New VFD rules affecting disease management for swine
The updated veterinary feed directive (VFD) rules that took effect in January 2017 haven’t required a big adjustment for the swine industry, but they have furthered the trend toward reduced antibiotic use — and the result has been some consequential disease problems, according to Joe Connor, DVM, MS, president of Carthage Veterinary Service, LTD, Carthage, Illinois.
Under the updated rules, antibiotics deemed medically important by FDA lost their claims for improving growth rate and feed conversion, he explained. Today they can be used only for therapeutic indications on the product label.
He said adaptation to the VFD has been relatively seamless, partly because the pork industry already had some experience with managing VFD medications. Perhaps the biggest challenge, Connor told Pig Health Today, has been making sure the treatment duration for a medically important feed antibiotic is in sync with the product label. If the limit is 14 days, for example, you have to stop using it at 14 days.
The new rules make it necessary to be more vigilant about calculating feed deliveries during the treatment period and factoring in how long pigs will be at the same site.
Connor reported that since the new VFD rules took effect in January, some producers have tried reducing the use of antibiotics, particularly during the grow-finish phase of production. This shift has made it more difficult to manage certain pathogens, Connor said.
He pointed to Mycoplasma hyosynoviae, which often occurs when pigs are from 240 to 260 pounds. The disease used to be managed with in-feed antibiotics. How it will be handled without antibiotics will be determined in the months ahead, he said.
Other producers have eliminated antibiotic use in the nursery, and for some, the result has been the F18 strain of Echerichia coli in weaned pigs, Connor said. “We’ve had two cases with…acute death losses.”
Producers minimizing or eliminating the use of in-feed antibiotics will need to increase their reliance on alternative management options, such as vaccination against E. coli, which is generally effective, he said.
Other control measures may include pulse water medications indicated for E. coli, which require a veterinary prescription.
Because food digestibility can affect the expression of E. coli, dietary changes could be helpful. He also recommended “intense sanitation.”