Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Spring clean your vet cabinet

Tyler Majerus for Progressive Dairy Published on 11 June 2020

As dairy producers continue to look for ways to cut expenses, animal health programs often come under intense scrutiny. Is this vaccine necessary? Are there cheaper alternatives? How can we reduce the vet bill?

These are all good questions for your veterinarian, and regularly evaluating your dairy’s protocols is a good idea even in the best economic times. While cutting back on vaccinations or treatments can be a quick way to save money, the average dairy simply doesn’t have many luxuries left in its animal health programs. If a product or service is still in the budget, odds are it’s essential or economically prudent. Despite this, there are still some areas where most dairies can look to make improvements that impact the bottom line.



A review of your purchase history can reveal inefficiencies in product use. Does the amount of product purchased in the past year align with the expected use rates for your herd size and protocols? If not, why? Too little might mean treatments aren’t being performed, while too much indicates waste or loss. If there are discrepancies, discuss them with farm staff. This is a good time to review protocols with team members and give them the opportunity to suggest changes or ask questions. Improving protocol compliance results in better animal health outcomes and returns on investment in treatments.

Is the area where your veterinary supplies are stored clean and well organized? Cluttered, dusty shelves and obscured labels often lead to lost or expired product. If it’s been a while since this space has been cleaned, take a thorough inventory and put everything in its place, making sure lactating and non-lactating drugs are clearly separated. Throw away empty containers, expired drugs or products no longer used in your protocols. Rotate drugs so the oldest bottles are at the front of the shelf, where they will be used first.

While it may be convenient to order the same quantity of product on a set schedule, this can lead to issues with over- or understocking. Running out of necessary supplies is an obvious problem, but carrying too much inventory ties up funds and may result in products expiring before they can be used. Take inventory on a biweekly or monthly basis and anticipate surges in product need (i.e., a larger-than-normal number of freshenings or dry-offs) to address this problem.

Don’t forget about the refrigerator. Many products, particularly modified-live vaccines, require storage within a specific temperature range. Temperatures inside a refrigerator fluctuate throughout the day and can even vary widely in different areas at the same time. An inexpensive refrigerator thermometer can reveal unacceptably high or low temperatures. Bottles kept in the refrigerator door often get too warm, especially if the door is opened frequently.

Colostrum storage is another common cause of temperature problems. A large volume of warm colostrum will warm the space around it, while other areas may become too cold as the refrigerator works to cool down. If these temperature swings are occurring frequently, your vaccines are probably spending a significant amount of time outside of the recommended range and may be losing efficacy.


Are your medical instruments in good condition and working properly? Automatic syringes, balling guns and oral drenching systems have finite life spans, and most are intended to be replaced as they age rather than repaired. Consider the hidden costs in the form of increased labor, wasted medications and injuries to animals or people that can result from using instruments that are no longer working properly.

The most common issue with balling guns and drenching systems is the development of rough edges that can cause injury to the tongue or soft palate of animals. If rubbing the end of the probe on your hand with firm pressure causes discomfort, it shouldn’t be used on a cow. Other problems, such as broken handles or corrosion that increases resistance on the plunger, are hazardous to the human operator.

Check automatic syringes frequently to ensure they are dispensing the correct dose. The rubber seals in these syringes deteriorate over time, resulting in leaks or backflow. Seals can be replaced on some models, but most “bottle mount” syringes aren’t repairable and should be replaced. Always use clean, sharp needles when giving injections, and replace them frequently. Never try to clean, sharpen or straighten a bent needle – replacing it is safer, faster and likely cheaper.

Eighteen- or 20-gauge is appropriate for most applications, but larger needles may be used when injecting large volumes or very thick medications. Short needles, 1 inch or less, should be used for subcutaneous injections, while longer needles are necessary for intramuscular injections. Using excessively large, bent or dirty needles increases the amount of tissue damage and risk of abscess formation. This is a concern for both animal welfare and carcass quality reasons.  end mark

Tyler Majerus
  • Tyler Majerus

  • Veterinarian
  • Lodi Veterinary Care Team
  • Email Tyler Majerus