’ll stop eating my crops.” This isn’t true; by removing deer habitat they will begin bedding in the field itself causing massive yield impacts. Others may enjoy seeing the deer and don’t want them to be hunted. It is crucial that non hunters understand that a hunter’s goal is NOT to wipe out a species. By harvesting some of these animals it relieves pressures of overpopulation, reduces risk of disease spread such as CWD (chronic waste, disease also known as Mad Cow in bovine), and improves overall heard health. If we take care of our resources we will never stop seeing these animals. It is important to work together with people from other walks of life; rather than turning down that hunter that asked for permission, out of fear of lawsuit. Sit down and talk with them and develop a management plan, set boundaries, and express any concerns or rules. Most modern hunters are grateful for any opportunity to enjoy nature. You can find a liability release from for landowners at the Illinois DNR website. It is time to work together, create management plans, and keep the resources we have at our fingertips healthy. Maybe that guy you let hunt will even drop off some tasty meat for you at the end of the season.


FB_IMG_1520441713328.jpgMy name is Nestor Vincent Gutierrez, I am a senior here at Western Illinois University. I am pursusing a major in agriculture science and a minor in Spanish. I hope to work in international agriculture or conservation after graduation.

Farming Specialty Crops

In the modern world farming is a practice that fewer and fewer people are involved with every year. Growing up in central Illinois I grew up in a farming community where my family has farmed for generations. Like my grandparents and great grandparents had done my family had a row crop operation along with a small herd of cattle but what made my parents farm so different from the way the rest of our family farmed was that they started producing horticultural crops. While growing specialty crops gave my family and I many new opportunities it also brought up many new challenges for us along the way.

Growing crops like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries just to name a few aren’t very common crops in central Illinois it becomes a challenge when issues arrive. Unlike issues with corn and soybeans you can’t just call your seed dealer of local agronomist to ask for advice when you are facing problems. Reading spray guides and researching online for handling certain weed and disease breakouts in fruit production is only so helpful so many problems that are faced have to be done through trial and error. what also makes our business different from row crop production is living in Illinois there isn’t crop insurance that you can purchase for specialty crops in case of failure which adds more risk to this business.

With many struggles that we have faced farming this way we have been fortunate to have found success as well. Twenty two years ago my parents started this business with very little experience or knowledge about specialty crops to becoming one of the most successful specialty crop businesses in the area. my father has given several presentations at many state and regional shows for horticulture production for people who are wanting to get into this kind of business for themselves.

The time i have spent at Western Illinois University had not only helped me learn more about agriculture and given me many opportunities to learn and grow in the field but has given me a greater appreciation for the business my family has.

My name is Logan Conrady i am from Hettick Illinois and a senior at Western Illinois University pursuing a degree in Ag Science with a minor in agronomy. strawberries