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Tips for improving livestock vaccine storage and handling

Simple steps to improve the storage and handling of vaccines can ensure investment in medicines has maximum impact on-farm income by safeguarding animal health and productivity.


Simon Wragg speaks to vet Rob Hall of Lambert Leonard and May (LLM) for his top tips...

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Tips for improving livestock vaccine storage and handling #HandyHints

1. Keep all vaccines cool

1. Keep all vaccines cool

Most vaccines should be kept at 2-8degC, as shown on the product’s label, right up to the point of administration to ensure its potency, explains vet Rob Hall of LLM.


“This is one of our biggest areas of concern once a vaccine has been collected from the surgery or delivered on-farm.”

  • Try to avoid collecting and then leaving vaccines in a vehicle while other errands are run. For example, vaccines left on a dashboard while taking livestock to market or the abattoir may be affected by the vehicle’s heater reducing their potency. In warmer weather, vets can provide chill bags to protect vaccines from heat during transport.
  • On-farm, a working fridge provides a good means of storage. But has its temperature been checked?

“A recent BVD survey found almost none of the fridges used had an independent thermometer to monitor temperature. These cost a few pounds and can be used to protect vaccines which are worth substantially more.”

2. Take care when handling vaccines

Handle vaccines with care to the point of administration.


“It’s the same advice as for temperature. If easily accessible, try to take vaccine bottles out as and when it needs to be used.”

3. Make dosing rates to measure

Dosing rates are vital to ensure efficacy.


“Having ensured the vaccine is reconstituted [solid and liquid factions mixed thoroughly] consider using a pre-set multi-dosing gun where a number of animals are to be vaccinated to avoid mistakes.”


A useful reference for vaccine dosing rates aside from the product packaging is the National Office for Animal Health website at

4. Pick your point

Pick the injection site on the animal’s body carefully.


“Read the label. Is the vaccine to be administered intramuscularly, subcutaneously or intranasally?


“Many vaccines cause a reaction at the injection site, so avoid the neck area for cattle if a routine TB test is due or has been done recently. The fewer lumps in this area the better.”

5. Maintaining a clean needle tip

5. Maintaining a clean needle tip

The needle tip is the critical transmission point for bacteria to pass into an animal’s body.


“Ensure they’re kept clean. Multi-dosing guns can be fitted with a sterimatic tip which automatically wipes the needle after each jab. They’re not too costly and typically last for 100 injections before needing to be changed.”

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6. Stress not

Like any husbandry task, reducing stress in livestock before, during and after vaccination will have a positive impact on vaccine efficacy and long-term production.


“Encourage staff to move stock quietly and calmly. Vaccinating in familiar surroundings, such as a milking parlour or a known handling race, is beneficial,” he explains.


“While nobody wants to be handling livestock unnecessarily, avoid administering vaccines close to other medications or during stressful routine husbandry tasks, such as dehorning or castration. Similarly, poorer response to vaccine is seen in animals which are unwell.”

7. Planning + protocols = protection

Planning vaccination timing can be key to ensuring all stock are protected.


“Protocols should be reviewed routinely with a vet. Has your system changed? For example, are you buying in livestock to expand numbers? If so, do new additions need to be vaccinated before mixing to protect the original herd or flock?”


Do not overlook groups of animals such as stock bulls, rams out at rest, heifers being reared away from the main herd, or recently bought replacements and stores


Simplify vaccination plans where possible.


“For example, in dairy herds which calve all-year, vaccinating regularly can be onerous. Instead consider grouping animals, such as bulling heifers due to be treated into six-month blocks. At least one of these groups can then be handled when administering annual boosters to adult cattle for disease such as BVD,” says Mr Hall.


Some vaccines need a booster to be administered later.


“Use a simple plan which can be printed out for staff to follow easily. As a vet there is nothing worse than having to call a client to remind them an IBR booster, for example, has not been collected, or to find it has been collected but not administrated.”

8. Bottom of the bottle

Part-used bottles of vaccine are a concern for producers and vets, due to cost and potential to lose potency if left dormant.


“While some leftovers are inevitable, try and order the most appropriate sized bottle of vaccine for the number of animals to be treated,” Mr Hall advises.


“If you have a 20-dose bottle but just 15 animals to treat, consider which others on the farm may fall within the product’s licensed uses? Always read the label or consult your vet.”

9. Record, monitor, report

The husbandry task is not finished after vaccination. Keep an eye for any stock showing an adverse reaction, such as swelling at the injection site or simply looking unwell.


There could be an underlying health issue which should be brought to your vet’s attention.


Mr Hall says: “Do not forget to record vaccinations. They should go in the farm medicine book, despite often being seen as a routine husbandry task. Finally, monitor how effective the vaccine is working and discuss the findings with your vet as part of a regular health plan review.”

10. Buy it, use it, bin it

Empty, part-used, out-of-date vaccines should be disposed of via a farm’s pharmaceutical waste bin, usually yellow in colour, along with sharps such as needles.


“If there’s no facility on-farm, most vet practices can provide a disposal service.”

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