As the Veterinary Feed Directive neared its Jan. 1 implementation date, Dr. Cliff Miller began preparing for the extra time it would take to provide livestock producers with the forms they needed to obtain and use medicated feeds under the new federal law.
The Moberly, Mo., veterinarian expected the VFD mandate to add to the workload and record-keeping at his Green Hills Veterinary Clinic. He was right.
“It’s meant more paperwork, meetings and lots of discussion,” Miller said. “I realize we need judicious use of antibiotics, but this has also added a layer to our to-do list. The other day, I probably had 30 minutes of phone time tied up in one VFD, by the time I called the producer, then called the feed guy, then called the producer back, then called the feed guy again to figure out what we could use in this particular case. That’ll hopefully be a lot quicker once this learning curve gets better.”
Under the new rules, a valid VFD form is required before producers can purchase and administer livestock feeds with the newly regulated antibiotic additives, which were previously available “over the counter.” Only veterinarians can issue a VFD form, which must include such information as premises where the feed will be used; dates of VFD issuance and expiration; name of the antibiotic, dosage and duration of use; why the VFD is issued; species and production class of animals to receive the medication; cautions, withdrawals and special instructions; and more.
To help simplify this process for Miller and other veterinarians, MFA Incorporated has developed a new mobile app that puts electronic VFD forms at their fingertips. The VetForms app allows veterinarians to generate and submit VFD forms from mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. It also includes an entire library of resources that veterinarians can use in providing other livestock services such as treatment records, pregnancy check forms, heifer pre-breeding evaluation and group processing information.
VetForms debuted in January, just as the new VFD rules went into effect. The app is available through the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, which has a membership of 1,500 practicing veterinarians across the state. Users sign up for the program through the MVMA and pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee. That cost is all-inclusive no matter how many VFDs are issued.
“Our members have been anxious about the VFD and how they’re going to handle it, and that spawned interest in this app,” said Richard Antweiler, MVMA executive director. “The app is helpful and versatile for our veterinarians, and that fits with our organization’s mission to help them keep up to date on technology and deliver excellent health care.”
The partnership with MVMA was purposeful, said Tony Martin, MFA staff veterinarian and director of animal health. While MFA created the app and provides ongoing technical support, the veterinary association handles all the promotions and subscriptions.
“Veterinarians are independent and not associated with any one feed company,” Martin said, “so it made sense for this to be controlled through their own organization.”
“The credibility of having our association—a noncommercial entity—lending their name to this app in partnership with a very well-known professional company like MFA is pretty powerful,” Antweiler added. “It transcends what either of us could do on our own.”
The VetForms concept branched out from the construction of MFA’s PowerCalf app, a mobile data-management system designed to help beef producers realize the full value of their herd’s genetic potential. In creating the infrastructure for the PowerCalf program, developers realized there was a need for such technology among veterinarians as well.
“I see it as a gateway to a new world of veterinary medicine,” Antweiler said. “Mobile technology like this can improve productivity and efficiency, which helps keep costs under control.”
While other electronic VFD management programs are available, most of them are computer or web-based. The mobility, comprehensive content and utility of the VetForms app set it apart from other VFD technologies, said Martin, who provided the detailed data to populate the app based on a VFD training guide he’d put together for MFA locations and employees.
“There’s nothing else like this out there, not to this extent,” Martin said, adding that he also sees the VFD app as an educational tool.
“Because these medications did not require veterinary involvement until this new law, many producers and their vets don’t have a full grasp of the actual label claims,” Martin said. “So the VFD app can be used as a reference guide. The vet can make the choices and create the VFD on site without having to look up and learn about each individual product. It definitely speeds up the process.”
Miller, who has seen requests for VFDs ramp up with spring mineral season, said the app has certainly streamlined the process. Because VFD forms must also be maintained for at least two years, he said the electronic versions are also easier to keep on file. Each form has a unique submission ID, and once a form is submitted there is an option to send it via email or text as a PDF.
“It’s so much quicker and easier than literally having to fill out a piece of paper in my office,” he said. “The app allows me to be out on the farm and create a VFD chute-side, if I need to. Having something user-friendly like this at my fingertips is a big advantage.”