Millions of dollars have been invested to deliver to the livestock producer safe and efficacious vaccines. So it behooves us to handle these products in a manner that will maximize the immune response in the healthy animal, says John Kirkpatrick, DVM, and Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine professor emeritus.

Kirkpatrick reviews a few simple steps that help ensure vaccine efficacy:
 

  • Purchase only federally licensed vaccines from a reliable source who is conscientious about the ordering, timely receiving and shipping, and storing vaccines they are going to sell you.
     
  • Purchase the proper vaccines for the cattle you are vaccinating – consult your veterinarian and/or read the directions carefully.
     
  • Keep vaccines refrigerated at all times (36°-44°F). Keep them in an ice chest and out of the sun at chuteside.
     
  • Mix only the vaccine that will be used in a timely period (less than 1 hour); Discard any unused product by burning containers.
     
  • Reconstitute modified-live virus (MLV) vaccines with clean transfer needles. Using a bleeding needle is highly recommended because they’re cheap and disposable (see your veterinarian).
     
  • Don’t mix two different products in the same syringe unless it’s part of the package, i.e. IBR/leptospirosis vaccine.
     
  • Use only new needles to fill and refill syringes.
     
  • Consider using multidose disposable syringes that automatically draw from the vaccine vial, especially for modified live virus (MLV) vaccines. When using this method, keep the vial in use in a vial shroud or cover to insulate and protect from sunlight.
     
  • Use the proper needle gauge and length – 16 ga. X 5/8 or 3/4 in. for all subcutaneous (SubQ) injections. Use 16 ga. X 1-in. needles for intramuscular (IM) injections in young cattle. A 16-ga. X 1½-in. needle is used for IM injections in adult cows and bulls. Always use sharp needles – burrs take in hide, hair and debris resulting in injection-site infections and abscesses.
     
  • Use the proper injection site as described by the product insert. Always use the SubQ route of administration when a choice is given between SubQ and IM. All injections are to be administered in the neck area.
     
  • Syringe cleaning – Don’t use alcohol, disinfectants or detergents in syringes used for (MLV) vaccines. Instead, use hot water (distilled), more hot water as a rinse, dry on clean paper towels, silicone oil, and store in a clean dry area (baggie). Wash the outside first with the needle and needle cover on. Wash your hands thoroughly, break the syringe down, and perform the cleaning procedure.


The beef producer, vaccine company, and veterinarian have a mutual responsibility to produce a quality, drug-free and economic product for the beef consumer.

Using quality vaccines, proper handling and administration, and using clean functional equipment, healthy cattle will develop immunity when vaccinated thereby decreasing as much need for antibiotic therapy and increased injection sites.