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Antibiotic Stewardship: Product Handling

September 18, 2018

Producers raising animals for food focus on stewardship in animal health and antimicrobial use. We are continually reminded to follow FDA label recommendations on all animal products to ensure the highest level of care for the animals. One thing that is many times overlooked when using animal health products is proper handling and storage. All animal health products have storage and handling information on the FDA label whether vaccines or antimicrobials/antibiotics. Eirich summarized some of the key recommendations for both vaccines and antibiotics.


A VCPR (veterinary-client-patient relationship) and a herd health plan are only the first steps to keeping your animals healthy. Handling during administration, transportation from the clinic to the ranch, and storage of vaccines play a role in maintaining optimal product efficacy. Vaccines are only guaranteed to be effective when the product has been handled per label instructions and used within the expiration date. Basic storage and handling recommendations for vaccines include:

  • Keep cool, between 35-45ᵒF.
  • Keep shaded, the sun’s ultraviolet light can have negative impacts.
  • Modified Live Vaccine (MLV) – mix only as needed or that can be used in one hour and consider dedicating one syringe to the MLV so there is no risk of residues from other health products.

Following these simple guidelines for vaccine handling and storage will ensure the best results.

Antibiotics or Antimicrobials

Reading the label of antibiotics is critical as there may be more variation in the storage and handling recommendations across products. Here are some of the basic recommendations along with some examples to illustrate the variation between products.

  • Store in a clean and dry location.
  • Temperature: most can be stored at room temperature, but read the labels carefully. Current products available have labels that range from the following recommendations:
    • At or below 77ᵒF
    • At or below 86ᵒF
    • Between 59-77ᵒF
    • Between 36-86ᵒF
    • Between 59-86ᵒF
    • Between 68-86ᵒF
  • Use after opening: proper storage alone does not guarantee a product maintains its efficacy. Some antibiotics require a producer uses up the entire bottle within so many days of opening it, or drawing the first dose. For example, EXCEDE® (ceftiofur crystalline free acid) states to use the contents within 12 weeks after the first dose is removed and Nuflor GOLDTM (florfenicol) states to use within 28 days of first use. Knowing these limitations will help you choose the appropriate bottle size to purchase for your treatment needs.

Other Tips and Resources

Refrigerators used for storing animal health products are many times the “old kitchen fridge” that got demoted, potentially for poor performance. It is important to monitor the temperature within your refrigerator to ensure it maintains the appropriate range of 35-45ᵒF. Consider placing a thermometer in it to measure its performance. Keep it clean so bottles don’t become contaminated and maintain the coolant unit by doing maintenance of the coils (blow out dust and debris). Place all products inside on the shelving instead of in the door where temperatures are less consistent. Consider hanging a printed inventory sheet on the door that helps remind you to check expiration dates of the products in addition to monitoring your product inventory. If using MLV, dispose of any unused, mixed product instead of placing it into the refrigerator.

Coolers are great to protect products during transport or while administering product chute-side or other places on the farm or ranch. Coolers should be organized to keep products separate as well as prevent cross-contamination. Clean and dry cooler prior to filling with products and supplies (syringes and needles). Based on the outside temperature, determine whether you will need to place ice packs or warm water bottles inside to maintain appropriate temperature ranges for the products being used.

Don’t overlook the importance of syringes and needles when administering vaccines or antibiotics. Syringes should be cleaned with boiling water, not detergents, to limit potential contamination or residues from impacting the products used. Needles should be changed every 10 to 15 head as a rule of thumb, but more often if damaged, contaminated, or if animals have a bloodbourne disease. Only new needles should be used to draw product out of bottles. Needle gauge should give consideration to the age of the animal, type of product being administered (thick or thin solution), and temperatures outside that may impact product thickness. Needle length is determined by the route of administration (subcutaneous, intramuscular, or intravenous) for each product.

The Compendium of Veterinary Products is a good resource to look up the label information for all livestock products. It is available as a mobile app via Google Play or the App Store (CVP Vet).

This article summarizes the tips shared. Watch the full webinar to learn more about health product handling and storage, or contact Rob Eirich for more information.

Source: Heidi Carroll, iGrow