Dakota Farmer

A proper vaccination program sets your herd health plan on the right path.

May 26, 2023

3 Min Read
cow getting a vaccine
OPTIMAL PROGRAMS: Management tips for the best vaccine program include staying organized, keeping vaccines cool and following label directions.Alfribeiro/Getty Images

A solid vaccination and treatment program developed by you and your veterinarian is an integral part of a good herd health plan. The majority of beef operations administer vaccines to cows and calves at least once annually, in conjunction with oral or injectable antibiotics to treat disease as needed.

The success of these products comes down to how they are handled and administered. Here are some tips to simplify the task, stay organized and keep safe during processing or treating animals:

1. Maintain syringes. When cleaning syringes, be careful not to leave residues that could inactivate live vaccines. To clean, draw up boiling water into the syringe barrel repeatedly for two to three minutes.

Periodically, syringes can be taken apart and boiled for a more thorough cleaning. However, some plastic or nylon syringes may not hold up to this process. Do not use detergents or disinfectants that can negatively impact vaccine efficacy. Once completely dry, store cleaned syringes in a dust-free environment, such as a zip-close bag.

Lubricate syringes with non-petroleum-based products such as glycerin. Stoppers should be replaced when they or the plunger are difficult to move. If replacing them does not fix the problem, it is time for a new syringe.

2. Keep items out of sun. Because sunlight and ultraviolet light will inactivate live vaccines, keep vaccines and syringes in a cooler with ice packs while processing. Most vaccines have storage temperatures of 35 to 45 degrees F and should not be allowed to freeze.

Components for continuous-feed syringes are difficult to keep sheltered from sunlight and weather extremes. When using these syringes, strive to protect the bottle, hose and syringe from UV light.

Low-cost vaccine coolers can be made with a plastic bucket and lid, or plastic foam cooler by cutting holes in the lid or side. Heavy-duty coolers cost more but effectively store product and supplies.

3. Label and keep records. All vaccines should be labeled to corresponding syringes with duct tape or different colored knobs and markers. Label the place in the vaccine cooler where they should be returned to prevent grabbing the wrong syringe for the next animal. A simple 1-2-3 system can be used to alleviate the need to remember exact names of products.

Ensure all vaccinations and treatments are properly recorded, in either a paper or electronic method. Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) recommendations are to keep all herd-health records for at least two years from the date of transfer or sale of cattle. Good records are critical to food safety for products that have withdrawal times and for future herd health decisions.

4. Mix according to label. Only mix enough modified-live virus vaccine that will be used in 60 minutes or less. Since MLV vaccines should be used immediately and cannot be stored for future use, purchase bottle sizes appropriately to mix the smallest batch in case of breakdowns or additional interruptions.

Use a sterile transfer needle to mix products. Always change needles before drawing up new doses into the syringe to prevent contamination of the entire bottle.

5. Administer doses correctly. Accurate dosing and proper routes of administration are key for product effectiveness.

Read labels and set syringes to the correct dosage before starting. Also, determine the correct method of administration (subcutaneous or intramuscular) and put the correct size and length of needle on the appropriate syringe.

Producers should strive to follow BQA best management practices by giving vaccines in front of the shoulder in the neck region. Proper injection sites not only are safer for the animal and handler, but also optimize the meat quality and wholesomeness.

6. Properly store items. Clean and inspect all equipment before storing.

Taking these simple steps can help maximize efficiency when working cattle, while also improving the efficacy of health programs, leading to a more profitable cattle operation.

Source: South Dakota State University Extension

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