Forecast Calls For Sales
Plan ahead for the winter months
Over the next several months, we can all expect to feel the effects of “climate” change. Besides the change brought on by harsh winter weather and its impact on the livestock industry, January will bring a major change in the political climate with the many unknowns of a new administration. Expect changes to the business climate for your veterinary customers and their producers with the new requirements to the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) that go into effect on January 1, 2017. Knowing the seasonal products and procedures used by your clients, understanding the VFD-affected drugs, the new stipulations and their impact to your customers, and keeping tabs on how not only volatile weather, but a volatile economy may affect them will make you a valued partner.
Fall vaccinations and grub and lice treatment all help prepare calves and cattle for the increased stresses of winter weather and keep them disease-resistant and healthy. Up-to-date vaccine comparison charts will come in handy, along with a list of the pour-ons, sprays and dusts – and their applicators – your company carries. Keep a dosage chart close by for quick reference as you place those orders. Cold, wet weather and transporting cattle create the perfect climate for bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Review the many broad-spectrum and traditional anti-infectives, their label indications and dosing for conversations with your customers.
Your clients are probably accustomed to getting great next-day or two-day service from you, but winter weather and holiday shipping can cause issues beyond your control. Check last year’s purchase history and help them plan ahead so they won’t be caught short if severe weather causes shipping delays. Check the forecast for potential freezing temperatures that could compromise products, and remind buyers to order fluids and temperature-sensitive items early enough in the week so they won’t be sitting in sub-zero temperatures in a parked delivery truck over the weekend.
The holidays have a tendency to sneak up on many of us, so keep your major carriers’ shipping schedules and deadlines handy. You might also want to help your clinics order outside of the busiest shipping days. Holiday e-commerce sales topped $69.08 billion last year, with Cyber Monday (November 28 this year) being the top online sales day. December 16 will be “Free Shipping Day” with a number of participating retailers. With Christmas and New Year’s falling on Sunday this year, many businesses – and some freight companies – will be closed the following Monday, so help your customers plan their orders accordingly.
The winter months are an opportune time to discuss your company’s drop-shipping options with your large animal practices. According to the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, most veterinary practices still have drug sales amounting to 50 percent or more of total sales. The distances many large animal veterinarians have to drive; the time spent unpacking, labeling, dispensing and billing; combined with the threat of inclement winter weather may make direct shipping a convenient and cost-effective option for your customers. Be ready to discuss the savings in staff time, shelf and cooler space, and increased inventory control this service can provide.
As you’ve been hearing for the past couple of years, Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) requirements starting January 1 will impact producers, veterinarians, and you. The better-informed you are about these regulations, the better you can help your customers.
The VFD was created to ensure the sustainable use of all medically important antibiotics (those important in human health) for both animals and humans by limiting their use in food-producing animals to disease treatment, control and prevention, rather than for growth or maintenance purposes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year at least 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatment, resulting in more than 20,000 deaths. The VFD mandates judicious use of antibiotics in livestock to reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Many of the affected products have been available over the counter, but starting January 1, they will require a VFD from a licensed veterinarian. A VFD is similar to a veterinary prescription so producers may obtain and use medically important antibiotics in feed in accordance with the FDA-approved directions for use. A VFD can only be issued by a licensed veterinarian, based on a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship – or VCPR – before a producer may use feeds containing antibiotics that are medically important. This includes complete feeds, medicated supplements and crumbles.
The information required on a VFD includes the following:
- Veterinarian contact information
- Animal information such as species, the approximate number of animals, where the feed will be used and the production class
- Medication information such as the indication for use, duration of use, the withdrawal period and expiration date
Three key facts to remember about VFDs:
- A veterinarian can write a VFD that is effective for up to six months
- Veterinarians, feed suppliers or distributors, and producers must keep a copy of each VFD for two years
- Extra-label or off-label use of medicated feed additives has not and will not be allowed
You can expect to see the following label information implemented after January 1:
“Caution: Federal law restricts medicated feed containing this veterinary feed directive (VFD) drug to use by or on the order or a licensed veterinarian.”
“Use of feed containing this veterinary feed directive (VFD) drug in a manner other than as directed on the labeling (extra-label use) is not permitted.”
While these new regulations will obviously take more time and effort to administer, they also bring more opportunities for you and your veterinary customers. Large animal practitioners have the potential for more business with the necessity of building VCPRs with new customers or producers they have rarely worked with in the past. The focus on prevention provides the chance to discuss alternative products and management protocols which can translate into increased sales and profits for you both.
Your knowledge of changing regulations, combined with your industry expertise in products, promotions and the seasonal issues that impact your customers will be a valued asset as your clients adapt to the ever-changing climate of the animal health industry.
- Florfenicol (already VFD)
- Tilmicosin (already VFD)
- Hygromycin B
- Sulfadimethoxine: Ormetoprim
Dawn Singleton-Olson has more than 25 years of experience in the animal health industry, including distributor sales, manufacturing, practice management and as a zoo supervisor. She is a volunteer, fundraiser and board trustee for several humane organizations and the Omaha (Neb.) Police Mounted Patrol.