When it comes to milking the desired results from animal health products, cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness, while ignorance of the label directions is the devil's surest sucker punch.

You think you've got it tough, processing the last load of green, put-together hopefuls for your stocker operation? Pity the chemists who painstakingly crafted the animal health product. First, they devote years to developing and testing the product. Then, they jump through more years of approval hoops.

All this just so cousin Fred's kid, who came to help, can forget he stuffed some vaccine in his pockets this morning, after he forgot he'd left it sitting on the dash of the pickup yesterday. After he uses it tomorrow, you'll be howling how it was a waste of money.

“Once pharmaceutical and biological companies sell their products, they lose control of how the product is used and cared for,” explains Larry Hollis, DVM, M. Ag, a Kansas State University Extension veterinarian. “It then becomes the responsibility of the purchaser to see the product is handled and administered in such a way to maximize the potential benefits of the product.”

Basic as that sounds, there's no telling the money squandered on animal health products each year because the user didn't follow the directions.

In fact, University of Arkansas veterinarians say the most common reason for vaccine failure is that the user ignored label directions. Add the 30-40% of bovine respiratory disease vaccinates they estimate won't respond due to stress, illness or a sub-par immune system, and vaccines get blamed unfairly for plenty of manmade problems.

Sun, Speed and Settling

Even when producers read label directions and try to follow them to the letter, daily chaos can get in the way. Typically, these folks inadvertently crash the potential of vaccines and pharmaceuticals by trying to take a few shortcuts.

For instance, you know those brown bottles? They're colored for a reason.

“If products are in a brown bottle, the contents inside can be inactivated by sunlight,” says Hollis.

That applies to some products in clear bottles, too. The point is, even when producers shade the bottles, but then leave the syringe lying in the sun, all that preventive effort was wasted.

“All modified live viral (MLV) vaccines are susceptible to inactivation by sunlight,” says Hollis. “Sunlight will kill the vaccine in the syringe if it's exposed to sunlight for a few minutes.”

He suggests keeping the bottles in a cooler and out of the sunlight. If that's not available, use a cardboard box, laid on its side with the opening away from the sun, to shade the syringe.

Next on the list of avoidable product failure guarantees come time-saving techniques such as mixing up enough MLV product to last the morning and using spit and a pant leg to disinfect a dropped needle.

“Don't reconstitute (mix up) more MLV vaccine than you'll use in one hour,” Hollis advises. “As soon as it's reconstituted, the viral particles come to life, then gradually die. If you take too long to use it, enough virus may die to make the vaccine ineffective.”

For that matter, Hollis adds, “Keep vaccines thoroughly mixed until the bottle is completely used up. This is especially critical with non-clear vaccines such as blackleg. Suspended particles will settle out over time. And, to get vaccines into suspension swirl them gently to prevent damaging the cellular particles and/or releasing endotoxins.”

As for sanitation, Hollis recommends using sponges soaked with disinfectant in a plastic paint tray to disinfect needles between animals. Sticking the needle into the sponge physically cleans the needle, too. Change sponges when the one you've been poking starts to look dirty.

“Even when using injectable antibiotics, cleanliness is essential,” he says.

That said, Hollis emphasizes that disinfectants should never be used with MLV vaccines.

“It's safe to use disinfectants with killed vaccines, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, but disinfectant will kill the MLV vaccine,” Hollis points out. “Use sterile water to wash out the syringe and other equipment used with an MLV vaccine. Change needles at least every 10 head instead of using the disinfectant-soaked sponge.”

Finally, mixing ingredients, when ingredients aren't packaged together, can dissolve the most sincere plans. According to Hollis, “Mixing antibiotics together in the same syringe or bottle, as an example, can cause an obvious physical reaction or an unseen chemical one. Plus, some antibiotics work by conflicting modes of action, so mixing them may neutralize the activity of each one.”

Different vaccines should never be combined in the same syringe unless they're manufactured to be mixed together. “Otherwise one portion of your mix may inactivate the other,” he says.

Likewise, Hollis points out that water left in a syringe after a good cleaning, then inadvertently injected into the bottle of some products, such as some injectable avermectins, can cause the product to precipitate out. You'll see crystals form, rendering the product useless.

Bottom line, read the label and then follow it. “How you handle and administer a product will determine whether or not it has any chance to work in the animal,” Hollis says.

Proper Product Handling

  • Read the label.

  • If products require refrigeration, make certain they're refrigerated at purchase. Keep them refrigerated prior to use and while chuteside. Ice packs or a frozen 1-gal. jug of water inside an ice chest works well.

  • Be careful. Some products can be damaged if they freeze.

  • Follow temperature guidelines or products may be inactivated. The dashboard of a pickup exceeds room temperature quite regularly!

  • You can't always see physical changes that indicate heat or cold damage, so know how the product was cared for prior to use to ensure it will work as intended.

  • Mark all syringes by the product they contain while chuteside. A piece of masking tape, or colored tape (different color for each product), with the product name written on the tape with a Sharpie pen is ideal.

  • Don't pour injectable product from its original package into a larger container. Contamination is likely.

  • Never re-enter a bottle with a used needle. Put a new needle on the syringe each time you have to re-enter the bottle. Or, use a draw-off assembly and automatic refill syringe.

  • Change to clean equipment any time existing equipment gets dirty enough that it creates a risk for injection-site contamination.

  • Clean and disinfect syringes and equipment with clean water at the end of each day's use. Water from the horse tank is not proper cleaning!

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Guidelines

  • DO NOT inject products into top butt or leg. Inject all products in neck.

  • Use subcutaneous (SC) administration unless intramuscular (IM) is specified.

  • Select a clean area, or clean the area prior to injection.

  • Use the proper needle diameter. For water products, use an 18- or 16-ga. needle. Make sure you have adequate restraint to prevent needle breakage if you plan to use 18-ga. needles. For thicker products, use a 16-ga. needle. Never use a 14-ga. needle except for intravenous injections.

  • Use either ¾- or 1-in.-length needles for SC injections.

  • Use 1½-in.-length needles for IM injections in larger cattle. It may be necessary to restrict needle length to 1 in. in smaller calves to avoid hitting the bones in the neck.

  • Follow label or veterinarian's recommendations for proper dose.

  • Follow label instructions or maximum volume per injection site. Most are limited to 10-15 ml/site.

  • Space injection sites at least 4 in. apart, a normal hand's width.

  • Place injections side by side, not over one another, especially critical with SC injections where materials may gravitate together under the skin.

  • Observe withdrawal times.

Source: Larry Hollis, DVM, M. Ag, Kansas State University

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