“Improper administration of animal health products not only devalues the animal, but it can cause consumers to have an undesirable eating experience down the line,” says John Currin, Extension veterinarian and Beef Quality Assurance coordinator with Virginia Tech University.
To prevent meat quality defects, ensure animal well-being and increase market value of cattle, Currin and Jody Wade, a veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim, provide insight on best practices for vaccine administration:
1. Store, mix and handle vaccines according to label directions. “Vaccinating cattle prevents disease, and therefore cuts down on the total number of injections that each animal will receive in its lifetime,” Currin says. “Improper storage and handling of vaccines will result in less efficacious products. Animals will be more likely to be infected by disease-causing pathogens and require additional injections for disease treatment.”
Store vaccines somewhere dark and at 35 to 45 degrees F. Reading and following label directions is the easiest way to be sure you’re storing, mixing and handling each vaccine correctly.
2. Choose an appropriate needle size. Product efficacy and tissue reactions may be affected drastically by the product entering the wrong tissue plane due to incorrect needle gauge and length.
“The needle needs to be long enough to push the vaccine through the skin without a struggle, but short enough so we don’t reach muscle tissue underneath the skin when giving a subcutaneous injection,” Wade says. Needles should be new, the proper length and no larger than 16 gauge.
Work completed at Purdue University in 2004 indicated that using larger or dull needles can traumatize tissue and produce injection-site lesions.
3. Administer products subcutaneously. Intramuscular products are most likely to cause tissue damage. In fact, a Colorado University research study showed that more than 90% of intramuscular marks at branding were also found at processing.
“To prevent any damage to the retail product for consumers, best practice is to administer vaccines subcutaneously whenever possible,” Currin says. All injections should occur in front of the shoulder and be at least 4 inches apart. Tenting the skin for subcutaneous injections allows for proper product administration.
4. Choose a BQA-certified vaccine. Wade encourages producers to choose a vaccine that combines effective disease protection and tissue friendliness. Selecting a vaccine that meets BQA standards for low dosage and subcutaneous injection, minimizes the risk of long-term tissue damage.
5. Evaluate animals prior to vaccine administration. It’s important to evaluate the cattle before deciding to administer vaccines. “When producers are processing cattle that have just been rained on, we will typically see more tissue damage due to the wet hides,” Wade says. “When a needle is inserted into a wet hide, it may carry bacteria from the surface of the skin into the injection site.”
6. Be aware of and adhere to product withdrawal times. Animal health products typically have withdrawal time guidelines that need to be followed to ensure the meat is safe to eat. Keeping accurate records of product administration and following the label for withdrawal periods is crucial.
Your local veterinarian and state BQA coordinator can provide additional guidance on how to best administer animal health products to ensure a safe meat product for consumers to enjoy.