The Ins and Outs of Veterinary Feed Directives


Photo Credits: Zoetis US

First of all, what is a VFD?

VFD stands for Veterinary Feed Directive. According to the FDA, “a VFD drug is intended for use in animal feeds, and such use of the VFD drug is permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.” Basically, the FDA is regulating what, when, and how producers can feed their animals.

What are the requirements?

Any type of “drug” used in animal feed must have a written prescription from a licensed veterinarian. Those veterinarians must follow strict rules that are outlined by the state on the basis of “VCPR.” VCPR is the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. In other words, the veterinarian is responsible for providing a VFD to their client. The client, or producer, then is required to follow that VFD when feeding their livestock, which is the patient. All of this has been created by the FDA.

The requirements for VFD’s can be very specific, including feed ratios and expiration dates. Producers must now have a prescription (VFD) in order to administer antibiotics in feed or water and those antibiotics are only allowed to be used for the specified animals.

What does this mean for producers?

Producers already have a tough time raising livestock to meet the criteria of consumers everywhere. Everyone wants clean, safe, and healthy livestock production. The US has the safest food supply in the world, which could be attributed to the precautionary and preventative measures taken by the producers.

When livestock are being produced in a large-scale setting, it’s difficult to pick out the one or two animals that are sick. This is why preventative medicine is crucial to providing healthy animal protein to the consuming public.

Producers also run into an ethical question. They may be forced to choose between feeding preventative medicine or letting their livestock get sick. Veterinarians have to follow strict rules when issuing VFDs, so if a producer has a currently healthy herd they may not be allowed to feed any preventative medicines. Over time, animals will get sick and the producer has to treat them afterwards. Humans get vaccines to prevent certain disease, why aren’t livestock treated the same?



Hi everyone! My name is Tyler Dawson, I originate from Rushville, Indiana. I am currently a Senior Agricultural Business student at WIU, with a minor in Animal Science. I was a previous member of the Livestock Judging Team and current member of the Hoof N’ Horn Club. I am very passionate about livestock and animal health; I hope that I can one day incorporate that into my career. Thanks for checking out my blog!


Agriculture Production Differences from Maryland to the Mississippi

Image result for corn fieldPhoto credit: Inhabitat

At the discretion of the land

If a person were to get into a vehicle and start driving with a starting point at Ocean City, Maryland and start driving west, there would be many different observations made when traveling. One of the more obvious observations is the lay of the land. On the very east coast, the land is relatively flat. Then, when heading west the mountains start to become more apparent. Once one is over the mountains and into the central portion of Ohio, it seems to get flat again. From there it only seems to get flatter!

Another observation that can be made from Maryland to the Mississippi River is the agricultural demographic. There is produce, cereal grains, livestock, and seafood produced on the far east. Cereal grains, hay, and livestock become more of the top commodities produced when headed to the Midwest. I grew up in a town called Woodbine, Maryland. As a kid, I travel many times into the Midwest, mainly due to livestock shows. While driving the countless miles to and from the Midwest, many observations were made about the agriculture diversity that was involved between Maryland and Illinois.


To start with Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay contributes to over 50% of the blue crab harvest in the United States. In Maryland alone, the seafood industry brings in over $600 million in annual income for the states economy. Commercial landings of seafood have averaged almost 57 million pounds in the past 15 years. Maryland Blue Crabs and oysters are among the crowd favorite when consuming seafood within the state.

Image result for maryland seafood

photo credit: The Crab Depot

Now Maryland isn’t known for just the seafood. Other agricultural industries in Maryland include the equine, poultry, beef, dairy, produce, hog, and cereal grain industries. Last year, there was an average of 164 bushels of corn harvested per acre, 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, 64 bushels of winter wheat per acre, and 69 bushels of barely harvested per acre. There was over 20 thousand pounds of milk produced per dairy cow annually last year also. will tell us that there are more horses per square mile in Maryland than any other state in the nation! The Preakness Stakes is a highlight event in the horse industry that the state of Maryland hosts. will also tell  us that “in 2015, Maryland ranked ninth among states in the number of broilers, or chickens raised”, what do all of these statistics mean one may ask? The numbers show how diversified the state of Maryland really is. There is not one industry that is of major focus, but there are many industries that really make Maryland agriculture and make Maryland so proud of what they produce.


Now unfortunately for some, fresh seafood is non existent in the state of Illinois as it is in Maryland. Grain and livestock production is of a much larger scale though. On average there can be one cow/calf pair ran on about two and a half graze-able acres in Illinois. There are some parts of the state that 300 bushel an acre corn harvest is normal. At one point in time, Henry County, Illinois was known as the hog capital of the world because there were more hogs per square mile then there was at anywhere else. Now with the rise of new technology and different production practices, that is no longer the case, but there is still an extreme amount of livestock and grain production in Illinois when compared to Maryland. A very simple observation can be made by the soil color differences between the two states. On well maintained and highly productive Illinois ground, there is a very dark, rich, black dirt that covers the land. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmland covers nearly 75% of the states total land area. Illinois Department of Agriculture also states that exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports. So even though Illinois may not host one of the largest race horse events in the country or have the delicious seafood readily at hand, the state is extremely important when pertaining to American agriculture.

Image result for illinois hog farm

photo credit: Illinois Pork Producers

From Maryland to the Mississippi River, there are all different kinds of agricultural practices in place. From getting on a boat every morning in the Chesapeake Bay to go harvest that days catch of seafood, to getting in a combine to harvest 300 bushels of corn an acre on the rich black dirt of Illinois, and everyone between,  there’s a purpose behind everyone’s efforts. The purpose stands behind the red, white, and blue. The purpose is, American Agriculture!

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My name is Brandon Gruber and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m originally from Woodbine, Maryland, where I grew up raising hogs and was very active in 4-H and other national junior livestock associations. I am currently employed at Minnaert Show Cattle of Atkinson, Illinois, and now call Annawan, Illinois, home where I plan on building a competitive showpig sow herd and stay diversified within multiple species at the completion of my time here at WIU.


History of Antibiotics and Use in Livestock Production

Antibiotic use within livestock production has been a hot topic for the United States, even the world, for years. Antibiotics are used in the production of livestock to increase growth and treat animals for illnesses. The general public of the U.S. did not approve of the widespread use of medicines entering their food supply. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a Veterinary Feed Directive Jan. 1st of this year to control the amount of antibiotics used within our food production.

Discovery of Antibiotics

Antibiotics are medicines that are used to treat illnesses caused by microorganisms, such as, bacterial infections. Paul Ehrlich and Alexander Fleming are thought to be the original inventors of antibiotics, but antimicrobial medicine was found to be used in ancient civilizations long before modern medicine. Tetracyclines were found in the skeletal remains of ancient Egyptian peoples. This means the civilization had a diet that contained tetracyclines. Another instance of antibiotic use is within traditional Chinese medicine. They used many herbs in their remedies to cure all sorts of ailments. One such herb was the Artemisia annua, Wormwood. It contained a compound known today as artemisinin, which is used in many antibiotics.

Paul Ehrlich was searching for the panacea, or cure all, of microbial diseases. He started work against microbial diseases in the early 1900s. He started by creating a large screening system in an effort to find a cure for syphilis. After hundreds of trials, he created a cure for syphilis that was named Salvarsan. Salvarsan was later replaced in the 1940s by penicillin. Ehrlich’s mode of screening for drugs that could cure disease causing microbes was adopted by the pharmaceutical industry, which led to the discovery of many more antibiotics.

Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production

The use of antibiotics in livestock was introduced to treat microbial diseases, just like in humans. The antibiotics were used on farms to treat certain diseases if an event occurred. Then antibiotics were used to control the spread of a disease within a herd, which led to healthier herds. Farmers started to notice that animals started to grow larger and at a faster rate due to the antibiotic treatments. These treatments had actually improved the animals feed efficiency, or ability to turn food into the desired product. Whether the goal is to put on lean muscle or increase milk production, a higher feed efficiency will aid in achieving said goal.

Using antibiotics in such a large scale has improved the well being of many livestock species. It has, however, started a dialogue around the world about “superbugs” and antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics do not always get rid of all bacteria within the body, human or animal. These antibiotic resistant microbes can then multiply and begin to increase the number of resistant microbes. The fortunate thing about this is that the FDA, USDA, and CDC collect and monitor our food to ensure that none of these microbes reach human consumption. Antibiotics are also monitored within livestock to ensure that they never make it to the general food supply. Each medicine has a “withdrawal date” or time it takes to pass through an organism. For some antibiotics, the withdrawal date may be as little as 24 hours. Other antibiotics take several days or weeks. Data is recorded each time something is administered to an animal to ensure that it does not carry antibiotics into human consumption.

Another way the FDA has combated the introduction of antibiotic resistant microbes, is the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), that was issued January 1st of 2017. This VFD has limited livestock producers to use certain antibiotics to promote growth

VFD graphic

within their herds. They are still able to feed Ionophores and other basic antibiotics that are only used in the animal population. Human medicines, like penicillin, are important to the human population and have been restricted in their use in livestock production. These antibiotics must be acquired under veterinary supervision to be used for the treatment of diseases. Promoting this moderate use of antibiotics slows the development of antibiotic resistant microbes within a livestock animal.

Even though the livestock industry uses a large portion of the
world’s antibiotics to produce a product, it does not mean that the product has become harmful to humans. Animals are able to live healthier with the aid of antibiotics, and provide a safe and healthy product for human consumption.


Bio: My name is Michael Lammersfeld. I am a Senior Agriculture Science student at Western Illinois University. Originally from a small town, Capron IL, I came out to WIU to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian. Along the way, I got to work with many amazing animals on the farms at Western, join Phi Mu Alpha, and even become captain of the Cheerleading team for our Fighting Leathernecks!

Inside the Wildfires

As an aspiring cattlemen, the news of wildfires rolling through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas was very devastating. A total of 1.5 million acres, an area the same size as the state of Delaware, were burned. The amount of livestock whose lives were lost is even more staggering: 13,700 head of cattle and 8,400 head of hogs died as a result of the wildfires. It is estimated that $21 million worth of livestock, pasture, fence, feed and supplies were lost.

This disaster turned the lives of many ranchers upside down. Gardiner Angus Ranch, one of the most prominent Angus operations in the country, lost around 500 head of cattle to the wildfires in Clark county Kansas. With their production sale in April, the wildfires were even more detrimental. The sale went on, and the ranch was able to average $5,754 on 702 lots and gross $4,654,600. Luckily, Gardiner was able to save the lives of his donor cows, preserving generations of genetics. However, Greg Gardiner, co-owner of the operation, states that it will take three years to replenish their cow herd.

The GAR crew leading up to the sale

Many other ranchers were forced to euthanize cattle that were in excruciating pain from injuries caused by the fires. When asked about what he had to do after the fires, Mark Kaltenbach, 69 year old rancher, stated “We did what had to be done, They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, Wow, I am sorry.” Mark was just one of the many families that watched their entire livelihood go up in flames. They had to bury hundreds of cattle, and watch even more burnt cattle stumble around, hardly able to see or breathe, just before they put them out of their suffering.


This disaster also sparked a great deal of political debate. Most ranchers, along with the rest of the agricultural community are traditionally very conservative, however, they felt rather abandoned by President Trump in this time of need. He neglected to mention anything about the devastating fires on his ‘famous’ Twitter account, let alone go out and visit with the ranchers and see the damages for himself.

Aaron Sawyers, an agriculture extension agent for Kansas State University, was very disgruntled by our government’s delayed response to the fires.  “This is our Hurricane Katrina” Sawyers stated. He is now fully convinced that Washington is completely detached from production agriculture. Sawyer is quoted saying “None of them are worth a damn, Republicans or Democrats”

On the other hand, the ranching community is a very close knit family, and when one’s family is in trouble- they respond. The relief efforts put forth by cattle producers have been highly impressive. There have been countless Cattleman Associations, Universities, and other groups raising funds to help support fellow ranchers in such a devastating time. Breeders World hosted an online sale April 3rd that was able to raise $58,365 for panhandle fire relief, this is just one out of the many benefit auctions held to help ranchers in need.  Outside of shear money, many families from here in the corn belt have been headed west with round bales to feed cattle that survived the fires.  As of April 1st the affected areas have been completely stocked with hay and feed, but are still seeking out fencing supplies. You can contact your local cattlemen’s association for information on how to help!

One of the countless loads of hay being delivered in Kansas


My name is BFullSizeRreck Debnam and I am currently a senior majoring in Agriculture Business at Western Illinois University. I am from Damascus, Maryland where I grew up on a grain and cattle operation. I am currently employed at Lowderman Cattle Company in western Illinois and hope to manage a purebred cattle herd here in the Midwest when I finish my education.




Agriculture: Born and Raised

“Daddy raised a farm girl and mamma raised a girly girl, there is no other way to describe my lifestyle.” These are some of the words from my 2016 Rock Island County Fair Queen Pageant speech where I received 2nd Runner Up. Everyone has a background that has shaped them into who they are today. By the age of 5 I learned how to ride a horse on my own, steer a tractor, and help my sister show her pigs at the county fair. Being born and raised into a family so passionate about agriculture is what made me who I am today.

Dahl Family Harvest

4-H has made a huge impact on my life. When I was younger I struggled with a speech impediment. My sister, Kayla, who is 5 years older than me was involved with 4-H and was/is a great public speaker unlike myself. Watching my sister give her project talks at the meetings, showing her pigs, and even becoming our county Pork Ambassador made me think “I could never do any of that.” Oh boy was I wrong. My mom made me do Little Miss County Pageants along with 4-H. Before I knew it my speech impediment was gone. Getting up in front of a group and talking was not my cup of tea until I realized I could talk about anything. My 4-H and pageant speeches began to revolve around cooking in the kitchen with my mom and working with my dad out in the hog barns. I even became President of my 4-H club, Henry County Pork Ambassador, and Illinois State Pork Ambassador.

Having a such a strong agriculture background, it was a huge surprise to some people when I entered in college as a dietetics major. I always had a passion for nutrition on the human and animal side but for some reason I felt the need to go with something different. In the back of my mind I knew I still wanted to be a part of agriculture, but as a hobby not as a career.

Freshmen year at Western Illinois University was definitely not what I expected it to be. As I walked into my first class of dietetics I suddenly felt like an outsider. The professor asked everyone to say their name, hometown, and a little bit about our background. When it came to my turn everyone turned in their seats and stared at me when I said I live on a farm and raise corn, soybeans, and hogs. Weeks went by and I started to feel a little bit more comfortable but I felt like something wasn’t right. Luckily I had the weekends to go home and work with my show pigs. I finished my freshman year at WIU as a dietetics major. When I went home that summer I worked at a feed mill where I helped make rations for cattle and hog feed. A couple weeks into my summer job and working hard with my show pigs I came to the reality that it was time for a change.

Change never felt better. I sat my family down told them, “When I go back to school this fall I am changing my major to Agriculture.” Overwhelming joy of a big bear hug from my parents made me realize this was what I was meant to do. That summer, not only did I make a huge change in my life, I used my knowledge from my past dietetics class, and being born and raised on the farm, to make a dream come true. A champion. From working at the feed mill, I had endless opportunity to customize my own ration of show pig feed. I may have not won the champion barrow or gilt but to me seeing my work pay off it was much more.

When I joined Western Illinois University School of Agriculture I felt right at home and gained a family.


My name is Morgan Dahl, I am a senior at Western Illinois University with a major in Agriculture Science focused on Animal Science and a minor in Agriculture Economics. I am an active member in many clubs and organizations such as Sigma Alpha, Hoof n Horn, Collegiate Farm Bureau, Ag Mech, and Ag Vocators. I am also a student employee at the University Sheep and Hog Farm. I am from Orion, IL where my family farm is located. I have always had a passion for livestock and continue to pursue a career as a feed salesman/woman.

Beef Bungalow

Many know that livestock nowadays are commonly raised in buildings that can be strictly monitored, and that it’s one of the most efficient and beneficial ways to raise them for both producer and animal. Although raising cattle in a building is a little more uncommon than say hogs or chickens, it still poses many great benefits.

I work on a cattle ranch here in west central Illinois, and we have a monoslope cattle barn.IMG_2830-2 Four Aces LLC, Vermont IL

The barn contains two different pen designs for the cattle. It contains pens with slats that are quit similar to a hog barn. These slatted pens have rubber mats on them to prevent cattle from slipping, although the concept is the same where the manure falls below to a twelve foot pit, and can be pumped to be utilized for crop ground fertilizer. The other pens in the barn are called dry-packs or dry-stacks. Dry-stacks consist of a lime base along with bedding a top, in our case we use cornstalk round bales. Twice a week we will go into the dry-stack pens and bed with two new bales atop the stack and scrap the looser manure from directly in front of the feed bunks for each pen. The dry-stack becomes a mixture of manure and bedding, now saying that one would think it would be sloppy, but the bedding absorbs the moisture like a sponge and the stack is actually very firm where people and of course the cattle can walk on it with out sinking at all.

The main concept of a confinement cattle barn is very similar to any animal feeding confinement, and that is to limit and attempt to control the many ever-changing variables that comes with raising livestock to maximize their potential. The weather is one very good example of this varibles.

The design of the building’s monoslope roof is to act like a airplane wing or a giant funnel. So while it is hot in the summer the shape of the roof allows airflow to come in the large open side and funnel towards the narrow end and creates a constant breeze keeping the cattle cool. The way the barn is orientated the large open side faces south allowing the sun to help warm the barn during the winter. And obviously having shelter over the cattle helps tremendously during precipitation and for shade.

Feeding fat cattle can be very tricky some times, trying to maximize the cattle’s intake without over doing it and wasting feed. As I mentioned many factor can influences the animals ability to eat. Weather being a major player, but also having an adequate supply of clean water. Just another way where the cattle barn has an advantage. Ours in particular has its own water reservoir, and then supplies two automatic drinkers per pen at our barn. The drinkers are also cleaned twice a week to ensure that the cattle are getting the purest water availble. These cattle have access to fresh feed and clean water 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

There are many benefits to raising livestock indoors as there is with plants. It helps the process be more efficient and economical. It is beneficial for both the producer and the animal.


My name is Jacob Farrell, I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Agriculture Science. I also attended John Wood Community College. I grew up in FullSizeRenderJacksonville, IL working on a cow/calf and grain operation where my interest in agriculture took off. I now work on a cattle ranch in Vermont, IL where we partake in all areas of cattle production along with a small grain operation.


Raising Livestock: Lessons that last a Lifetime

As a kid my favorite thing to do when I returned home from school was doing my chores for the day. As odd as that sounds for a kid to say, it was because my chores involved dealing with the livestock that I grew up with. I cannot thank my parents enough for giving me the chance to learn all the lessons that livestock teaches a young person. A few of the biggest lessons that livestock teaches children include but are not limited to responsibility, hard work, patience, and most of all empathy for all living things.


The most obvious lesson that caring for livestock teaches is responsibility. Even when it’s ten degrees outside and spitting snow the cows need fed, the horses need bedded down, and the sheep need brought in for the night. That also means when you’ve had a bad day, or just don’t feel like getting off the couch you have to because if you’re hungry, the animals surely are too. Unlike many other kids that had to take out the trash or the house would start to smell, skipping caring for the livestock resulted in animal suffering. The consequences of not caring for the livestock are so great that skipping a day was not an option. Teaching kids that even when you don’t want to, you have to no matter the circumstances. I remember my brother and I coming home after school and putting on our bibs and boots to feed in the freezing cold. It may have seemed like the worst thing back then, but I wouldn’t be half as responsible today if I wouldn’t have had to take care of the animals back then.


Hard Work

Farm chores are anything but easy. Throwing down hay, breaking waters in the winter, and cleaning stalls are only a few of the labor intensive tasks involved in raising and caring for livestock. There is no easy way out of doing good work when dealing with livestock, because the one time you put up a shabby fence the cows get spooked and run right through it. Taking the easy way out in livestock production ultimately leads to frustration and yes, more hard work. The odd thing about hard work with livestock is that if you’re truly passionate about it, it doesn’t seem like hard work at all. Each time a livestock crazy kid goes out to work with the animals, they love every minute of it, even when they’re knee deep in mud trying to dump a bucket of corn into the feed bunk.

katie one


Animals have a mind of their own, and also an agenda of their own. When you go out to do a simple task such as worm calves, it can turn into the most frustrating situation in a heartbeat. It’s ninety degrees outside, the flies are all over, and the last calf refuses to go into the shoot. You start to ask yourself, why do I own livestock again? Then like everyone who owns livestock has done, you cuse take a deep breath and keep trying. Livestock teaches patience to those who don’t really even want it, because even though you want that calf to go into the shoot, if he doesn’t agree there’s not much you can do but sit back and ease him in. It seems like when you have hours to kill, things go so smoothly and when you have five minutes it takes hours. However all of this is a lesson, that will help later in life. When you’re at the grocery store, and the person in front of you has a hundred different  coupons, you’ll cuse, take a deep breath, and wait.


Perhaps one of the most important lessons that raising livestock teaches is empathy for other living things and humans alike. When faced with the decision to put a horse with a broken leg down, a normal person may say, “How does this effect me? I’ll miss this horse so I want to keep them around.” But a livestock kid knows that the animal is suffering and although it’ll kill us to see them go, the animal is better off being put down. Older animals aren’t just cast to the side forgotten when a younger model arrives. No, instead they are fed more expensive fed to make sure they sustain their body weight. The ability to ask yourself, “What is the best case scenario for this animal/ person?” is really a unique skill that not everyone in our modern society possess. Let’s face it without empathy where would we be?


For me, raising livestock was the best childhood I could ask for. Being involved in raising livestock teaches millions of lessons. Each day a kid goes to the barn they learn something new that’ll help them in life, but also will make them a better person.



 My name’s Jayme Geisler and I was raised on a large production grain farm. Along with all the corn and soybeans, I was raised with livestock including cattle, pigs, sheep, and my personal favorite horses. My brother and I enjoyed showing and caring for these animals. I am now studying Agriculture Business with an emphasis in animal science at Western Illinois University.