6 tips for vaccinating your livestock


To protect your livestock against infectious diseases, it is important to vaccinate at the right time with the right product. Proper handling of the vaccination from purchase to administration will ensure the vaccine’s effectiveness.

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1Purchasing and storing
Purchase vaccines from a reputable source that will deliver a high-quality product. Most vaccines should be refrigerated — heat can make vaccines ineffective, so don’t let them heat up to room temperature. Freezing can also cause the vaccine to become ineffective.

Check the recommended storage temperature and use a cooler while transporting.

2Types of vaccines
Generally, there are two types of vaccines: modified live and killed. Modified live vaccines are treated so the disease virus will not cause the disease, but will allow the animal to develop immunity to the disease. The virus reproduces inside the animal and the animal’s immune system builds up antibodies. Modified live vaccines are not safe for pregnant animals because the vaccine mimics an infection.

Killed vaccines are made from viruses or bacteria that are no longer active. These vaccines stimulate the animal’s production of antibodies to defend against the disease — these are safe to give to pregnant animals.

If a vaccine requires mixing, use the rehydrating solution packaged with the vaccine. Only prepare what you need for the number of animals you will be vaccinating and discard any leftovers. The vaccine will lose its effectiveness as quickly as one to two hours after mixing, so it’s important to mix only what you will need.

Make sure equipment is clean and set up a work area that is cool, shaded and dust-free while working. Keep vaccines on ice in a cooler in the summer while working. Always use a new needle to draw up the vaccine into the syringe.

4Type of injection
Follow the label for administration directions. Some products call for subcutaneous (SQ) injections, which are given under the skin; others are given in the muscle (IM). If you have a choice, SQ injections are recommended to minimize damage to muscle tissue. Best areas for injections are in the neck or in front of the shoulder.

It is important to keep the animal restrained and as still as possible when administering vaccines. This helps prevent broken needles as well as harm to the animal or the human giving the injection. Needle movement during administration could cause muscle damage or decrease the efficacy of the vaccine.

Keep good records of animal vaccinations to ensure they are getting effective treatments. Younger animals may require an additional vaccination within a few weeks. Then, annual boosters may be necessary.

If the animal will be used as a meat product, pay attention to withdrawal times. Most are 21 to 28 days after injection.

Sources: Proper handling of livestock vaccines, Penn State Extension; Injection site management, University of Arkansas Extension.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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