Managing, Storing and Handling Veterinary Products

Published on Mon, 01/24/2022 - 12:42pm

Managing, Storing and Handling Veterinary Products.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 Most dairies have at least a somewhat designated area in the barn where all the medications, vaccinations, and veterinary supplies are stashed. In the ebb and flow of each work day, it is easy for these items – most of which are quite sensitive – and their storage to be mismanaged or overlooked.

Having a clean and orderly area for medical supplies not only helps keep the farm looking neat and organized, but it is also essential to prevent damage, spills or even cross-contamination. Proper employee training on best practices can help ensure you always get the most mileage out of all your veterinary purchases when you need them most.

Storage and handling matters
When medications, vaccinations, and other treatments are stored and handled properly, you have the insurance that when you go to use them they will be as effective as possible. The Farm Safety Association adds that treating medications correctly also helps prevent the likelihood of drug residues in meat or milk.

On a more direct level, on-farm care also has an impact on potency and activation. Two of the biggest factors that impact liquid treatments are temperature and light exposure. Modified live vaccines, for example, are extremely sensitive to temperature to the point that they can be greatly inhibited or rendered entirely inactive if stored inappropriately.

And while not all liquid products require refrigeration, even those labeled for “room temperature” still need to be kept in a stable environment. It isn’t uncommon for a shelf-stable product to be casually left in an open barn room without consideration of freezing or overheating as the seasons change.

The negative impact of inappropriate storage varies widely from product to product. Some may simply lose their potency, but others can be totally destroyed by only a single bad exposure. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), liquid vaccines containing an aluminum adjuvant are especially vulnerable.

Proper care and inventory help ensure that all products are kept fresh and usable. That way, no expired products are used accidentally. You will also save money by remembering to fully utilize each product before its end date.

It should be noted that these same principles don’t only apply to injectables or liquids. Topical and oral treatments can suffer the same consequences due to mishandling.

General guidelines
Besides sunlight and temperature, other environmental dangers to medicines and even supplies are dust, moisture, humidity and damage from pests including rodents. All of these should be taken into consideration when reevaluating or selecting veterinary storage spaces. You want an area that is easily kept clean, temperature stable, and enclosed – or at least equipped with closing cabinets and shelving.

The specific requirements for each product can be found on both the packaging and insert. It’s a good practice to keep a copy of each on hand for reference. This helps eliminate any confusion or misunderstanding if multiple employees will be using medications. Don’t forget to enforce an informal “put it back where you got it” policy to keep things organized and easier for the next user.

Proper storage extends to how veterinary supplies and tools are moved and transported. The AAHA notes that microorganisms and contamination can happen to vaccines and medications sitting in a pre-drawn syringe without a preservative. Some components can even interact with the plastic polymers and reduce potency. In a similar way, potency can also be reduced by improper transportation that is too warm or too cold. Handling should always be done using safe, temperature-controlled packaging as products from one location to another.

Always try and use products for their intended purposes as soon as possible. In other words, avoid the pitfall of getting sidetracked and leaving drawn syringes in the truck to sit and overheat.

Refrigerators designated for medications and vaccines must be reliable and stable. For most farm purposes, a household grade one will do, but it cannot fluctuate temperature excessively or cause unintentional freezing. The AAHA discourages the use of dormitory-style or bar-style refrigerators specifically because these unit styles pose a risk of freezing vaccines, even when used temporarily.

A visible thermometer should be placed in all refrigerators storing medical products (or sensitive items like colostrum) to confirm stability. The AAHA also recommends keeping water bottles in refrigerators to help maintain temperature even when doors are frequently open and closed.

It should also be noted that veterinary-use refrigerators must be kept free from any food or drink intended for human consumption. Not only is this a safety requirement, but it also prevents temperature loss due to frequent and unnecessary open and closing.

Training the team
Whenever training staff to do medical procedures, they should also have a basic understanding of how to handle and store all the basic products and equipment. You can supplement this by keeping a list of standard operating procedures near storage spaces. Even if certain employees aren’t routinely treating animals, you want them to at least know where things go and how they should be stored should they need to receive a delivery or need to help someone in an emergency.

Assign at least one trained person to manage and inventory all vaccines and medications on a regular basis. This person can also help you ensure protocols remain consistent and are followed through.

Besides storage, be sure to explain how to properly prep and transfer all medications and vaccines. Part of that should include inspecting expiration dates and double-checking products to ensure it is correct and properly dosed.

Finally, be sure you keep track of the veterinarian who prescribed certain products and have that contact information accessible to all staff.

Managing livestock treatments goes beyond animal welfare and milk quality. It extends into responsible stewardship that safeguards human and animal health as well as the environment. Proper management of vaccines, medications and other veterinary supplies are paramount to your farm’s sustainability, safety and efficiency.