The calendar has rolled over to September and at times, the weather feels like fall.

In the cattle industry, the fall means weaning, preconditioning, working cattle and moving to new pastures. Most weaning and preconditioning processes utilize some sort of vaccine. The purpose of vaccines is to help animal’s immune system develop the ability to fight disease.

Vaccination is a commonly used practice; however, each operation has a different vaccination plan. Regardless of the intensity of a herd health plan, vaccines can be a costly addition to a cattle budget. The effectiveness of vaccines will vary depending on several factors, including product type, animal stress level, environmental conditions and handling. Due to the cost, it is important to handle the vaccines properly so they can effectively do their job once in the animal.

Vaccine handling and storage is very important. According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), biological products (vaccines) should be stored at 35 degrees F to 46degrees F, unless the nature of the product makes storing at a different temperature advisable. This means that temperature should not vary, whether at chute side or under refrigeration. Vaccines also should be kept out of the sun. A vaccine cooler can help keep vaccines at a constant temperature while using them chute side or out in the pasture. This cooler comes in a variety of designs but a particular design I have utilized is modified for syringes with PVC pipe inserts. For OSU’s tutorial on how to build your own vaccine cooler, visit www.facts.okstate.edu and search for Chute Side Vaccine Cooler.

While some may consider handling the only time vaccines should be monitored, down-time storage also should be considered. Most producers rely on some sort of refrigerator in a shop or barn to keep various supplies such as medications and vaccines cool. We assume they are cool and maintaining the proper temperature — are we right to accept this? In a study to determine the reliability of refrigerators, researchers at several universities found that less than half refrigerators tested stayed within the acceptable temperature limit 95% of the time. Location, age and cleanliness of the refrigerator will affects its ability to maintain proper temperature.

Knowing this, producers should place a thermometer in the refrigerators where vaccines are stored to be sure the temperature remains at acceptable limits.

Always consider the expiration date on the bottle. If you are like me, time goes by so fast and it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time a product has been stored. For products that require mixing such as modified live vaccines, only mix what will be used within one hour.

Needle use and vaccine placement also is essential to vaccine use. Disposable needles are just that — disposable. Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Guidelines provides guidance on needle use.

Use the smallest gauge needle required for the job but large enough to avoid bent needles. When possible, select injectable products that can be given subcutaneously or intravenously and always inject ahead of the shoulder in the neck region. Change needles when dull or every 10 to 15 injections.

A high number of bent needles may be a sign that animals are not properly restrained. Needles and syringes should not be cleaned with disinfectants as they kill the biological agents within the vaccine. Rather, wash all syringes and transfer needles in near boiling water (180 degrees) and let them air dry. For more information about needles and vaccine use, check out BQA online at www.bqa.org.

I hope you take some of these tips into consideration before working calves this fall. For more information about vaccine handling, contact your local county OSU Extension educator.

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Zook is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area livestock specialist.

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