PRODUCT HANDLING IS CRITICAL TO HERD HEALTH SUCCESS

by: Meredyth Jones, DVM,
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine


The cow-calf production unit is the basis for the entire beef industry. The production of quality calves requires strict attention to the health of all calves, cows and bulls in the facility. Our goal is to use animal health products, such as vaccines, dewormers and medications to reduce the incidence overall and reduce the impact of disease on animal welfare and production.

Working cattle is a quality-, not quantity-, driven task. A tremendous amount of financial and time resources goes in to administering products to protect animal health, and care should be taken to ensure we receive the maximum return on our investment by properly managing the animals and animal health procedures.

Product Handling

Heat, cold, light and dirt all have negative effects on the integrity of animal health products. Processing areas are tough places to keep clean, and working cattle in the Gulf Coast region nearly guarantees sunshine and heat. Freezing can damage products as well.

Consider purchasing or making a syringe cooler. Making one can be as simple as cutting holes to accommodate syringe barrels in the top or side of a cooler as a place to place syringes between animals. Ice packs in the cooler help complete the protection of the syringes and product from light, dirt and heat.

Modified live vaccines are particularly sensitive to environmental conditions. As a rule of thumb, if you need to reconstitute a powder and liquid component to use the vaccine, it is a modified live product. The most common modified live vaccines used on cow-calf operations contain altered live virus particles and stimulate a strong immune response, but proper handling of these products is absolutely necessary for successful immune response of the calves.

These products work by a small amount of replication after injection to stimulate the immune system. If the viruses die, they will not be able to replicate and stimulate an immune response.

Once the products are mixed, precautions should be taken to prevent premature death of the viruses. Mixed product is only viable for 60 to 90 minutes after combining liquid and powder. Any unused product at the end of this time should be discarded. Only mix the amount of vaccine that can be used in one hour. This is where your syringe cooler comes in. It will hold your filled syringes and your product that is mixed, but not currently in the syringe.

Disposable and reusable syringes are both acceptable for use with animal health products but both must be cared for properly - they have valuable cargo. There are special considerations for cleaning of vaccine syringes between use as modified live vaccines are killed by disinfectants. If you are using reusable syringes, one should be marked clearly to always be used for modified live vaccines so that it is never cleaned with disinfectants. Following are specific recommendations for care of veterinary syringes.

General Guidelines for Managing Veterinary Syringes:

1) Reusable syringes should be cleaned and maintenance performed after each day of usage or prior to use with a different injectable product.

2) Sterile disposable syringes can be used for one time use for animal treatments.

3) Syringe maintenance should occur in a clean, sanitary work area free from blowing dust and contaminants.

4) Prior to processing, the operator should thoroughly wash and rinse his hands and arms to remove potential contaminants. Antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer residue, for example, can inactivate modified live vaccines.

5) Syringes should be visually evaluated• after cleaning and prior to use -- if they show signs of organic debris, they should be re-cleaned.

6) Labeling of reusable syringes by color coding or type is a good tool to ensure that syringes used for modified live vaccines are not accidentally mishandled.

7) Soap or disinfectant should not be used on internal components of syringes used for modified live vaccines. The residues may inactivate the vaccine even if the syringe is completely dry prior to use.

Syringe Cleaning Guidelines:

1) Clean the external syringe surface with hot tap water, soap and a brush to remove all visible debris.

2) Disassemble syringes and wash internal syringe parts with clean, hot tap water (do not use soap or disinfectant).

3) Boil internal syringe parts in deionized or distilled water for 5 minutes.

4) Use a small amount of clean vegetable oil or syringe lubricant for rubber components

5) Reassemble syringes.

6) Rinse internal parts of syringe with hot water greater than 1800 F three to five times. This also applies to automatically filling syringes.

  a.) Boil water in a cup in the microwave and pull the hot water into the syringe and expel for three to five repetitions.

  b.) When completed, remove as much of the water as possible from the syringe by moving the plunger back and forth.

  c.) Be sure to let the syringe cool prior to usage - residual heat will also inactivate modified live vaccines.

7) Store the syringe in a clean, dry location prior to next use.

Vaccine Transfer Needle (for Reconstitution of Modified Live Vaccines) Care:

1) These needles should be rinsed in hot tap water (no soap or disinfectant) .

2) The needle should then be placed in boiling de-ionized or distilled water for 5 minutes.

Product Administration

Finally, injection technique influences product efficacy. All injections should be administered in accordance with Beef Quality Assurance guidelines in approved injection locations. The neck is the preferred site for all injections and the hindquarters should always be avoided. All products should be administered following label directions regarding dose and route of administration. If given the choice on the label between intramuscular and subcutaneous administration, injections should be given subcutaneously.

Needles should be changed a minimum of every 10 animals or anytime a needle bends or burrs. Ideally, a new needle should be used for every animal. If a needle bends, it should not be straightened to be used again as the spot of the bend is prone to breakage. Broken needles should be recorded on the processing record and if the needle was broken in the animal, the piece should be removed immediately via surgical means. If the needle cannot be located, a note should be made that the animal never be slaughtered for consumption. Care should also be taken to avoid injecting animals through areas of manure or mud that may be on the hide.

A lot of time, effort and cost go into developing and executing a quality herd health plan. Be sure to make the extra effort to ensure that cattle facilities and handling minimize stress on the cattle and allow their immune system to function at its maximum potential and that product handling is done in such a way that the product is able to do everything it was designed to do. The reward will come with healthy, productive cattle that meet and exceed the needs of your enterprise and the industry.







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