Six Easy Mistakes to Avoid Working Calves This Fall
Working cattle can be stressful — not just for the cattle, but for the people, too. Before you run cows and calves through the chute this fall, review these basic tips from the Texas Beef Quality Assurance Program to avoid a potential wreck.
By Sharla Ishmael
1. Read the labels first.
Before you ever load the horse in the trailer to gather cattle, be sure you have read the labels on all the medicines you plan to treat with, because label directions can change. Pay special attention to the recommended route of administration — intramuscular or subcutaneous — and where the recommended injection should occur, for example, the neck area. Double check the dose to be given. Note if any booster shots are needed for a vaccine to be fully effective. Be sure all your help is aware of how and where each shot is to be administered, too. As many a spouse can attest, your help cannot read your mind.
2. Be sure you have the right tools.
Select the correct syringes and needles, make sure they work correctly, and have spares on hand to avoid potential problems. If using multiple-dose syringes, check the barrels for chips or cracks, and double-check the dosage gauges are functioning properly. Also, do not use any type of lubricant with the syringe. If the plunger and stopper don’t move easily, replace the parts or the entire syringe. The first draw of vaccine will provide all the lubricant needed.
Plastic syringes are accurate for a single-dose delivery and, of course, it’s best to match the syringe size to the dose needed for an individual animal.
Instruct all help to never put a used needle into a bottle when drawing more medicine. Changing needles helps to avoid contamination of what’s left in the bottle.
3. Keep it cool.
If your vaccines aren’t handled properly, they will not be effective. Exposure to heat and sunlight can render some vaccines useless, so plan to have cold packs on hand for transporting to the chute and have some way to keep them cool and hidden from UV light during processing. Another tip is to cool your syringes before the initial draw of the vaccine. Put them in with the cold packs on the way to the pens. Then do not leave them laying out in the sun between animals. If something happens to delay things, put them back in a cooler with cold packs.
Some vaccines require users to reconstitute a liquid diluent with dry material in a vial. Once mixed, the vaccine will quickly begin to lose effectiveness. Do not reconstitute more than you can use in an hour. In fact, smaller ranches should buy vaccines in smaller containers and mix as needed. You can’t save what you don’t use, so a larger bottle could be a waste of money. Also, be sure a clean transfer needle is used every time.
4. Prevent accidents.
Unless your syringes are labeled as to what is in them, it’s easy to accidentally grab the wrong one and double dose an animal or refill with the wrong bottle. That’s especially problematic if you’re using both killed and modified live vaccines because the killed product could render the modified live vaccine ineffective. Like most other factors in working cattle, a little preparation ahead of time can prevent confusion on working day when things are moving quickly.
5. Who’s on record keeping duty?
Whether your records are needed for a value-added calf sale or you’re simply adhering to BQA standards, be sure you have animal treatment records with categories for each piece of information you want to document. Be sure the person responsible for writing it down or inputting the information to a computer program knows exactly what they need to record and where to find it.
The Texas Beef Quality Assurance program recommends keeping the following pieces of data — and keeping these animal treatment records for two years from the date of transfer or sale of cattle:
a) Treatment date.
b) Animal or group identification.
c) Weight of animal or group average.
d) Product administered.
e) Product lot/serial number.
f) Earliest date animal could clear withdrawal time.
g) Dose administered (including route of administration, location of injections and name of person who gave the treatment).
6. Don’t clean with disinfectants.
Once working is done and it’s time to clean up, take care the syringes you’ll be using again are not cleaned with any type of disinfectant or cleaning product. So, no Lysol or bleach or similar because it can leave a residue in the syringe and compromise the effectiveness of the next vaccine you put in there. Instead, rinse the outside of the syringe well with water and then flush it eight to 12 times with boiling, distilled water. And, if using multiple-dose syringes, they will need to be completely disassembled to get clean. Store all your clean equipment in a dry, clean environment or even in the freezer in a plastic container, so it’s ready to go next time.
This story originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of The Cattleman magazine, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s flagship publication. Join today to start your subscription.