Livestock meds: not too hot and not too cold

Veterinarian recommends a thermometer in the fridge that will set off an alarm if temperatures exceed drug recommendations

Livestock medications are expensive so it’s worthwhile for producers to look after them properly once purchased.

“From a logistics standpoint it’s become necessary to have a separate fridge unit,” said Cody Creelman of Veterinary Agri-Health Services in Airdrie, Alta.

Most producers have separated personal from production, he said. Gone are the days of storing vaccines and antibiotics in the home refrigerator.

“I certainly grew up with a bottle of long acting tetracycline next to the milk but I don’t see that as often anymore,” said Creelman.

“From a biosecurity standpoint it’s not recommended, but the other problem doing that is that there’s usually a huge temperature variation with using your food refrigerator because it’s being opened a lot more. So it’s a lot harder to maintain that appropriate temperature.”

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Accessibility and storage capacity are the key reasons most larger commercial operations have a dedicated refrigeration system.

The two most common locations he observes are in a heated barn and/or in a boot room inside the house.

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“In terms of the feedlots, often times they will have two separate refrigeration units, one for main storage within the office and then another unit at processing so they can maintain quality assurance as that vaccine or product is getting moved from one spot to another,” he said.

A drug’s effectiveness can be compromised because of overheating in faulty refrigeration.

Creelman said every drug has a recommended temperature range. Some can be stored at room temperature within a narrow range.

Others can be stored at room temperature until they’re opened and mixed, at which point they have an additional expiration date and need to be refrigerated.

“It’s a case-by-case scenario if the meds get too hot or cold. It certainly depends on the products,” he said.

When is doubt, ask your vet, said Creelman, but if further clarification is needed, the pharmaceutical companies that created that product have technical services veterinarians on staff who can provide recommendations.

If refrigeration is required, be aware that temperatures inside a refrigerator can vary widely, however.

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Creelman said temperatures can be freezing at the top and the door shelves are usually warmest.

Putting a thermometer inside is the easiest solution to determine where to place medications.

“It’s important that the thermometer is centrally located and that all the drugs are located central in that refrigerator as best as possible,” he said.

Placing a digital or analogue thermometer indicator inside the fridge can sound an alarm if temperatures vary beyond recommendations.

“What we have at the clinic is a digital one. It has a thermometer inside but then it also has a digital readout on the outside. It allows you to see what the current temperature of your refrigerator is, but you can also set a temperature range so it sounds an alarm; a beep if that temperature range has been violated,” he said.

“This is becoming common in temperature sensitive packages so that when Purolator for FedEx ships something that is temperature sensitive, they’ll put in indicators that show the supply chain was not compromised. You can use the same technology in your refrigerator as well.”

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