When pharmaceutical products have to be used for the treatment or prevention of illness in dairy calves and heifers, it’s important to give those products every advantage to do their job. Proper handling of animal health products is one of the cornerstones of the beef checkoff-funded, Dairy Beef Quality Assurance (DBQA) program. And that’s why your beef Dairy Animal Care Quality Assurance (DACQA) manual dedicates an entire section to proper drug use.

Sanitation of syringes and needles is key to ensuring animal health products perform as desired. See below for DACQA suggested methods or watch a video presentation by Dr. Dee Griffin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Proper sanitation

  • Keep the contents of the bottle sterile.
  • Clean transfer needles regularly to avoid contamination.
  • Do not go back into the vaccine bottle with a needle once it has been used for anything else. 
  • When vaccinating groups, change needles frequently. 
  • When using killed vaccines, keep a saucer or sponge of alcohol or disinfectant nearby, and wipe off the needle after each use. However, do not disinfect needles between injections when using a modified live vaccine, as the disinfectant can destroy the vaccine.
  • Make sure the injection site is clean. Injecting into a wet or muddy site increases the risk for spreading disease, and it increases the incidence of injection site lesions.

Cleaning syringes and needles

  • The use of disposable equipment is recommended and preferred. However, if used, reusable syringes, needles, and other injection equipment should be heat-sterilized by boiling. If any disinfectants are used— including alcohol — they must be thoroughly rinsed from equipment because they neutralize vaccine and chemically react with some antibiotics. If disinfectant is used, syringes should be thoroughly rinsed with sterile water before use. Distilled water is not sterile water.

Needle quality control and safety

  • Single-use needles are preferred. At the very least, be sure to change needles at every 10 head(maximum)to prevent using a dull needle, which can develop a burr on the end.
  • Change needles immediately if the needle bends.
  • Obtain a new needle if the needle becomes contaminated with feces or an irritating chemical.
  • Your veterinarian must determine how animals will be handled should a needle break in the neck muscle. A broken needle is an emergency, and time is of the essence.

Use syringes and needles with care

To read the Dairy BQA Manual online or learn more about quality assurance, visit BQA.org. For more BQA videos, visit the National BQA YouTube channel.