You are familiar with the saying “Does it pass the smell test?” According to Wiktionary, this phrase is defined as “An informal method for determining whether something is authentic, credible, or ethical, by using one’s common sense or sense of propriety.”1 Given the changes we are about to see in the US concerning the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulations, perhaps veterinarians need to apply the smell test to our relationships with our clients. Are we positioning our professional services to maximize these relationships or merely meet a regulatory requirement?
For years the AASV has supported a position that veterinarians should be involved in the decision-making process whenever antibiotics are used. Prior to January 1, 2017, producers did not need a VFD or a veterinarian to include over-the-counter (OTC) antibiotics in feed. With the addition of a requirement for a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) for a lawful VFD when using antibiotics of importance to humans, veterinarians are being given an increased role in decision-making on antibiotic use in the feed. How we use this opportunity may ultimately determine how we impact swine health and well-being in the future.
The Food and Drug Administration has defined these key elements of a VCPR:
- The veterinarian engages with the client (ie, the animal producer) to assume responsibility for making clinical judgments about patient (ie, animal) health,
- The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the patient by virtue of patient examination and (or) visits to the facility where the patient is managed, and
- The veterinarian provides for any necessary follow-up evaluation or care.
Given the wording of these elements, it’s clear that farm visits will be needed to establish a VCPR for food animals. The frequency of these visits is dependent on the professional judgement of the veterinarian. Here is where we need to apply the smell test. A farm visit by a veterinarian for the sole purpose of meeting a regulatory requirement may not pass the smell test. Such a “windshield” practice may check the box of a VCPR, but one’s common sense should take issue with this approach. Only through a thorough understanding of the care and keeping of animals, along with clinical examination and history, diagnostic testing, and record examination, can the value of a veterinarian’s relationship with a client and pigs be fully recognized.
There may be some angst among farmers now facing increased veterinarian involvement. I acknowledge that change can be hard, but we can choose to maintain some façade that veterinary oversight is present or we can seize this opportunity to demonstrate the value of a veterinarian and a working relationship with the people and pigs we are here to serve. We have an opportunity to demonstrate that veterinary oversight is not just a regulatory requirement. We can show that it benefits animal health and well-being as well as producers’ profitability. Ultimately we can ensure that no matter who is sniffing around, we can pass the smell test.
1. Wiktionary. Smell test. Available at https://en.wiktionary/org/wiki/smell_test. Accessed 18 November 2016.
Tom Burkgren, DVM Executive Director
“We have an opportunity to demonstrate that veterinary oversight is not just a regulatory requirement. We can show that it benefits animal health and well-being as well as producers’ profitability.”