Proper storage of medicines critical to animal health |

Proper storage of medicines critical to animal health

The vaccine gun should be properly cleaned after usage to prevent contamination.
Photo by Teresa Clark

Properly storing vaccinations and medications can be key to ensuring animal health, according to Nebraska’s Bovine Quality Assurance director.

Rob Eirich told producers during an Animal Health Stewardship and Product Care seminar that antimicrobial resistance is real, and that producers need to use good antimicrobial stewardship to properly diagnose, treat and dose animals. Using the proper method of therapy and the right route of administration is also important, he said.

“The key is realizing that antimicrobial stewards seek to achieve optimal clinical outcomes related to antimicrobial use,” he said. “Minimize toxicity and other adverse events, reduce costs of health care for infections and limit the selection for antimicrobial resistant strains.”


“Handling and storage of vaccines and antibiotics is important. Don’t leave it on the floorboard of the pickup or on the dash,” Eirich said to producers. Performing a test of his own, Eirich used a thermometer to determine the temperature in his pickup in December. “It was 24 degrees F in the cab, and an hour later, it was 84 degrees on the dash, with the heater running. The temperature outside was 22 degrees,” he said.

Eirich said that from studying the labels of various vaccinations, the storage temperature can vary from under 68 degrees to 86 degrees F for non-refrigerated medications. “I have some concern about taking the product out in the summer, and storing it in a saddle bag or putting it in your pocket and riding out on the range,” he said. “I think it could easily get outside its proper storage temperature in that situation.”

Eirich uses Draxxin as an example. The label indicates Draxxin should be stored at less than 77 degrees F. “When you look at what it costs, you would want to make sure and store it properly so it is effective when you use it to treat respiratory infections,” he said.

Other antibiotics like Bio-mycin, has a storage range of 59-77 degrees, and Excede is 68-77 degrees. “Consider the cold side as well as the top side,” he said. “We need to look at how we are storing our vaccines. Is the temperature staying consistent, and is it being stored at the correct temperature?”


Typically, vaccinations that need to be refrigerated should be stored at temperatures between 35-45 degrees F. “Don’t be afraid to use a thermometer to make sure medications are stored at the proper temperature,” he said. A thermometer will indicate if the refrigerator is staying a consistent temperature or fluctuating. Medicine shouldn’t be stored in the door, because opening and closing the door can change the temperature, he said. “Store medicine in the central portion of the refrigerator in a cool area where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much.” Periodically, stored medications should be checked for expiration, and thrown away if they have expired, as well as unused modified live vaccinations that have been mixed.

During treatment, Eirich recommends using some type of a cooler to keep medications at a consistent temperature. “You can purchase medical coolers, or you can create your own,” he said. Styrofoam medical coolers that vaccine is shipped in to the veterinarian work well, but a lunchbox can, too.

Other recommendations are to store it out of direct sunlight, and only mix modified live vaccinations less than an hour before they will be used. “If you are using a modified live vaccine and a killed vaccine at the same time, don’t mix up the syringes. Putting killed vaccine in a modified live vaccine syringe could leave residue behind and prevent the vaccine from doing its job. Label the syringe with what product is in it,” he said.

Eirich said producers should also buy the size of bottle that is close to the number of animals they want to treat. “Some medicines need to be used within a certain period of time from the first draw,” he said.


Make sure the proper needle is used for the vaccination given and the size of animal. A 16-18 gauge needle is standard, but if the antibiotic is really thick, a 14 gauge needle may work better. “As the medicine gets thicker, it is tougher to get it through a smaller gauge needle,” he said. For subcutaneous injections, a one-half to three-fourths-inch-long needle is recommended, and for intramuscular injections, three-fourths to 1-inch is the recommendation.

Needles should be cleaned out with hot water to eliminate residue. Needles and syringes should not be cleaned with soap because if any soap residue is left, it can kill modified live vaccine. Eirich also recommends changing needles often. “You should never put a used needle back into a bottle of medicine,” he said. “After each animal is vaccinated, it leaves residue behind on the needle. If you change the needle after every 15 head, the risk of contamination is just in those 15 head, not every animal vaccinated after you stuck the needle back into the bottle.”

Eirich also shared information about an app producers can get on their phone. “The Compendium of Veterinary Products” is available from the Google Play Store. The app allows producers to bring up products they can use on their phone, sort it by species, and read about storage information and how to use each product correctly. ❖

— Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at


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