Dairy Focus: Store animal health products properly

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If your beverage refrigerator isn't keeping that drink as cold as your palate might prefer, then ask yourself, "Is the fridge that stores my animal health products keeping its cool?"

With the continuing heat wave affecting most of the country, now is a good time to double-check before it is too late. Animal health products can lose their effectiveness if they aren't stored properly.

The ideal location for a storage unit is a clean, dry, frost-free area such as a farm office or utility room. The storage unit should protect products from changes in temperature, sunlight, dust, moisture, animals and insects. Storing animal health products at the correct temperature is one key aspect of quality assurance programs.

Many products should be refrigerated at 35 to 45 F, with some exceptions based on the unique nature of each product.

Products should be protected from temperature extremes and fluctuations because these may alter the products' chemical structure and reduce potency, shelf life and safety. For example, vaccines containing modified live organisms will have markedly reduced effectiveness if stored at room temperature.

Most antibiotic preparations are heat-sensitive. Store these products in a refrigerator at a temperature between 36 and 46 F to maintain potency.

Many other products require storage in a cool (below 60 F) but nonrefrigerated location. Product labels will indicate an acceptable storage temperature.

Product decomposition may result from exposure to light. Manufacturers package light-sensitive products such as the injectable tetracyclines in light-resistant containers such as colored glass bottles. This reduces the loss of potency due to light. Store these and other products in a light-proof storage unit.

Most farms do a good job of keeping products refrigerated, but how often are those refrigerators checked to be sure the temperature is in the right range? A study University of Arkansas scientists conducted and reported on in the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association newsletter revealed that most farms' refrigerators did not meet the recommendations.

How did they determine that? Temperatures were recorded at 10-minute intervals in 191 refrigerators representing all styles and ages, from less than five to more than 15 years old, in a variety of environments from kitchens to the area near cattle-handling facilities.

The study found only 27 percent of refrigerators maintained a temperature between 35 and 45 F during more than 95 percent of the 48-hour test period (the goal listed in the beef quality assurance guidelines). Even worse, 24 percent of refrigerators maintained that temperature for less than 5 percent of the test period.

Refrigerator type and age did not affect the ability to keep a constant temperature, but location was important. Refrigerators in temperature-controlled environments maintained the optimum coolness range better.

So, have you checked the temperature in your refrigerator lately? The thermostat may need to be adjusted, or perhaps you need to do some general maintenance.

Here are a few pointers for improving refrigerator performance:

* Vacuum vents and coils. Dusty coils have to work harder to cool the refrigerator.

* Clean the drip pan beneath the refrigerator.

* Clean the drain of automatic-defrost models. To clear the drain tube, remove the stopper and insert a pipe cleaner into the opening; flush with soapy water, then empty and clean the pan.

* Wash gaskets that seal the doors with soapy water. Occasionally test gasket condition by attempting to slide a sheet of paper between the seal and the refrigerator wall. If the paper slips in, the seal is not tight enough, and the gasket needs to be replaced.

* Do not position a refrigerator or freezer in direct contact with hot appliances because this will make the compressor work harder.

* Regularly defrost manual-defrost freezers to keep frost buildup under 0.25 inch.

To prevent treatment errors with animal health products, store the products approved for use in lactating (milking) cows on a separate shelf in the storage unit from those for dry cows. Label the shelves to help maintain an organized storage unit.

Store products other than antibiotics, such as wound dressings and injectable vitamins, on a third shelf along with needles and other instruments used in the treatment of animals. However, food and beverage items cannot be stored in the same refrigerator as the medicinal products, so don't combine them.

And, when you grab that next "cool one," remember to check the operation of those other refrigerators. Get a reliable thermometer and check that all- important cooler storing your meds and supplemental injectable products.

Source: J.W. Schroeder, Dairy Specialist


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