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Midwest/North: 5 tips for vaccine handling and use

Travis Meteer for Progressive Cattle Published on 27 July 2022

Beef cattle vaccines can help mitigate health risks. However, success of a vaccine hinges heavily upon proper vaccine handling and administration. Taking the time to review vaccine handling and use can improve animal health and guard investment in vaccines.

Proper storage: For vaccines to be effective, proper storage is vital. Vaccines should be stored in a dark environment at 35°F-45°F. To ensure that this range is maintained, keep a thermometer inside the refrigerator and frequently check the temperature. When ordering vaccines online, use reputable sources and plan ahead. Order early in the week to prevent weekend shipping delays that could result in temperature changes, which could denature the vaccine. Be available to receive the shipment upon arrival and refrigerate right away. If vaccines arrive warm, do not use them. Contact the distributor and send them back. If you are getting vaccines from a veterinarian’s office, bring a cooler with ice packs to keep them cool until they can be refrigerated.

Mixing practices: Modified-live vaccines need to be mixed with a sterile dilution before use. To mix, swirl or roll the vial instead of shaking. Only mix what will be used within an hour or less. Discard any unused mixed vaccines. Use sterile needles to fill/refill syringes. Dirty needles can contaminate and render vaccines ineffective.

Size matters: For best accuracy in dosage, use the smallest syringe and needle possible. For subcutaneous injections, the needle needs to be long enough to puncture through the skin easily without making it into the muscle tissue. Reference Beef Quality Assurance protocols for needle gauge and length guidelines. Give subcutaneous injections whenever possible to limit retail product damage. When giving shots, it is recommended that they are administered in the neck and at least 4 inches apart from other injection sites.

Stay organized: Check expiration dates before purchasing and before administering vaccines. Do not use expired vaccines. Record the lot and serial numbers of products used in case of recall or other issues. Read labels carefully and keep detailed records of dates and withdrawal times. When administering multiple vaccines or antibiotics, color-code or label syringes to prevent cross contamination.

Chuteside: Keep vaccines in an insulated cooler and limit exposure to UV light. When giving shots, make sure the injection site is clean and dry. Have animals properly restrained to ensure safety for humans and animals. To clean syringes, never use a disinfectant. Instead, use hot water and rinse multiple times.

A quick review of the basics when handling vaccines can return dividends. Remember, a good nutrition program, effective stockmanship and a clean production environment are also part of reaching herd health goals. When vaccines are handled and administered correctly, they can be a valuable component of preventative care.   end mark

Travis Meteer
  • Travis Meteer

  • Beef Extension Specialist
  • University of Illinois
  • Email Travis Meteer