Chute Side Vaccine Management Tips

“Shoot, I messed up the vaccines.” If these words have ever been uttered while processing cows and calves, it may be time for implementation of some simple chute side organization tips. A good vaccination program is only as good as the techniques used in each step of administration. 70% of beef operations administer vaccines to cows and calves at least one time every 12 months (NAHMS). With many dollars being invested in vaccines and herd health each year, it’s important to make sure the vaccines are taken care of, as well as administered correctly to get the most bang for your buck.

Here are some quick, easy tips to simplify the process and stay organized chute side during the fall processing.

Start with clean equipment.

Draw up boiling or hot water into the syringe barrel and dry as much as possible. Periodically, syringes can be taken apart and boiled for a more thorough cleaning; however, some plastic or nylon syringes may not hold up to this process. Do not use chemical sterilants.

Keep vaccines cool and out of direct sunlight.

Sunlight and UV light will inactivate vaccines so keeping vaccines and syringes in a cooler with ice packs while processing is critical in the summer. Low cost vaccine coolers can be made with a plastic bucket and lid or styrofoam cooler by cutting holes in the lid or side. More elaborate vaccine coolers can be made with plastic coolers, pvc pipe and a drill. View Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service’s Chute Side Vaccine Cooler to learn how to make your own!

Label everything.

Label all vaccines to corresponding syringes with duct tape or different colored knobs and markers. In addition, label the place in the vaccine cooler that they should be returned to after every use to prevent mess ups when grabbing the syringe for the next animal. A simple 1, 2, 3 system can be utilized to alleviate any need to remember exact names of products.

Fig. 1. Labeled cooler and vaccines ready for anyone who is loading syringes.

Fig. 2
Syringe labeled “3” to correspond with labeled vaccine “3” in the cooler.

Mix for 30 minutes.

Don’t mix more modified-live virus (MLV) vaccine than can be used in 30 minutes. Since MLV should be used right away and cannot be stored for future use, don’t get excited mixing everything up in case the chute breaks or cattle numbers do not match up with the amount of vaccine that is available. Use a clean transfer needle to mix products and draw up new doses into the syringe with a brand-new needle every time to prevent contamination.

Check label for dosage and route of administration.

The last thing we want to do is give the wrong dose of a vaccine in the wrong method. Read vaccine labels and set syringes to the correct dosage before starting. Also, determine the correct method of administration (subcutaneous or intramuscular) and put the correct size and length of needed on the appropriate syringe.

Other Considerations

Once everything is in order, processing cattle is much more enjoyable for everyone involved. Strive to utilize beef quality assurance best management practices by giving vaccinations in front of the shoulder in the neck region. Proper injection sites are not only are safer for the animal and handler, but also the meat quality and wholesomeness. Lastly, remember to clean everything up and inspect all equipment before properly storing. These simple steps can help maximize efficiency when working cattle, while also improving efficacy of health programs leading to more profitable cattle on the operation.

View Livestock Vaccines: How They Work and How to Ensure They Do Their Job for more information.