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Quality Starts Here – for Feb. 14, 2011


With the consultation of your veterinarian, put a standard vaccination protocol in place which is specific to the type of cattle and role of your operation, whether it be a back-grounding or finishing feedlot.

Vaccination is one of the single most important elements in preventive, feedlot herd-health management and if done properly, may reduce the incidence of sickness, and chemical or physical hazards in the meat due to drug residues or broken needles.

Vaccination is defined as the process of delivering an antigen that will hopefully result in the animal responding with an immune response. If possible, avoid injecting cattle during extremely wet or muddy weather as that can increase the chance of contamination at the injection site.


Reduced risk of disease and associated costs from drugs and dead animals.

Reduced risk of injection site lesions which have been surveyed to be $7.15 to $9.58 per head processed, or a $15 million to $21 million cost to the industry each year.

Less risk of physical hazards such as broken needles.

Fewer injection site abscesses which damage and weaken hides.


Train staff in the proper use of vaccination equipment. Adhere to label directions for all vaccines. Proper dosage, route of injections and withdrawal periods should be known by all staff. Do not use vaccines off-label or extra-label.

Restrain the animal appropriately to make vaccinating easier for staff and the animal, and to minimize injuries to both. This will also minimize the chance of bent or broken needles. Do not try to straighten bent needles; discard them.

Administer all injections in the neck, not in the thigh or rump. An alternative site for SubQ injections is behind the top of the shoulder blade.

Give all clostridial vaccines SubQ in the neck. Never give them intramuscularly (IM).

Do not use the same injection site area for different applications — change sides or leave a space of at least 2″ between injection sites.

Use the tented method for SubQ injections. Lift the skin and slide the needle under the base of the tent. Doing this correctly is important to avoid accidentally giving “shallow IM” injections.

When giving IM injections insert the needle perpendicular to the muscle. Do not inject more than 10 ml in any one injection site. Change needles every 10 head or sooner if the needle becomes bent, burred, dull or soiled. Do not attempt to straighten or reuse a needle that becomes bent. Dispose of them in a sharps container that has been well labelled.

Keep a record of any broken or missing needles. Try to locate these needles with the assistance of the veterinarian if necessary. If it is suspected that a broken needle is in an animal going for slaughter, identify the animal accordingly and notify the packer.

Ensure separate, labelled syringes are used for killed and modified live vaccines. A killed vaccine is prepared from a live microorganism that has lost its virulence but retained its ability to induce protective immunity. A modified live vaccine has been prepared from a live, attenuated microorganism.

Ensure that the proper dosage is set on multi-dose vaccines. Remove air from the multiple-dose syringe before injecting the correct dosage.

Ensure the proper-size needle is used for the size of animal. In most cases, a 16-gauge, 1/ 2″ to 3/4″ needle is appropriate for SubQ injections and 1″ to 11/2″ for intramuscular injections.

Always use a transfer needle for reconstituting vaccines.

Do not mix vaccines unless indicated on the label. Never mix different brands of vaccines in the same syringe, even if they are used for the same disease.

Mix enough live vaccines for one hour or less, as the effectiveness of the live vaccines can be lost after one hour following that period. Mix carefully and avoid creating foam. Hard, vigorous mixing may denature and inactivate the live viral proteins. Continue to remix killed vaccines as you are using them to keep components thoroughly mixed. When processing, keep live and killed vaccines in a cool place (or in a cooler with an ice pack) and away from sunlight.

Do not go back into the sterile vaccine bottle with the same needle that was used to vaccinate.

At the end of the day, dispose of leftover killed vaccine by taking it to your veterinarian. Never brand over a vaccine injection site. Keep epinephrine on hand to treat drug reactions.

Clean all vaccinating equipment daily, or at the end of a shift. Never use soap or disinfectant on live vaccine syringes. Use only hot, clean water. Syringes used for killed bacterin guns, however, can be cleaned with a mild disinfectant. Use castor oil to lubricate syringes.

Use vaccines approved for cattle.

Keep a record of all vaccinations, including injection site maps.

Plan booster shots well in advance and consider co-ordinating booster vaccines with reimplanting when the cattle will be handled again anyway.

The manual of Recommended Operating Procedures for Feedlot Animal Health suggests a number of good production practices for staff and managers to follow when vaccinating cattle.



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