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One-year-old, Hereford-crossed heifers

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – This summer, big changes are coming to the world of livestock health. Beginning June 11, over-the-counter livestock antibiotics will no longer be available, according to a directive from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After June 11, producers must have a prescription from a licensed veterinarian to get antibiotics for their livestock.

Soren Rodning, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System animal sciences and forages specialist, said many livestock antibiotics have always required a prescription.

“Some older antibiotics–such as penicillin and oxytetracycline–have been available over the counter, but the FDA new directive will now require a prescription to get these products,” Rodning said. “It is important to note that livestock antibiotics are not being removed from the marketplace. However, they are being brought under veterinary oversight.”

Key Details

According to Rodning, who also serves as the Alabama Extension veterinarian, this new directive will affect all injectable livestock antibiotics that are currently available over the counter and that are also used in human medicine. However, there are several products that the directive does not affect.

“Products unaffected by this change include ionophores, vaccines, dewormers, most injectable and oral nutritional supplements and several other products,” Rodning said. “All of these products will continue to be available through standard over-the-counter marketing channels.”

While a veterinarian must now prescribe these antibiotics, producers do not have to buy the products from them. They can continue to purchase from both online and in-person locations as long as the outlet can process veterinary prescriptions.

Rodning advises producers to not stock up on antibiotics while they are still available over the counter.

“While it might be tempting to stock up on these antibiotics, livestock caretakers are advised against this,” Rodning said. “These products can expire and lose their effectiveness before they are used. The best strategy is to work with your veterinarian when animals need treatment.” 

Establishing a Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship

Prescriptions for livestock antibiotics cannot come from just any veterinarian. Rodning said this new directive legally requires producers to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian that they have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship with.

“If you already have a working relationship with a veterinarian, now is the time to consult with them to develop a plan to adjust the way your farm will access livestock antibiotics,” Rodning said. “If you do not currently have a veterinary-client-patient relationship, now is the time to establish one.”

There are several items that this type of relationship includes. At the foundational level, the veterinarian knows the livestock producer and is familiar with the operation and its practices. They are also involved in the herd health practices of the operation.

More Information

Rodning provides more details on the FDA directive in the Extension Brief, Over-the-Counter Option for Livestock Antibiotics is Going Away. You can find this Extension Brief at www.aces.edu. For more information, contact Rodning at rodnisp@aces.edu or contact your local veterinarian.

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