Vaccines play an important role in beef cattle production to aid in animal-disease prevention. However, when handled and used improperly they can lose effectiveness, resulting in carcass-quality defects. In 2009, the Idaho Beef Council funded a grant in which the University of Idaho collected data on vaccine handling and beef quality assurance (BQA) practices of Idaho beef producers and animal-health-product retail outlets.
During the winter and spring of 2009-2010, University of Idaho Extension faculty conducted on-site visits of beef cattle operations across the state to determine how animal vaccines were being stored and handled. Temperature data loggers were placed in refrigerators where the vaccines were stored, which recorded temperatures every 10 minutes for a 48-hour period. A survey about BQA practices was also completed during the visit.
A total of 129 beef operations participated in the study. A large percentage of producers categorized their operation as cow-calf (91 percent), followed by a combination of cow-calf and feedlot (5 percent) and feedlot (4 percent).
All sizes of beef operations were included in the study, but the majority (77 percent) was operations with 200 head or more cows. According to USDA figures, the average herd size in Idaho is 208, so these numbers accurately represent the Idaho beef industry. Forty-seven retail locations participated.
The accompanying table shows the percentage of time refrigerators were maintaining temperatures in the recommended range of 2° to 7° C or 35° to 45° F. Only 33 percent of producers’ refrigerators maintained temperatures within the recommended range more than 95 percent of the time. An almost equal percent of refrigerators — 32 percent — were within the recommended range less than 5 percent of the time. The size of the operation had no effect on the amount of time the producer refrigerator was in the recommended range. Retail results showed only 34 percent of refrigerators maintained the recommended temperature more than 95 percent of the time.
For those refrigerators outside of the recommended range for the majority of the time, there is a chance that vaccines have been comprised. Freezing is more damaging to vaccines than is warmth, especially for killed products.
Thirty-six percent of producers were BQA certified and an equal percent were not. The rest had attended training but were not certified. Regardless of BQA-certification status, 95 percent of producers were following the BQA recommendation or using the neck region only for injections. The areas of BQA recommendations that could use improvements were in syringe cleaning and recordkeeping.
• Purchase and use a refrigerator thermometer.
• Clean syringes with hot water only. Never use disinfectant to clean syringes and vaccine
guns, as residue left by disinfectant can affect future vaccine efficacy.
• Maintain vaccination records for a minimum of three years. Record product lot numbers of animal-health products, vaccination dates and withdrawal times.
The results of this study show that producers need to monitor and adjust the refrigerator temperatures where animal-health products are stored on a regular basis. Producers need to monitor expiration dates and discard expired products. Producers have done a good job of adopting BQA-recommended practices but should still strive to improve recordkeeping skills. Veterinarians can play a vital role in educating their clients about proper storage of animal-health products and BQA practices.