We use needles every day to prevent disease through vaccination and treat sick animals, but they are so small and seemingly insignificant we forget that reusing them can have a sharp impact on the biosecurity and spread of disease within or between herds. Here’s a review on the do’s and don’ts of needle use on the farm.
DO give each product its own syringe and needle. Mixed products could cause tissue damage at the injection site, and a vaccine residue in the syringe could inactivate another product. Use a sharpie or tape to identify syringes and store the syringe in a clean syringe case taped to the bottle it goes with.
DO use a new needle for each new sick animal. The animal already has an infection; don’t risk making it worse by treating her with a needle contaminated by a different sick animal.
DO use a clean injection site. Injecting in a spot that’s wet, muddy or covered in manure increases the risk of infection.
DON’T go back into a vaccine or medicine bottle with a needle once it has been used on an animal. If the animal has an infection or the needle is dirty, the entire bottle is now contaminated and can infect all subsequent animals treated or vaccinated from that bottle.
On those same lines, DON’T leave a needle (with or without a syringe attached) stuck in a bottle for storage. The inside of that bottle is sterile and leaving a dirty needle inside contaminates everything. Since you’re changing needles between animals anyway, there’s no need to keep it.
DO change needles frequently for vaccines or hormones, every 10-15 animals. There are many diseases that are transmitted through needles: bovine leukosis (the cancer-causing virus), BVD, bluetongue, anaplasmosis, caprine arthritis and encephalitis, cryptosporidiosis, strangles, ringworm, clostridial diseases like blackleg, caseous lymphadenitis and many foreign animal diseases. Changing needles often reduces the risk of passing along disease to every single animal.
DON’T use a dull needle! Needles do get dull or develop micro-bends in the tip and become difficult to use. If the needle doesn’t slide through the skin and muscle easily, time for a new one.
DO change a needle right away if it is dropped, scraped or bent. A bent needle has a high risk of breaking at that bend, and fishing a broken needle out of the muscle of a crazy animal (it’s the crazy ones that break them) is not good for her and not something your vet wants to do.
DO put your discarded needles in a sharps container for proper disposal. RVVC can get you one.
Don’t forget, needles are cheap and are meant to be disposable! An 18g by 1in needle is only 16 cents at RVVC. Even if things are tight, frequent needle changes to ensure the health of your herd is worth investing those pennies.