Changes coming soon


Ready or not, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new antibiotic guidelines will go into effect in June. This means no more over-the-counter antibiotics for our animals. 

In 2017, OTC antibiotics used in animal feed and drinking water required a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). The few remaining antibiotic injectables, boluses and intra-mammary tubes available over the counter will soon require a prescription as well.

By June 11, labels for Cephapirin and cephapirin benzathine, gentamicin, lincomycin, oxytetracy-cline, penicillin G procaine and benzathine, sulfadimethoxine, sulfamethazine and tylosin will be required to state: “Caution: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.” This means all animal owners will need a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) to access antibiotics, including medications for animals not meant for human consumption, such as horses and pets. Producers don’t have to purchase the antibiotics from their vet, but they will have to present that prescription wherever they purchase it. The changes will cause many of our area stores to stop carrying the products, including mastitis treatments. Some antiparasiticides, injectable and oral nutritional supplements, oral pro/prebiotics and topical non-antibiotic treatments will not be affected and will remain available OTC. 

The other day, I told someone I have a bottle of pen G at home in the fridge with maybe 5 ml pulled from it, and I would be offering it to the highest bidder in June. It may have been a joke, but the pending regulation change is no laughing matter. 

Why more regulations on antibiotic use in livestock? Because of supposed “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics. I’m skeptical of the claim that these “bugs” have taken over, at least in part, because of antibiotic use in food animals. 

Humans and their pets in the U.S., according to an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, use at least 10 times more antibiotics a year than what is used for food-producing animals when adjusted for the weight of people and their pets versus the weight of animals used for food production. The study went on to state human and pet use of antibiotics is a more likely source of antibiotic resistance, not meat consumption. 

That bottle of pen G I have – I bought it to treat a sick cat. I couldn’t get her into a vet, so it was the only thing I could do to help her quickly. 

It’s inhumane to allow animals, be it an old barn cat or an animal meant for human consumption, to suffer if they contract a disease that can be treated or even prevented with antibiotics. 

Only a very, very small number of animals tested at harvest are found to have antibiotic residue. Carcasses testing positive for antibiotic residue are discarded and do not fall into the food chain. If a livestock owner has more than one antibiotic residue violation in a 12-month period, they are subject to being placed on a public “Violator List.” That can mean those owners might not be able to find a place to process their animals. 

Producers who market their animal products as all-natural and antibiotic free will pull an animal from their meat program and treat it if it falls ill. They might retain it for their family’s consumption, sell it at a local sale barn, or if they do sell it for meat, they disclose the animal was treated with an antibiotic but was not processed until the withdrawal time passed. They understand the need to treat an ill animal. 

If you don’t have a VCPR, it’s time to get one established with a veterinarian. 

Having a relationship with your veterinarian is key to keeping your livestock healthy, and every livestock producer should have a vet they can contact when needed. 

If you wait to establish a VCPR, don’t expect to get any antibiotics after June 11 without one. Getting it now and establishing that relationship can genuinely mean the difference between life or death.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]


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