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  • Sarah Harris-Christian

Precautionary Measures

Initiating a positive veterinarian-client-patient relationship can allow producers to enhance herd health through effective, proactive vaccination and antibiotic administration.

As the winter chill gives way to warmer weather and longer days, Angus producers take to their fields to monitor their herd. Vaccination and antibiotic administrations are daily occurrences in the national Angus herd. Seasonal changes nudge producer focus to proactive herd health intervention. 

Jessica Newberry, Virbac senior technical services veterinarian for food producing animals, says tailored vaccine and antibiotic protocols are vital for cattle producers. A positive relationship with your veterinarian can optimize treatment measures, she says. 

“The biggest thing is to make sure you have a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) now,” Newberry explains. “Producers should work with their veterinarian to see what’s right for them and what’s right for their area.” 

VCPRs address herd health in a collaborative effort between producers and their veterinary team. To familiarize their veterinarian with their operation, Newberry advises producers to schedule an on-site consultation. Veterinarians and producers can establish outlines and standard operating procedures for livestock treatment.

Planning and attention to detail is key for more than just livestock treatment, though. Newberry says producers should be conscious of handling procedures, bottle size and storage. 

Handle with care

To prevent unintentional harm to children and pets, Newberry says producers should be cognizant of their storage practices. As many bottles are glass, she advises keeping medications locked up.

Bottle sizes, relative to intended usage, are important for breeders to anticipate, Newberry says. Not all producers need the largest bottle to cover their cattle, and she urges producers to think about usage frequency to avoid wasting. Information on the label can help producers tailor their plan to avoid discarding a partially used bottle. 

“Once antibiotics are opened or a needle goes through the first time, the label will indicate how long or how many needle sticks it goes for,” Newberry says. 

Another way to prevent wasting is to ensure medicines are stored at the right temperature, she says. Target temperatures for each medication can be found on the bottle’s label.

“It’s really vital to store antibiotics at a constant room temperature,” Newberry says. “The antibiotics tend to break down if they get too hot and if they freeze, that causes a whole other set of issues.” 

Newberry adds that cold-chain vaccinations need to be stored responsibly to ensure effectiveness. Producers should never store vaccines on the door of their refrigerator because of heightened temperature fluctuation, she says. Rather, she suggests storing in the middle level toward the back of the refrigerator. 

“Producers should work with their veterinarian to see what’s right for them and what’s right for their area.”   — Jessica Newberry

Newberry says temperature fluctuation via faulty refrigerator storage and product breakdown from sunlight exposure are two major concerns. This becomes a primary concern when transferring medication from storage to chuteside. 

Specifically, antibiotic exposure to sunlight breaks down the antibiotic over time, she says. Additionally, amber or brown-colored bottles are more susceptible.

Producers should pay attention to medicine temperatures when relocating to working facilities, Newberry says. Excessive fluctuation should be avoided, and she recommends producers use coolers with thermometers to monitor medication temperatures.

Proactive actions are the standard prior to working day, but chuteside, Newberry acknowledges the importance of protecting medications. Protective shells for bottles and bottle holders can be used to prevent breakage. New needles for every new bottle entrance should be used to prevent inadvertent bacteria or fungi introduction.

Keeping record

With herd health as a primary concern, detailed note-taking is imperative to record when a bottle is opened, treatment dates, animal identification and withdrawal dates posttreatment. Numerous reporting options such as handwritten notes, or even computer software shared with the veterinary team, can be used. 

“Do whatever works for you. Just make sure you can access it before that animal is eligible for sale or slaughter — and you’re consistent,” Newberry says. 

VCPR collaboration enables livestock health and standard operating procedures to be tailored to the operation, Newberry says. For reproductive animals, effective administration is key for optimized benefits — especially concerning vaccinations, she adds.

Vaccination administration to females is dually beneficial to the next generation. Female vaccination can protect not only the cow, but her calf, too, Newberry says. Producers should acknowledge colostrum and immunity delivery to the calf post female treatment, she explains.

Protection is key. For sires, Newberry recommends producers purchase bulls with known bull breeding soundness exams, vaccination history, and a good parasiticide program. 

“We want to make sure we’re vaccinating that bull 60 to 90 days prior to expecting him to cover cattle so we’re not impacting his sperm development, and he’s ready to go and breed as many cows as possible his first day out in the field.”

Well-planned response should be predetermined to protect both incoming and already-present cattle inventories. Quarantine and vaccination programs should be used in tandem for newly purchased livestock prior to integrating them into the herd, Newberry says. She recommends a quarantine period for approximately 30 to 40 days. 

“You’ve really got to start thinking ahead,” Newberry says. 

Working with veterinarians to determine best management practices for antibiotic and vaccination administration will give producers the upper hand in addressing herd health, she says.  

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