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Pay Attention to Vaccine Storage

Make sure your refrigerator’s performance is up to the task of storing vaccines.

Vaccines are biological products that need to be kept within a certain temperature window to remain potent through their expiration date. Most of them need to be refrigerated and kept cool, but not frozen. Freezing may alter them and render them useless or, in some cases, change the composition and make them dangerous.

“Producers also need to take a look at where and how they are storing/handling their vaccine while working cattle,” according to Shannon Williams, extension educator of agriculture and natural resources at the University of Idaho. “I’ve seen instances where people are refilling their syringes and the lid is off the cooler and it is right by the branding fire, or sitting in the sunshine rather than in the shade,” says Williams.

“If you are vaccinating in cold weather, as when giving precalving vaccines to cows, keep the vaccine from freezing. You could put a jar of warm water inside your cooler, but don’t put the vaccine bottle on the defroster of your truck!” she says.

“Also watch the temperature in your refrigerator where you store vaccine. This may be so variable that you can’t keep the vaccine within the proper temperature window. When we did our statewide study five years ago, we put temperature loggers in producers’ refrigerators and left them there for 48 hours. These loggers recorded the temperatures every 20 minutes. When we downloaded the data we found that less than 50% of producers’ refrigerators were functioning where they needed to,” she says.

Most refrigerators that get put out in the barn or back room and used for vaccines and livestock medications are the old ones that get moved out when the ranch family gets a new one for their home.

“It may not have been working properly, and that’s why it got replaced. One producer had 600 doses of vaccine sitting in his fridge when I downloaded our data and found that his fridge was not working properly; the temperature was down to freezing. I called him and told him to take the vaccine out of that fridge. It wasn’t freezing things hard, but the temperature was getting below the window of proper temperature,” she explains.

Another producer purchased a new refrigerator just for vaccine and cattle medications and put it in a barn that had power to it.

“That one was all over the board on temperature, because the outdoor temperature had gone below zero. The barn room was not insulated enough to keep that refrigerator from freezing, but luckily that one didn’t have any vaccine in it at the time. If you read the directions for new refrigerators, they are supposed to be in insulated rooms,” says Williams.

If you put a refrigerator out in an uninsulated garage or barn, they won’t function as well as in a controlled temperature environment.

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Editor’s Note: Heather Smith Thomas is a cattlewoman and freelance writer from Salmon, Idaho.

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