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Handle And Apply Vet Meds With Care

To achieve the maximum benefit from vaccines and antibiotics they must be handled properly until they are administered. Since producers pay good money for these products and the pharmaceutical companies want to ensure maximum benefit, proper handling practices need to be followed. Vaccine failures are not desirable for anyone.


The most common product damage is with improper temperature control. In the heat of the moment (this could be considered a pun) when handling cattle you must put someone in charge of handling the products to be administered. Their job is to ensure safe, efficient administration of a quality product. We often are processing in inclement weather either freezing in winter or under very hot conditions with lots of sunlight in summer. It is far more harmful to freeze product than have it get a bit warm.

Keep in mind that as soon as the product is administered it is in an environment of 39 C (body temp). If you freeze vaccines, they are toast and should be discarded. I have most producers use an insulated container. You can put in warm water bottles in winter or ice packs in summer to keep the product at the right temp. If the weather is really bad, the full syringe can even be placed in the container between uses. This also protects the product from UV light, which can also be detrimental to some products. Heat lamps or in car heaters are also used to keep product warm.

Be ever-cognizant of maintaining the ideal temperature range between 5 C to 15 C. Getting product too close to these heat-producing devices can fry product and that is a no-no as well.

Protect the product even when picking it up from the veterinary clinic. I encourage producers to bring insulated containers with them or we send them home with ice packs in the summer. Don t make the mistake of throwing vaccine on the dash: the strong heaters in vehicles or the warmth of the sun has cooked a lot of vaccine over the years I am sure.


Only rehydrate the amount of vaccine you will use directly (within the next hour). This is especially true of the modified live vaccines, which are in common use these days. Once rehydrated their absolute maximum shelf life is 24 hours and even that is very iffy. It is better to rehydrate and use them right away. The modified vaccines are also very fragile so do not disinfect the needle with alcohol between uses. This will render the vaccine inactive and destroy its effectiveness.


Always label the syringe as too what product it contains. For example, if formalin is present in the blackleg vaccine and if you accidentally pull up a full syringe of modified live vaccine in the same syringe, the small amount of formalin left will destroy all the vaccine. Label the syringe to avoid this mistake and place the vaccines apart from each other so these mistakes don t happen.


Double-and triple check the volume to be given. It is not uncommon for automatic guns to get bumped and the setting accidentally changed. Over-dosing wastes valuable product and under-dosing will provide protection. Make sure automatic guns are dispensing properly. The newer models are very accurate and don t allow air to get into the syringe. I always make a mental note of how long a bottle of vaccine should last. A 50-dose bottle should be empty after 50 head. If it doesn t run out or runs out too early take a minute to check things out there could be an improper setting. Companies usually have just a little bit extra product per bottle (one or two per cent) as a buffer.


When administering multiple products, make sure they are kept at least 10 cm apart as contact may inactivate them. Either administer products on opposite sides of the neck or make a conscious effort to place them apart. Try and consistently give products in the same place. If cattle have any type of local reaction to the drug at least you know what product produced the effect.


Last but not least, follow label directions as to dosage and type of administration (subcutaneous or intramuscular). Use the neck area when administering either way. Have the cattle properly restrained to avoid broken needles or vaccine being discharged into the air. Use the one-handed subcutaneous technique to avoid injury to the applicator. If you believe a product was not applied properly, repeat the vaccination. This will not harm the animal and it is far better than way underdosing. This occurs in situations where vaccine is injected intradermally (between the skin layers), discharged into the hair, the automatic gun is not discharged fully or the needle is pushed through fold of skin and out again so the vaccine is discharged into the air.

Also check the vaccine s expiry date.

These are all very common errors right at the time of vaccinating that should be avoided. Avoiding or recognizing these common errors will help you convey maximum immunity benefit to your herd. The products have been engineered to work and it is up to all of us to be diligent with their handling and administration.

RoyLewisisapractisinglarge-animal veterinarianattheWestlockVeterinary Centre,northofEdmonton.Hismaininterests arebovinereproductionandherdhealth.

About the author


Roy Lewis is an Alberta-based veterinarian specializing in large-animal practice. He is also a part-time technical services vet for Merck Animal Health.



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