Understanding “Free Choice” and “Hand Fed” Feeds Which Include Chlortetracycline

by | Mar 13, 2017 | News | 0 comments

As we continue to hear questions and feedback from the industry about new regulatory changes, we’re working with our Expert Council to provide a series of Expert Notes to the industry to help address questions and concerns, supply additional information and educate stakeholders about compliance.

Our Expert Council is made up of industry professionals and licensed veterinarians who have partnered with us, providing years of expertise and knowledge from their fields of research and current practices. Learn more about GlobalVetLINK’s Expert Council here.

Understanding “Free Choice” and “Hand Fed” Feeds Which Include Chlortetracycline

Michael D. Apley, DVM, PhD

As the new VFD labels come into effect, a common question is the status of “free choice” and “hand fed” feeds, especially in relation to medicated mineral feeds.

Free choice is defined as “a method of feeding livestock in which various feeds are kept constantly available and the feeders (animals) are allowed to balance their own diet.”

Hand fed, on the other hand, is a designation assigned in the drug approval process in which feed is required to be fed daily in order for the animals to be observed each day when there is concern for adverse drug reactions.


There is only one approved chlortetracycline indication for free choice feeds:
“Beef and non-lactating dairy cattle: As an aid in control of active infection of anaplasmosis caused by Anaplasma marginale susceptible to chlortetracycline when delivered in a free-choice feed.”

There are four proprietary FDA approved free choice feed formulations and one public FDA approved free choice feed formulation containing the approved chlortetracycline free choice indication for control of active cases of Anaplasmosis. All other indications and formulations are to be hand fed (fed daily).

It is illegal for a veterinarian to fill out a VFD for a label application of a feed drug knowing that it will be used in another manner (e.g., dose, duration, indication, or feeding practices). It is illegal for a distributor to distribute feed based on a VFD knowing that the intended use is different than on the VFD. It is illegal for the recipient of the VFD to use the feed in any manner than as authorized on the VFD.

Regardless of personal opinions on these new drug labels, previous practices, and the associated VFD process, it is important that all beef cattle veterinarians be on the same page regarding the regulatory situation.


For more detailed and technical information, download a pdf of the full article here