Always read vaccine labels before use. “Look at expiration dates, injection dose, route of administration, and whether a booster is required. A company sometimes changes the dose volume – several vaccines have switched from 5 cc to 2 cc, for instance, and from intramuscular (IM) to subcutaneous (SubQ),” says Miesner.

To comply with Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program requirements in reducing tissue damage and reactions, the industry is moving to smaller doses and SubQ rather than IM administration.

“Though fewer vaccines are given IM today, always read the label to make sure. Recommended dosages can change, too, so double-check the recommendation and be sure to adjust your syringe for that dose,” he says.

Needles & syringes

While a dirty needle or syringe can contaminate or inactivate vaccine, never use disinfectants, advises Williams, Lemhi County Extension agent in Salmon, ID. Instead, use very hot tap water to clean your syringe gun. Take the gun apart as you clean it, and allow the parts to air-dry. Then store clean syringes in plastic bags, she says.

“Syringes should be cleaned and inspected before each use to ensure proper function and calibration for the vaccine you’ll be using,” adds Miesner. “When you put syringes back together, make sure they’re calibrated properly. When cleaning, squirt various set volumes of hot water into smaller syringes and check the accuracy of multi-dose syringes. Sometimes calibrations can be off, and adjustments need to be made.”

And keep checking syringes while you work cattle. “Sometimes, you finish and have an extra dose or two (or run out too soon) and wonder why. Make sure you’re actually giving a 2-cc dose, for instance. Some syringes may start leaking, and some plastic syringes may crack,” he says.

To minimize downtime, keep extra syringes and spare parts at the chute. “Most producers have done this long enough that they know what they might need, and can have it there at the chute in a tackle box,” Miesner says.

Sometimes, a syringe is sticking and people want to lubricate the plunger. “The best thing to lubricate it with is just the first vaccine you pull into it, rather than any foreign material,” Miesner says. Buy new rubber stoppers for older guns that start to stick.

“If you’re only vaccinating a few animals, it pays to use small, single-dose syringes,” Miesner says. “Measuring out 2 cc in a 10-dose syringe or even a 10-cc syringe is never as accurate. With the small syringe, you know you have accurate dosing, and can also use a new, sterile needle for each animal,” he says. This, he adds, eliminates the spread of blood-borne disease between animals, or the risks that can come from using a dirty needle.

Storage studies

In a University of Idaho statewide study, only 33.3% of the refrigerators used by 129 ranchers to store vaccine products were actually functioning properly 95% of the time. Many units were a little warmer or colder than ideal temperature, the study found.

The Idaho study also looked at vaccine storage at the retail level and found that only 34% of the 43 suppliers audited had refrigerators that were functioning properly 95% of the time.

Meanwhile, University of Arizona studies found more than 76% of the refrigerators tested (at ranches, veterinary clinics and retail outlets) were unacceptable for storing animal health products.


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