Is your fall chute-side strategy ready to go?
By Tim O’Byrne
It’s true. I have been accused of harping on and on in the pages of this magazine about the importance of a valid VCPR. For those of you not familiar with my frequent reminders, I’m referring to a Veterinarian/Client/Patient Relationship. Note, the term VCPR is generally led by the word ‘valid’, which I believe is the key to a successful animal health program.
We’re going to discuss a few Best Management Practices in this article, but first, a history lesson. Kindly refer to page 162 of this issue, a shining example of the outstanding work of our Looking Back columnist, Bert Entwistle. In this installment, Bert introduces us to the indomitable Dr. Daniel Salmon and his role in the creation of the Bureau of Animal Industry, circa 1884, under the fledgling Department of Agriculture brought into being by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. Dr. Salmon and his team’s first major (I and do mean major) obstacle was the eradication of the Texas Fever tick. The quarantine lines were not easy to establish, and tempers ran hot. But they got ‘er done. Their efforts inspire us to this very day.
Fast forward to 1982, almost a century after Dr. Daniel’s historic exploits. On a dusty summer day our T Lazy S crew was doctoring in the old feedlot not far from Beowawe, Nevada. I’ll never forget…I just got done cinching up and the boss says, “Go to the cold room and grab the combiotic, it’s on the shelf up high next to the potatoes”. Sure as heck, next to a burlap sack of spuds was a short, brown bottle of some obscure brand of tetracycline, and next to it was a syringe with the needle still attached. Why do I bring this memory up? Because this, for me, remains the anchor point of my journey into accepting the VCPR concept and embracing it as a winning strategy. Did those calves get doctored and snap out of it under such an archaic protocol? You bet they did…but that was back then. This, my friends, is now.
Come a long way
The best part about traveling a long stretch of road is having accumulated enough miles to be able to compare the place you’re at with the places you’ve been. So what all’s changed since the ‘70’s? It would take 20 pages to list it here, but the two things that stand out in my mind most are; 1) the natural, concerning evolution of cattle diseases, particularly BRD and its complex tentacles, and 2) the astounding reactive effort our industry visionaries have displayed in researching these diseases and implementing ways to mitigate their potentially devastating effects.
So, what that means is, although back in the day we were able to keep our cattle healthy with a very simple toolbox, that strategy won’t work today. Things are too complicated. This brings us back to the valid VCPR. What is valid, in this case? To me, it means the veterinarian needs to be qualified in large animal health as it applies to their client’s operation, and the producer must be willing and put effort into maintaining a healthy swinging-door relationship with a qualified veterinarian by bringing them onboard as a consultant, by allowing them to play a major role in creating an animal health strategy for the ranch, and by committing to strictly adhering to that strategy.
Why this is important?
If you, as a progressive beef producer, were to ask yourself, “What is the most important element of my operation?”, what would the answer be? Likely all over the board. But I think we can all agree that proper and timely vaccinations are critical and would probably be found near the top of everyone’s list.
In my experience, having taken part in so many vaccination scenarios in almost every conceivable situation from dusty branding traps to frozen preg check chutes to dark feedyard barns processing 900 head a day, I have my own opinion. I believe some of us, myself included, need to up our game on vaccination protocol. The likely reason for my own complacency is I’ve never lived through a full-blown wreck.
My recollection of a feedyard I worked on in the late ‘80’s brings that point home. The owner’s son, who hands-on managed the operation, was a real good guy. Curiously, whenever we were fixin’ to process a batch of fresh cattle, he would methodically and calmly plug in the teakettle, disassemble all the automatic syringes and put them in the stainless steel sink. The water would boil, he’d pour it over the parts and glass tubes, and then head back to his desk while they cooled. One day I asked him why he did that. He gave me that ‘oh boy’ raised eyebrows look and replied, “Well, when you go through an IBR wreck like we did a few years back, you learn how important it is to do this sort of thing”.
This brings us to the Best Management Practices portion of my ramblings. We’ve already established a few things about my personal take on vaccination protocol, based on a ton of real world experience:
- Disease management is so complicated anymore that I really need a qualified veterinarian to walk me through the creation of a holistic animal health strategy custom-made for my operation, my cattle, and my area (the ‘my area’ part is critical, because some concerns are more prevalent in certain areas, and the veterinarian is supposed to be our eyes and ears out there).
- I really need to up my level of respect for the whole vaccination protocol thing.
So, where am I slacking off? Three years ago I toured a state-of-the-art vaccine laboratory and shipping facility in St. Joe, MO. The shipping building could have hosted the Superbowl, but instead was filled to the capacity with shelves full of carefully packaged product. Two things hit me during my walk-about: A) the ultra cleanliness of the place, and B) the entire complex was temperature and humidity controlled to the mili-degree.
At that point it dawned on me…if they temp-controlled this product from the laboratory, through this massive shipping set-up, then sent it halfway across the country in refrigerated vans and delivered it with care into the display coolers of my trusty veterinarian, why the heck would I, at the last and most critical stage of the game, casually toss my vaccine order on the dashboard of my truck for the trip home, store it in a barn fridge that came out the same year Joe Namath signed to the Jets, and dip into the bottles with a less than sterile needle?
In an effort to follow my own advice and up my game, I gathered these important tips that can be found in their entirety in the BQA manual.
Tips for a Successful Vaccination Protocol
- A valid VCPR is the foundation of a successful animal health strategy.
- Once the protocol is determined, the producer secures the products, generally in a hospital shed equipped with a locked, dark storage room and a fantastic, dependable fridge.
- The producer logs the product into the system, noting serial numbers, expiration dates, etc.
- The products are stored according to the manufacturer’s label recommendations.
- The fridge is monitored closely for correct temperature.
- Vaccination syringes are cleaned and heat-sterilized with boiling water, then rinsed with sterile water (NOTE: distilled water is not sterile water; disinfectants can adversely affect vaccines and antibiotics, which is why the syringes need to be rinsed clean of any foreign residue).
- During the vaccination procedure, product is handled according to manufacturer’s recommendations re: UV light, temperature, mixing windows, etc.
- Clean, sharp needles are a must. No dirty needles are to touch the product containers.
It seems like I always need to be reminded of something or other, which is normal. When it comes to such an important element of beef production as vaccination and product handling, I’m sure glad to have qualified veterinarians to keep me between the lines. The days of the combiotic bottle next to the sack of potatoes are long gone.