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West: Taking care of your vaccination equipment

Carmen Willmore for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2022

Reusable multidose syringes are a great tool for many farms and ranches to use when processing cattle. These can be used to work cattle quickly and efficiently, reducing the number of times you must refill a syringe.

However, there have been many discussions on how to effectively store and sanitize such equipment so that the vaccine administered is still effective.

The first rule in reusable syringe care is to not use soap on the inside of the barrel. When washing the syringe, you can clean any manure, dust, etc. off the outside of the barrel using soap. Once you remove the plunger and clean the inside where the vaccine will be making contact, there should be no soap or detergent used. To clean the inside barrel of the syringe, you should use distilled water.

If it is a plastic syringe, you can fill the barrel with distilled water, wrap it loosely with five to six wet paper towels and place it inside an open freezer plastic bag. You can then place the bag with the wrapped syringe into a microwave, and heat it for five minutes on high.

If your syringe has metal parts, you will have to sanitize it by pulling boiling water into the barrel a minimum of three times or until it runs clear. Again, never allow soap or detergent into the inside of your syringe barrel as it will render your modified-live vaccines useless. Also, mark syringes that are used for antibiotics separately from those used for vaccination, as it is nearly impossible to remove antibiotic residue from syringe surfaces.

Another rule to follow is replacing your o-rings regularly. You don’t want to get out to the field to do your weaning vaccination program with a syringe that can’t hold the vaccine in it. Also, remember to calibrate your syringe before loading it with vaccine. This can be done using distilled water, starting at the smallest setting and using a single-use syringe to double check the amount.

When vaccinating, needles should be replaced at minimum every time the syringe is refilled. When you refill the syringe, you should be using a clean needle to pull vaccine from the bottle. Needles should also be replaced anytime they get bent or you feel resistance when injecting.

After you have sanitized your syringes, they should be stored in a clean, dry area in a bag that allows airflow out but doesn’t let dust inside. If needed, they can also be stored in a deep freezer, but before use they should be given time to come up to room temperature. Taking care of your vaccination equipment will help ensure that the vaccines and other medications you are administering are at their highest effectiveness for your livestock.  end mark

Carmen Willmore
  • Carmen Willmore

  • Extension Educator
  • University of Idaho Extension – Lincoln County
  • Email Carmen Willmore