I have raised livestock all my life, and no matter how well I care for my animals, I have had instances where I have had to provide medical care due to illness or disease.

Even with a good understanding of animal care, I still look to my veterinarian for advice so that I can treat my animals effectively.

In my Extension career, I am always amazed at how many times I get calls asking for advice in the treatment of livestock — even though I am not a veterinarian, and my experience as a livestock producer does not give me license to provide medical advice.

In these types of conversations, I usually suggest that the person on the other end of the conversation needs to work with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment when animals are sick. I am also quick to point out that since people wouldn’t ask a mechanic for medical advice, why you not just go to the expert?

Having a professional relationship with a veterinarian is very important.

In 2023, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) plan for supporting veterinary antimicrobial stewardship will be fully implemented and all remaining over-the-counter (OTC) antibiotics will be switched to prescription-only status.

The medically important antibiotics (used by humans and animals) becoming prescription only include injectable tylosin, injectable and intramammary penicillin, injectable and oral tetracycline, sulfadimethoxine and sulfamethazine, and cephapirin and cephapirin benzathine intramammary tubes.

In addition, lincomycin and gentamicin swine antibiotics’ OTC status is switching to prescription only. Vaccines, dewormers, injectable and oral nutritional supplements, ionophores, pro/prebiotics and topical non-antibiotic treatments will not require veterinary prescription.

Under the new rule, producers with current veterinary client-patient relationships (VCPR) may purchase antibiotics directly from their veterinarian or from a distributor with a veterinarian prescription. Local distributors (for example, farm supply stores) are currently evaluating their ability to manage prescription pharmaceuticals in the future.

So what does a VCPR mean?

A veterinarian-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) is defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association as the basis for interaction among veterinarians, their clients, and their patients and is critical to the health of your animal.

A Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) exists if your veterinarian knows your animals well enough to diagnose and treat any medical conditions your animal(s) develop.

Your part of this relationship is to allow your veterinarian to make responsible decisions about your animal’s health, working with you so you understand, and for you to follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

Your veterinarian’s role in a VCPR is making medical judgements regarding the health of your animals, providing responsible medical care of your animals, and giving you advice about the benefits and risks associated with treatment options.

A VCPR can exist only when the veterinarian has recently seen and is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the animal(s) by virtue of examination of the animal(s), and/ or by medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animal(s) are kept.

In our family operation, we have our veterinarian on the farm every three months at minimum per year. Keep in mind a valid VCPR is only a valid VCPR if your veterinarian routinely visits the farm and sees the livestock.

Having a VCPR allows your veterinarian to be in a positive position with greater responsibility in the stewardship of antibiotic use in livestock on your farm.

A word to the wise when establishing a VCPR would be to work with a veterinarian that has expertise with the types of livestock on your farm. This may sound easier than one might think.

If possible, work with a veterinarian that has the knowledge to be effective for your farm’s needs.

I recently read a statement in a Michigan State University article that I thought said it best, “the most valuable aspect of the veterinarian is not the physical service they can perform on the animals, whether it is pregnancy diagnosis or even surgery, it is the knowledge they bring.”

Having a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) safeguards the food supply and helps producers be better managers of the health and wellness of herds and flocks.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

Professional relationship necessary for livestock management

Tony Nye

OSU Extension