An article in the September BEEF titled "Are You Vaccinating Calves...Or Shooting Blanks" raised a few questions and a few eyebrows. Some readers were offended that their vaccine protocols should be called into question, while others appreciated the advice. However, one reader raised a question that wasn't addressed in the article -- how to properly clean a syringe gun.

So we went back to John Peirce, veterinarian for AzTx Cattle Co. in Hereford, TX, for his advice. Here's what he told us:

  1. Never use disinfectants.
  2. Use hot water. It does not have to be boiling, just very hot tap water.
  3. Disassemble as you are cleaning and allow to air dry. We allow ours to dry on a clean, white towel.
  4. When dry, lubricate the plunger using glycerin, Vaseline or even cooking oil. You don't have to use a lot, just appropriately applied.
  5. Store clean syringes in large zip lock bags allowing you to differentiate one syringe from another.
  6. Every syringe should be labeled using permanent marker or engraving tool. I usually write "viral" (for the IBR, BVD, PI3 and BRSV) on one, "Endo" (endovac bovi) on one and "BL" (blackleg) on the other. Just always use the same syringe for the same vaccine every time.
  7. I have now gone exclusively to a 25 cc pistol grip syringe. In the summertime (warm day) I only half fill it. I want as little vaccine as possible exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun and the warm environmental temperature.
  8. Between every calf, replace the loaded syringe back into an ice-filled cooler. Develop the habit of snuggling it down into the ice packs each time.
  9. The gun should remain very cool to the touch during the entire vaccination process.
  10. Shade is extremely helpful. If not working under a roof, use a cardboard box, for example, to create shade for the cooler.
  11. As you initially place the vaccine into the cooler, also place your syringes into the cooler as well to pre-cool them.
  12. Don't mix up the first bottle until they are actually loading the calves. Don't mix up more than you will use in one hour. Keep the vaccine bottle pushed down into the ice packs.
With just a little time and patience you can develop a routine that allows you to process calves at an efficient rate. Our vaccination protocol is based on handling and administering viral vaccines. They are very fragile. We handle all vaccine (including killed products) the same way, though it is not really necessary for the killed products. For most people it is just easier to have one protocol.

Focus on job quality, forget speed. Process each calf to the best of your ability -- a cool, fully viable dose into every calf, delivered from a clean syringe and through a sharp needle.