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VCPR – What is it and why should it matter to you?

Tim Henshaw Published on 31 January 2014
Pop quiz: VCPR stands for:

a. Very Cute Placenta Removed
b. Vixen, Comet, Prancer, Reindeer
c. Very Complicated Public Relations
d. Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship

The correct answer is “d”– Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship.

The veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is an integral part of proper drug use on cattle operations. It is important that every industry stakeholder, pharmaceutical company, prescribing veterinarian and farmer adheres to guidelines for responsible drug use.

The VCPR is the foundation of effective veterinary medicine and animal care. A valid VCPR exists when:

1. The veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the animal or animals and the need for medical treatment, and the client has indicated a willingness to accept the advice of the veterinarian.

2. The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the livestock, including their health status, immunization history, nutrition, management, environment and hygiene to initiate a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animal.



This knowledge is acquired through (within the last year) an examination of the animal or medically appropriate or timely visits to the premises where the animals are kept.

3. The veterinarian is readily available or has arranged for emergency coverage of follow-up, in case of adverse reactions or failure of the treatment regime.

In herd health medicine, the veterinarian does not always need to examine each animal before making medical recommendations.

However, through regular visits, the veterinarian must acquire a current understanding of the level of husbandry practiced on the premises and of the client’s abilities to recognize clinical signs of disease and administer drugs and treatment plans.

The veterinarian should also develop protocols regarding drug usage and safety. A VCPR must exist before a veterinarian dispenses any treatment product.

A veterinary practice or individual should establish a written agreement with the client that identifies the farm veterinarian who is accountable for drug use and treatments administered to the cattle on the farm operation.

This responsibility should cover treatment protocols, drug inventories, prescriptions, personnel training, oversight and drug use.

Regular farm visits are an essential component to providing this oversight. Laboratory data evaluation, records evaluation and electronic communication can all supplement this oversight.

Protocols and treatment guidelines for commonly occurring, easily recognizable conditions should be established in writing and agreed upon by all parties involved, signed and dated.


Training of personnel authorized to use drugs on the operation should be undertaken and periodically reviewed. Standard treatment protocols should clearly define when to stop treatment and seek professional help.

Treatment records are integral to all livestock operations. These may be written or electronically stored and are an essential component of maintaining the VCPR and decreasing the risk of drug residues.

CQM, the Canadian Quality Milk Program, sets out schedules for the recording of all drug treatments on cattle. Any extra-label use of medicine requires a veterinary prescription on file.

All treatment records should include the date, animal identification, medication used, frequency, duration and route of administration (i.e., intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous or oral).

Of greatest importance are the appropriate meat and milk withdrawal intervals and the person doing the administering of the medicine.

Modern livestock production has been enhanced by the availability and correct use of pharmaceuticals. The right injection for the right animal at the right time is always the right choice.

Wise and prudent use of pharmaceuticals are important for food safety and for health of the national herd. There are individuals and groups lobbying for the removal of antibiotic use in livestock.

A proper VCPR, proper training and proper drug use are important. We cannot allow these important tools of production medicine to be denied to veterinarians and the farmers and livestock they serve.


It is in everyone’s best interest to maintain healthy, disease-free animals to allow them to produce to their genetic potential.

Food safety is everyone’s responsibility.  PD

Tim Henshaw is a reproductive veterinarian with EastGen.