Vaccines to fight diseases in beef cattle can prevent significant production and profit losses for producers, but the efficacy of those vaccines can be at risk from improper handling and storage by retailers and producers.
If the vaccine has lost its efficacy before injection, producers are just “punching holes in the hide,” said Billy Whitehurst, University of Idaho extension beef educator, during one of the University’s winter beef schools in Twin Falls on Dec. 3.
Two of the biggest killers of vaccines are sunlight and temperature, too cold or too hot.
A temperature between 35 degrees and 45 degrees is the sweet spot, yet research by the University of Idaho in 2010 found only about a third of retailer and producer refrigerators storing vaccines were in that range, he said.
Producers need to monitor their refrigerators, keeping in mind that freezing temperatures are damaging to killed vaccines and temperature variances above or below the recommended range will inactivate modified-live vaccines, according to University recommendations.
They should also take precautions when purchasing vaccines from a retailer or by mail – checking on retailer and distributor protocols throughout the chain – and keeping locally purchased vaccines at proper temperatures on the ride home.
Vaccines are not cheap, and they need to be stored properly to keep them viable, Whitehurst said.
Keeping vaccines at the right temperature is even more challenging chute side or in the corral when producers are inoculating their animals, but producers can take precautions. Vaccines need to be protected from both improper temperature and the sun’s ultraviolet rays, he said.
Vaccines in the field should be stored in coolers at proper temperatures, with the lid kept on and coolers kept in the shade. Working off the flatbed of a truck, where temperatures can quickly rise, is a bad idea. And those administering the vaccines should work on the shady side of the chute if possible, he said.
Hard-sided coolers work best, and ice gels should be kept on both the bottom and the sides of the cooler. There is a drastic difference in temperature with only ice gels on the bottom, he said.
When using modified-live vaccines that need to be mixed, producers should be aware some of those vaccines lose efficacy after two hours. The amount needed for the day’s vaccinations should not all be mixed in the morning, but mixed as needed, he said.
Just as most people take two coolers to a picnic, one for drinks and one for food to avoid constant opening and warming of the food cooler, producers need to have two coolers when working cattle. One should hold unmixed vaccines and the other should be used for mixed vaccines and syringes, he said.
Producers also need to follow good protocols when inoculating animals, keeping needles clean, matching the right size needle to the animal’s weight and changing the needle every 10 to 15 animals to avoid using a dull needle, he said.
“Needles are like diapers – they need to be the right size and changed often,” he said.
Injections should also be given subcutaneously in the neck to avoid shot lesions and blemishes.
Shot lesions at slaughter are one of the biggest triggers to flag a carcass review and cost producers money, he said.
In addition to following proper protocols in storage, handling and administration of vaccines, producers also need to pass down the knowledge to the next generation, he said.