Hello, spring! It’s vaccination time

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Farm Forum

The snow has melted, the pastures are green, the horses are running… I think it’s spring! The sun is shining longer in the day, the weather is steadily warming up, and people are smiling more. A little sunshine and the scent of mowed grass bring us and the animals out of the winter doldrums. The horse barns have an excited orchestra of mares and foals whinnying and stomping their hooves, ready for their turn-out for the day. The baby calves are running and bucking through the pastures like PRCA rodeo bulls, and the baby goats are scurrying around the pens like a pinwheel blowing in the breeze. What a busy time of year! Spring is also a popular time to start vaccinations. Cattle producers will give vaccinations prior to their herd going out to pasture; horse owners will have their horses vaccinated prior to the rodeo, show, and trail riding season. Vaccinations are important to help keep your animals healthy, but how vaccines are stored and handled ensures that they are effective.

Proper storage and handling of vaccines is critical for the ability of the vaccines to work correctly. Storage temperature of vaccines is very important. All vaccines need to be refrigerated. It is best to store vaccines in the middle of the refrigerator, not in the door, the very top shelf or in the rear. Vaccines will get too warm in the door and too cold on the top shelf or rear. If vaccines get too warm or even freeze, they are virtually no good anymore. Some vaccines need to be reconstituted (mix the liquid portion to the powder portion) prior to administering it to the animal. After a vaccine is reconstituted, it is recommended to use it all within hours. These types of vaccines are no longer effective if it is mixed up and then sits in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

Vaccine administration is also important. A vaccine intended for intranasal (in the nose) use shouldn’t be given in the muscle. The risk for serious negative vaccine reactions is much greater if a vaccine is given in the wrong manner.

Sharp disposable needles are also important. Sharp disposable needles ensure that it is a less painful injection for the animal. A dull or burred needle can result in injection site abscesses or skin or tissue reactions. A needle becomes significantly dull after one injection and the needle tip starts to bend after 5 injections.

As you are getting ready to vaccinate your cows and calves this spring or update the shots for the horses in your barn, remember these tips for vaccine storage and handling. How you handle and give your vaccines today can determine how well your animals perform throughout the summer.

Dr. Heather Hilbrands, DVM, grew up in Milbank, S.D., and received an animal sciene degree from South Dakota State University. She graduated from veterinary school at Iowa State University in 2006. She practiced large and small animal veterinary medicine in South Dakota prior to coming to North Dakota. She now practices at Casselton Veterinary Service, Inc. in Casselton, N.D.