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Q3 Canada Ruminant Newsletter

How Will the Veterinary Feed Directive Change Antibiotic Use?

lizDr. Liz Wagstrom

It’s been a very long road to the January 2017 implementation of the U.S. Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). The first regulatory action concerning antibiotic resistance was implemented in 2003. For many years prior to that, the FDA had been studying the potential for antibiotic use in animals to have a public health impact.

“Before the VFD rule and Guidance 213, Guidance 209 stated that the FDA believed that production uses, for improving nutritional efficiency and growth promotion, of antibiotics that are medically important was injudicious, and remaining therapeutic uses, which were for disease prevention, control and treatment, should be under veterinary oversight,” said Liz Wagstrom, DVM and Chief Veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council.

Guidance 213 and the VFD work together, in order to explain to sponsors how to change labels and what new research is needed to achieve therapeutic claims. The VFD rule laid out the changes to antibiotic usage in order to make it more feasible to have VFDs across a wide range of products.

“The general purpose of the VFD is to ensure antibiotics are being used properly, but I think the agency expects to see a reduction in use,” Wagstrom said. “However, there could be some in FDA who will say that if more people use treatment with higher doses, we may not actually see a reduction. Their definition of success would be that they could say the antibiotics being used with veterinarian's orders are at the right dose for the right disease for the right duration.”

The FDA is continuing to refine the VFD process. Currently, they are looking at antibiotics that don't have a duration listed on the label and assessing concerns to determine if modifications are needed. Extra label use is another area that is being reviewed. Antibiotic use and resistance will continue to be monitored globally, which could result in additional changes. Changes won’t happen quickly, but you should expect an ongoing review process.

Will the VFD Reduce Antibiotic Use?

Without good data on how and why antibiotics are being used now, Wagstrom says it's hard to know how much they'll change. For example, of medically important antibiotics, tetracycline has the highest sale in animal agriculture. Tetracycline can be used for growth promotion as well as disease prevention, control and treatment in multiple species. All uses of tetracycline will be allowed to continue with the exception of growth promotion.

“Because we don't currently know what percent is being used for growth promotion, it's hard to anticipate how use might decrease. Some veterinarians may not write a VFD for some uses, while some farmers may try to get by without antibiotics because they don't want to pay for a veterinary call,” she said. “There's also a lot of uncertainty around maintaining a veterinary-client relationship and how that might affect use.”

Alternatives to Antibiotic Growth Promoters

Starting in January when the VFD is implemented, the challenge for animal food producers is to find alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) to minimize the risks of affecting overall production and animal performance.

“To assist in the transition from AGPs to alternatives, we are providing customers with feed additives to reduce feed costs and lessen susceptibility to enteric diseases all while increasing animal performance with the use of enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, organic acids and minerals,” said Bob Buresh, PhD, Executive Manager, Technical Services – North America at Novus International.

Stress and disease will continue to play havoc with dairy and beef cow health. Mineral nutrition oxidative balance and energy requirements play an important role in maintaining dairy and beef cows’ immune system, keeping them healthy and productive.

Challenge of transition period and calving: Inflammation affects immunity which can lead to infection and reduced performance.

Solution: ALIMET® provides cattle with a proven source of the amino acid, methionine. However, methionine provides benefits beyond just being an amino acid source. ALIMET offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which increase feed intake to keep transition cows healthy during this physiologically demanding time.

Challenge of weaning stress: A decrease or fluctuation in feed intake, even for a matter of hours, can cause a change in the gut barrier function.This can create a condition referred to as “leaky gut” syndrome that is susceptible to bacteria, mycotoxins and other toxic compounds.

Solution: AGRADO® Plus and MINTREX® help support gut health in newly weaned beef calves while optimizing immunity and enhancing performance.

Challenge of heat stress: When an animal becomes heat stressed, dry matter intake is reduced and metabolic changes interfere with mobilizing energy reserves.This insufficiency in energy results in decreased milk production coupled with increased oxidative stress.

Solution: Antioxidants, like AGRADO Plus, are an important tool to improve feed efficiency, digestion and gut function and reduce the impact of oxidative stress.

Challenge of immunity: Vaccine failure caused by poor animal nutrition.

Solution: The MINTREX and MAAC® product lines provide highly bioavailable trace minerals that are essential in building immune response and combatting infections by raising antibody titers and decreasing SCC.


slide10 The nutritional demands for dairy cows are immense especially during the times of peak lactation, calving and breeding. These physiological demands as well as other external factors place stress on the reproductive system of the dairy cow, delaying her return to normal estrus cycles. This in turn can result in reduced conception rates and increased days open. These reductions in reproductive performance ultimately cost the cow as well as the dairyman. Management conditions can be right for optimizing breeding but if the cow’s nutrition is not optimized, she may not be cycling or developed other sub-clinical challenges preventing her from becoming pregnant. MINTREX has been shown in multiple conditions to improve reproductive parameters. Figure 1 shows a multi-herd commercial trial in Spain where cows supplemented with MINTREX had a 9 percentage point improvement in first service conception rates. Industry standard estimates $450 per pregnancy on a large commercial dairy, so in a 1000 cow herd, a 9 percent increase in conception would mean 90 more pregnancies. The increase in pregnancies would generate $40.50 per cow. Subtracting out the cost of MINTREX results in a return on investment of $30.00 per cow per year.

Not only is a dairy cow more reproductively effective when her nutrition is balanced, but she is healthier and more productive as a whole. Nutrition can have a strong influence on the cow’s ability to fight off infection and respond to traditional vaccinations and treatments. The trace minerals zinc, copper and manganese are essential in supporting a dairy cow’s immune function and health. They play critical roles in antioxidant pathways and maintain structural integrity of epithelial barriers against infection. Deficiencies negatively affect a dairy cow’s immune function and her natural defense against disease challenges. When that happens, the animal is more susceptible to health disorders and reduced overall performance.

Somatic cell count (SCC), antibody titers and milk production during times of stress are three key measures of herd health. MINTREX works to improve enzyme function and support the immune system in dairy cows, resulting in improved health indicators.


Lack of reproductive efficiency and poor immunity are both significant problems for dairy producers but one of the most costly problems they face is lameness in their herd. Lameness affects the profitability and productivity of even the healthiest dairy cows on a farm and can result in top producing cows being culled. A six month study was conducted in Spain across 27 dairy herds and 2,880 cows. Fifteen of the 27 herds were supplemented with only inorganic trace minerals (ITMs). These herds had more than two times greater risk of being culled due to lameness compared to the remaining 12 herds supplemented with MINTREX. Lameness in dairy cattle can cost up to $300 per head according to the UW Extension Dairy Team, which is a huge economic loss to the operation. Published research has also linked lameness to a reduction in fertility as well as dry matter intake and milk yield. In addition to reducing production performance lameness also reduces cow comfort and well-being. When cows are in constant pain, they are less likely to produce and perform at optimal levels.


Novus is passionate about cow comfort, oxidative balance, well-being, and sustainability for dairy cows and dairy farms. That’s why we have developed program specifically designed to help dairies excel in these four categories of cow performance. The NOVUS C.O.W.S. Program® helps dairy producers analyze their herd's daily activities and provides producers with the information to help them ensure the comfort and well-being of their cows. To create this one-of-a-kind program, Novus partnered with the University of British Columbia Animal Welfare Program to develop a nationwide benchmarking study. Its goal is to evaluate dairy operations and provide ways to improve cow comfort, enhance their oxidative balance and promote the well-being of the herd while, at the same time, contributing to sustainability in the dairy industry.

In its first year, the C.O.W.S. program measured approximately 140 dairies across California, Texas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New York. The C.O.W.S. program continues to expand in order to service your needs.

Contact Rachel Hieston at Rachel.Hieston@novusint.com for information on getting your first C.O.W.S. assessment started!

2nd Annual Novus Ruminant Mineral Symposium

Novus hosted its second annual Ruminant Mineral Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas, October 10 – 12th. There was a great turn out for the meeting with a strong agenda presented. In addition to the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to tour the MINTREX manufacturing facility in Little Rock. The main theme of this year’s symposium was analyzing trace mineral status of an animal and using the latest methods and technologies for formulation to optimize mineral usage by the animal. Key take-away points from each of the presentations are below. Contact your Novus Sales Representative for a full copy of the meeting proceedings.

Dr. Bill Weiss – Update on Minerals: The more we learn, the less we know

  1. Uncertainty and risk management justify MODERATE overfeeding of MANY minerals (+20 – 50% NRC)
    • Costs more to underfeed than overfeed
    • Consider the long term effects of overfeeding
  2. Need to stop thinking mineral concentration when offering feeding rates and think mineral level
    • i.e.: dry cows eat less so inclusion level should go up
  3. Don’t forget to include the basal diet mineral level when formulating
  4. Going with a more bioavailable product like an OTM allows less total mineral to be fed
  5. It is an incorrect assumption to “Just feed twice as much sulfate and achieve the same performance as an OTM.”
  6. Don’t forget about the needs of the rumen when utilizing trace minerals
    • Rumen bugs need sulfates to grow
    • OTM ligands often contribute to gut health, causing a reduction in pathogens that contribute to disease
  7. When faced with antagonisms, OTMs are an important tool to include

Dr. Jeff Hall – Vitamin–Mineral Problems and Their Diagnoses in Cattle

  1. A high percentage of dairy and beef cows have mineral abnormalities
    • The severity of those abnormalities is going up
  2. First lactation and multi-lactation dairy cows may be quite different in status
    • Setting the heifer up and keeping her in good mineral status during development will benefit her greatly when she enters production
  3. Testing trace mineral levels is key for appropriate supplementation formulation
    • There are optimum times to test and liver biopsy tests are often the best indicator of status
  4. Analyzing the levels of minerals in the cows can indicate further concerns to evaluate
    • i.e.: high levels of zinc can be a result of system inflammatory response
  5. When using a more bioavailable OTM, reduce and replace is key to avoid overfeeding
  6. The ONLY way to truly know trace mineral status of a herd/animal is through testing

Dr. Lance Baumgard – Leaky Gut’s Contribution to Heat Stress and Ketosis

  1. Heat stressed and ketotic cows have a similar metabolic and endocrine fingerprint
    • Leaky gut is a common denominator in both
  2. The activated immune system utilizes an ENORMOUS amount of glucose
  3. Leaky gut and endotoxin infiltration may play important roles (if not the origin) in sub optimal productivity commonly observed in animal agriculture
  4. Strategies that can improve intestinal integrity need to be researched in a “stressed model”
  5. If leaky gut is the fundamental cause of many typical on-farm problems, then it is a financial problem that dwarfs all others combined

Getting to Know Jonathan Wilson, PhD

Dr. Johnathan Wilson

What is your official title at Novus?
Application Systems Manager

How long have you been with Novus?
Nine months

In your role what is the most interesting thing you do?
I supervise and coordinate new ALIMET® system installations, repairs and upgrades.

What is your favorite Novus product?

What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?
I obtained a PhD in Grain Science from Kansas State University.

What is the oddest or hardest question a customer has ever asked you?
What do you mean we need to stop making feed or grinding corn if we have to use a cutting torch or angle grinder in the mill? Do you expect us to stop production every time we need to do that?

The answer is yes.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the animal agriculture industry today?
The general public is constantly inundated with information about the food supply chain and production agriculture, but they lack an in-depth understanding of what production agriculture entails on a day-to-day operational basis. The gap between farm to fork is now greater than ever. As members of the food supply chain we have a duty to address this growing concern by consumers so sound decisions in regards to regulation and production practices can be made.

What would be your first move if you were tasked with helping the industry overcome that challenge?
For years, the agriculture industry has made efforts to educate the public about where their food comes from or how it is produced. Today, the highly engaged, influential consumer can’t get enough of it. It’s our job as members of the agriculture industry to make sure that information is available and it is presented in a way that the general public can understand it.

When you are not promoting Novus products, what do you like to do?
Keeping up with my two daughters, trying not to introduce new words into their vocabulary while I watch K-State sports and explaining to them that 5 and 7 isn’t quite old enough to go hunting with dad, but that day is coming.

If you could go to dinner with any three people, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Carl Sagan, Patton Oswalt and Neil Gaiman

If you had to choose only one book for your library, what would it be?

What is your favorite beef/dairy/pork/poultry product to eat?
Smoked BBQ brisket