Sep 21, 2014
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100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.

Vaccinations or Probiotics?

Jan 05, 2012

Vaccinations or probiotics?

When using or planning to use vaccines for your animals, it is important to first know what you're vaccinating for. Storing vaccines is of upmost importance also. All vaccines must be kept cool, not frozen.

Third, make sure the vaccines you're using are not expired. And last but definitely not least, always use a new needle/syringe for each animal. If vaccinating cattle, make sure that you utilize a "killed" virus for pregnant animals or animals thought to be pregnant. And a "live" or "modified" vaccine for your open cattle. Be sure to consult your vet or at the very least the label for the recommended therapeutic dosage -- expressed in milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of live body weight and length of time between initial vaccination and a possible booster shot -- to make sure your animals get the full effect and usefulness of the vaccine.  

In live swine vaccines, the organism has usually been attenuated, which means its virulence has been reduced; so, although it will multiply in the pig, it will not normally cause any disease. Examples are the PRRS vaccine, Aujeszky's disease vaccines and classical swine fever vaccines.  Live attenuated vaccines have the advantage that, because they multiply in the pig, they give a bigger antigenic stimulus, resulting in stronger, longer-lasting immunity. They have the disadvantage that they may die in wrong storage conditions (e.g., heat) or during dosing (e.g., by exposure to antiseptics or disinfectants) and are then useless.

If you have a "closed herd" or flock, which means your animals are bred, born and live their entire lives on your farm or ranch until harvesttime, many of the diseases that vaccines are produced for most likely won’t be needed. If, on the other hand, you buy animals at auction or show animals at fairs and other large gatherings of animals from who knows where, you’d better vaccinate and quarantine those animals when they are brought to your operation. Another reason for vaccinating your animals might be if your neighbors have the same kind of animals and have had problems of their own, such as pinkeye, which can be spread well past property lines and across large open areas.

The first requirement of good animal management is to prevent the buildup of infection through the cleaning and disinfection of buildings, maintaining low stocking densities and good outdoor environments. Reducing stress through the effects of fluctuating temperatures and the influences of humidity and ventilation on organisms in the air is the second requirement. The third requirement is the provision of good nutrition. 

Restrain 'em safely

When you make the decision to vaccinate your animals, the next step is figuring out how to restrain them so you can safely administer the vaccine. Everyone has their own way of doing things on their operation, but in our opinion you can’t go wrong with a squeeze chute for cattle and hogs. It’ll save you a lot of time and it’s the safest way to vaccinate your animals.  

Once you have them safely secured, be sure you have the right vaccine going in the right place!  Some are specified to be administered just under the skin (subcutaneously) or directly into the muscle (intramuscular). We prefer the subcutaneous administration because it’s less invasive for the animals.

Where to vaccinate them

Always inject cattle in the triangle-shaped area of the side of their neck, just in front of the shoulder area. Move as much hair out of the way. Do not use an alcohol swab or pad; it can completely kill the vaccine when the needle goes through the treated area into the injection site.  Than pull or pinch an area of the skin to a raised position and inject down the length of the raised area between your fingers on an almost level angle so as to go just below the skin but ensuring there is enough of the needle through the skin so the vaccine doesn’t come back out of the injection site. When vaccinating pigs, the ideal site is behind and on the level of the base of the ear, using a 25mm needle at a 45° angle. 


If you inoculate yourself accidentally, you should take the follow actions:

*  Look at the label on the bottle. Does it give any emergency procedures?

*  Read the leaflet or data sheets held on the farm -- for example, in the UK, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Safety Regulations. If these are not available, call your veterinarian or family physician.

*  If you are using an oil-based vaccine (see the bottle label), go to a hospital immediately with the bottle. Such vaccines can cause blood vessels to go into spasm, with potential loss of blood supply and consequent loss of tissue (e.g., a finger). The tissues usually require opening up and the injection flushing out. 

Leftovers and proper disposal

Empty bottles - These should be placed into a plastic bag and disposed of within the local authority guidelines or rules.

Syringes - Needles must always be removed from the syringe, and the syringes placed in polythene bags marked "Syringes Only" and incinerated.

Needles and needle sheaths - These should be placed into a sharps box to be taken away for incineration. A sharps box is a very strong polythene box with an automatically closing lid where the needles can be dropped through and retained safely. It is good practice to cut the tip off the needles so that they cannot be misused. Simple used-needle guillotines are available for this.


Over the last 10 to 15 years, probiotics (living microbial cultures) have often been proposed as an alternative to antibiotics. The general opinion is that for a bacterial culture to produce a probiotics effect, it should be able to establish itself in the alimentary canal, excrete metabolites that prevent the growth of disease-promoting microorganisms, and be amenable to cultivation under industrial conditions, the product being well defined and durable. The concept has been that a probiotic should be given once or twice, after which the bacterium should establish itself in the alimentary canal, replacing any disease-promoting microorganisms. However, this approach has never given convincing results. Furthermore, it has proved practically impossible to get probiotics bacteria to establish themselves in a stable alimentary canal system. Most research scientists thus agree that in order for these bacteria to have any effect, they must be added to the food on a daily basis. Moreover, the use of probiotics bacterial cultures is expected to have the greatest effect when the alimentary flora of pigs are unstable -- that is, at birth and after weaning.

Management review for vaccines

* Check the expiry date

* Store in a fridge

* Monitor the temperature daily with a max/min thermometer. Freezing destroys vaccines.

* Don't overstock the fridge.

* Don't store food in the fridge.

* Follow the instructions.

* Ideally, use a fresh needle for each pig, but change it at least every five pigs.

* Do not mix vaccines or medicines.

* Dispose of needles in a sharps box.

* Clean out syringes immediately after use.

* Only use vaccines that are licensed in your country.

* Clean bottle tops before and after use.


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