Editor’s note: This tip was written by Maureen Hanson, Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Communication Committee member.
Do you have two refrigerators? If so, chances are good that the nice-looking, newer model is in your kitchen, and the one it replaced is in the garage, mudroom, porch or barn. While your kitchen fridge may hold $75 worth of food, the second unit very likely stores hundreds of dollars worth of animal health products.
Michigan State University animal scientist Dan Buskirk advises that, while the appearance of that old clunker in which drugs are stored does not matter, its level of functionality does. A poorly functioning refrigeration unit can destroy the value of medications and, even more importantly, diminish their potency and effect on the animals to which they are administered.
Antibiotics and vaccines should be stored according to their label directions. In general, products that require refrigeration are labeled to be stored between 35 degrees F and 45 degrees F (2 degrees C to 7 degrees C). Freezing is the biggest threat to the integrity of products, because it can cause separation of their components, so a too-cold refrigerator actually is the most detrimental malfunction.
Buskirk reports on a recent University of Arkansas study in which researchers evaluated 191 refrigerators on farms (76 percent), retail stores (18 percent) and veterinary clinics (6 percent). Results showed that only 27 percent - or approximately 3 out of 10 - refrigerators reliably kept the temperature between 35 degrees F and 45 degrees F. He provides the following tips for maintaining high-quality storage of animal health products requiring refrigeration:
- Place the refrigerator in a well-ventilated room, with space around the sides and top for good air circulation. There should be at least four inches of open space between the back of the unit and the wall, and the base should be level.
- Post a "Do Not Unplug" sign next to the refrigerator's electrical outlet.
- Clean the front grill and condenser coils regularly with a brush or vacuum, and routinely wash door seals with soapy water.
- Check and clear the drain tube with a pipe cleaner as necessary.
Regularly check the integrity of the door gaskets. If a piece of paper can slip between the gasket and the refrigerator body, the seal is not tight enough and requires adjustment of the door hinges or replacement of the gasket.
- Monitor internal temperature of the unit using a thermometer with a fluid-filled bulb or bottle. Place the thermometer in the middle of the compartment, away from the coils, walls, floor and fan.
- Store ice packs in the freezer and large jugs of water in the refrigerator to help maintain a steady internal temperature.
- Do not store food or beverages in the unit, as frequent opening and closing of the doors can cause wide internal temperature variations.
- Store animal health products in the center of the unit, not in the door.