A preventative herd-health program, including proper and timely vaccination, is a beef operation’s best insurance policy against production losses and disease. But producers still need to do their part to make sure this insurance policy can work to the best of its ability, say North Dakota State University Extension veterinarian Charlie Stoltenow and Extension beef specialist Carl Dahlen, PhD.

Profit Tips: Animal health - Help your vaccines work“You have to look at vaccines as only part of your health program because an animal can’t really respond to the vaccines if it doesn’t have its immune system functioning to respond,” Stoltenow explains. Factors including exposure to high levels of disease-causing pathogens, animal or herd stress, age, nutrition, vaccinating against the wrong pathogen, poor-quality vaccine, and poor vaccine handling and administration can contribute to insufficient immunization.

Stoltenow and Dahlen provide these tips for proper vaccine handling and administration:

• When purchasing vaccines, be sure they are current. Turn the box over and review the expiration date.
• Don’t over-purchase vaccines. They can’t be reused.
• Handle vaccines appropriately. If using modified-live virus vaccines, keep them cool. When you reuse syringes, be careful how they’re rinsed — residue from soaps and disinfectants can kill vaccines. Rinse the inside components of multiple-dose syringes, including tubes and connectors, with distilled or deionized water that is near boiling point. Or consider using disposable syringes to ensure equipment is clean and vaccine alive.
• Be sure to change needles often, as they will dull with use and can then introduce more bacteria. The needle should slide right through the animal’s hide.
• Store and refrigerate vaccines properly. Research shows that the freeze-thaw cycle in some refrigerators is tremendously variable. Invest in a refrigerator that maintains a constant temperature.