Little Things can Matter
Most producers would assert that they do a pretty good job of managing their cattle operations. They implement many recommended production practices. Yet, beyond this, care must be taken to ensure that these efforts get the results that they are intended realize. This means not only doing the right thing, but also doing it the right way. Taking care to get the little implementation details done well can make a noticeable difference in production outcomes.
Avoid the Weak Link
The commonly quoted saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link has relevance for cattle operations. A producer can do many things right in a process and still not achieve the desired result. This happens because one or more critical aspects are overlooked or not managed properly.
Take animal health program planning and administration, for example. A producer can design an appropriate vaccination program, acquire vaccines and supplies from a reputable supplier, place vaccines in refrigerated storage as directed by product labels, and then administer the vaccines to the target animals with the end result being that the desired immune response in the vaccinated cattle is not obtained if there is a weak link in this chain of events.
Where could these weak links occur to make this process a waste of time and money? Here are some possibilities:
1) Vaccine was stored improperly before getting to the user.
2) The “refrigerated” storage that the cattle producer used was not within the appropriate temperature range (e.g., the old farm refrigerator did not keep it cold enough).
3) The vaccine was not administered at the appropriate time to the cattle.
4) Modified-live vaccine was placed in a syringe containing chemical residue from cleaning agents that rendered it ineffective.
5) Modified-live vaccine components were mixed, and then the leftover mixture was saved later use. Once mixed, these products need to be used within a few hours.
6) The vaccination administration technique was incorrect (e.g., the needle was pointed upward when the vaccine was released from syringe causing the product to leak excessively from the administration site).
7) The dosage was incorrect, or a booster shot was missed.
A case in point of this type of weak link actually occurring is documented in a recent University of Idaho study. Only one-third of beef cattle producers’ and animal health product retailers’ refrigerators were deemed acceptable for animal health product storage. The majority of their refrigerators did not adequately maintain the recommended temperature range for animal health product storage. Exposure to temperatures outside of the recommended range can affect the efficacy (effectiveness) of animal health products such as vaccines. In fact, it has been suggested that the leading cause of immune response failure is improper vaccine storage. So, not only were the animal health products stored by the producers whose refrigerators did not function as needed potentially compromised, but it is also plausible that some of the producers with properly functioning refrigerators could have purchased vaccine from retailers with malfunctioning refrigerated storage units and also experience product effectiveness problems.