Delmarva Farmer Columnists


The veterinary client-patient relationship (Dec. 6, 2016)

Shepherd’s Notebook

By Susan Schoenian, Sheep and Goat Specialist, University of Maryland Extension

At the core of the new Veterinary Feed Directive is the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
Using extra-label drugs is also lawful, only in the context of a VCPR.
Just because you can buy LA-200 in the feed store and administer it to your sheep or goats, doesn’t mean you are doing so legally.
The VPCR has been defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, state veterinary medical boards, as well as the Food & Drug Administration.
While it has several provisions, a VCPR primarily means you are working with your veterinarian so that he/she has first-hand knowledge of your farm and can prescribe appropriate treatment(s) for your animals. This requires “timely” visits to your farm.
Producers frequently comment that it is hard to find a veterinarian who is willing to work with sheep or goats and/or has specific knowledge pertaining to them.
Another common complaint is that the cost of veterinary services often exceeds the value of the animal(s).
While there can be truth to these statements, it doesn’t preclude the need for producers to find and work with veterinarians.
While many health-care practices can and should be performed by producers, a veterinarian can be a valuable partner in flock/herd health management.
A tip sheet by NCAT-ATTRA ( offers three suggestions for finding a small ruminant veterinarian:
• Ask other livestock producers in your area for recommendations;
• Visit large animal clinics near you, meet the veterinarians, and ask if they have experience and/or are interested in working with sheep and goats. Experience is great, but interest is more important; and
• Search the web site of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners ( for members in your area.
Once you identify a veterinarian, set up an initial farm visit.
Your new vet needs to see your operation before problems arise.
Be sure to communicate details of your vaccination, parasite control, and nutritional programs.
Be willing to share information if your veterinarian does not have a lot of small ruminant experience.
There are many good sources of information (both print and electronic).
For example, the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control ( is the go-to place for information on gastro-intestinal parasite control.
To ensure a successful VCPR, it is important to follow your veterinarian’s treatment recommendations and to let him/her know the results of treatment.
When you have an animal health “crisis” it is important not to wait until the animals are too ill to be helped.
If you don’t know why an animal died, be sure to involve your veterinarian. He/she can help you identify reasons for animal death and/or patterns of death or illness.
Small ruminant producers who do not currently have a veterinarian need to find one and establish a valid VCPR.
Remember, the use of feed-grade or water soluble antibiotics will require it beginning Jan. 1.
The use of extra-label drugs has always required it, and some over-the-counter drugs may eventually be available only via veterinary prescription, via a VCPR.
Read the full ATTRA-NCAT tip sheet, “Working with a veterinarian” by visiting

CRP grasslands and you (Dec. 6, 2016)

Keeping the Farm

By Bob Wevodau, Farm Programs Chief, Maryland Farm Service Agency

I have always been a fan of horse racing.
It’s a great sport, and though it lasts just a couple of minutes, those minutes are usually packed full of drama.
But one aspect of horse racing that is often overlooked is that for all the fame and fortune that’s out there, just about anyone can get into the racing business.
I’ll never own the Dallas Cowboys, but who is to say I can’t own the next Seabiscuit?
The racing industry ranges from horses they build statues of, to horses you can buy cheaper than some used cars.
Heck, I have even owned a race horse, granted it was with other friends and he suffered a career-ending injury before his career ever began, but I was in the game.
There is no big guy and little guy, I can be in the same business as a billionaire.
How does this work?
Well, a cheap horse most likely will be running against horses of a similar caliber, which keeps things fair.
And that’s what brings me to my subject today.
The Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands Initiative.
CRPG was introduced with the 2014 Farm Bill.
The program protects grassland, including rangeland and pasture land, while maintaining the areas as grazing lands.
Participants who are accepted into the program receive annual payments of up to 75 percent of the grazing value of the land and may also be eligibile for cost share assistance.
Contracts are drawn up to be for 14 to 15 years.
The program is based on the ranking of offers.
The ranking process looks at various factors and assigns it a value.
The first few go arounds with CRPG led to a lot of eligible ground being signed up in the western states by larger operations.
But recently, FSA has decided to add two practices that will help level the playing field.
Now, if you are a small livestock operation which has 100 or fewer head of grazing dairy cows or animal unit equivalent, you can sign up for up to 200 acres per farm and have your offer ranked only against other similar operations.
USDA’s goal is to enroll up to 200,000 acres under these new provisions.
The idea behind this is to ensure that livestock operations of varying scales and across the country have an opportunity to achieve environmental and economic benefits.
If you have submitted an offer for CRPG in the past with the old practices and it wasn’t accepted and you didn’t withdraw it, your offer will still be considered in the next ranking period.
However, if you are under the animal and acreage threshold and would like to be ranked in the smaller pool your offer needs to be modified and you must certify that you are eligible.
If you have not submitted an offer in the past and are interested in participating, or need to update your existing offer, the next ranking period for small-scale livestock grazers closes on Dec. 16, so see a local FSA Office as soon as possible.
With the new CRPG initiative provisions, everyone can have a horse in the race.
You don’t have to beat everyone in the country, you just have to beat out those operations that are similar to yours.
Making your entrance into CRPG, all the more attainable.
Which is just good horse sense.