Goats, Vaccinations, and Injectables

How to Vaccinate a Goat Begins With Proper Storage and Disposal.

Goats, Vaccinations, and Injectables

Are you vaccinating your goats? Goat vaccinations can help goats develop immunity to life-threatening bacteria found naturally in their bodies and in the environment.  

How to vaccinate your goat begins long before the injection, with proper means of storing and disposing of vaccines and syringes.  

To be effective, vaccines and injectables must be appropriately stored and administered. Two main factors influence the effectiveness: time and temperature. Note the expiration date on the bottle when purchasing and before using, and discard any expired vials. Always keep them within the temperature range shown on the label.  

Proper storage: 

Storage from manufacture to administration is called the “cold chain.” Buy vaccines and injectables from reliable sources that have followed storage guidelines. Most vaccines and some injectables require refrigeration. Before purchase, you will want to have a place to store them. It is not recommended to store vaccines and medication in the same refrigerator as food, so many goat owners have a small dormitory-sized refrigerator specifically for non-food items. If you must use your household refrigerator, store injectables upright in a plastic sealing container. Test the refrigerator to ensure it holds a constant temperature and avoid spots prone to freezing. Discard all vaccines that have frozen. 

Any time a heat-sensitive vial is removed from refrigeration, you must store it in a cooler with ice packs. This includes the barn, pasture, and your vehicle as you transport them from the place of purchase. Some vaccines, dark bottles specifically, are sensitive to ultraviolet light and should be stored in their original box to protect them.  

Infectious (attenuated) or “live” vaccines must be mixed before use and preferably used within 30 minutes. Non-infectious (inactivated) or “killed” vaccines and other injectables often come in multidose vials, with a rubber stopper that can be needle-punctured multiple times so that they can be stored between uses.  

Purchasing syringes and needles: 

Needles and syringes can be purchased as a unit or separately. Choose syringes sized appropriately for the injectable dosage. Volume, shown by gradient lines on the syringe, is measured in milliliters (ml) or cubic centimeters (cc), and they are equivalent. Most injectables can be administered with 3- or 6-ml syringes. There are two styles: “Luer lock” and “Luer slip.” The lock style is more secure as the needle twists onto the syringe, locking it into place. The slip – or fitting – style slides on like a cap. The slip is not secure and can separate from the syringe by the fluid force during the injection.  

goat-vaccinations

Needle size varies by the injection route, animal size, and thickness of the injectable. Use the smallest needle possible to reduce discomfort. Needles are measured by length and gauge. The smaller the gauge number, the bigger the needle. Sizes most commonly used in goats are 18, 20, and 22-gauge needles. Short needles, ½ to ¾ inches, are preferred for subcutaneous injections. Intramuscular injections require longer and larger needles, ½ to 1½ inches, depending on the size of the goat. Needles dull quickly. Disposable needles and syringes are single-use. Reusing needles can spread infection and disease as well as cause pain, discomfort, and tissue damage.  

Proper disposal: 

Store all used syringes and needles in a proper disposal container. Inappropriate disposal of livestock veterinary waste is a health and environmental risk and a violation of federal law. Before you begin, contact your local veterinarian or solid waste department for local disposal requirements. Some states charge a fee to dispose of hazardous materials at the landfill, while others allow disposal with household garbage. Are containers made explicitly for sharps required, or can other containers be used? Some will allow storage and disposal in repurposed rigid, leak- and puncture-proof containers, such as paint cans, paint buckets, and plastic laundry detergent bottles with sealable tops. These containers must be marked “Do Not Recycle,” “Sharps,” and “Biohazard.” Fill no more than half full, then cover with disinfectant solution. Add concrete, dirt, or gravel to trap the sharps and seal well.  

Injectable bottles and contents also need proper disposal. You can deactivate vial contents for disposal by injecting disinfectant or a 1:10 ratio of bleach to water into the bottle. If a “live” vaccine spills or is mis-injected, use a disinfectant to clean residue from the animal and any surfaces. 

Administration: 

Always refer to the vaccine label for the route and volume when administering vaccines. Different manufacturers of a vaccine may indicate different volumes. Not all vaccines are injected; some are intranasal, ocular, oral, or topical. Parenteral vaccinations deliver via syringe and needle, and the route of injection is referred to as: 

  • IM (in muscle) intramuscular,  
  • SQ or SubQ (under skin) subcutaneous, or  
  • IV (in vein) intravenous.  
goat-vaccinations
Giving a subcutaneous – SQ or SubQ – injection.

>To prepare a single syringe: 

  1. Clean top of the bottle with an alcohol wipe. 
  2. Shake vial well. 
  3. With the cap on the needle, pull back the plunger to the dosage line, filling the syringe with air. 
  4. Remove the cap and insert the needle into the rubber top. 
  5. Push the air into the vial.  
  6. Keep the needle tip in the vial and turn upside down. 
  7. Pull back the plunger to the line on the syringe for your dose.  
  8. Keep the syringe tip in the medicine. 
  9. If there are bubbles in the syringe, tap with your finger to move air bubbles toward the needle. Push gently on the plunger to push the air bubbles back into the vial. Check your dosage line, and redraw if needed. 
  10. Remove the syringe from the vial and cap the needle until ready to inject. 

>Preparing multiple doses with a draw needle: 

  1. Clean the top of the bottle with an alcohol wipe. 
  2. Shake vial well. 
  3. Insert draw needle without syringe into the rubber top of the vial. 
  4. With the cap on the needle and syringe, pull back the plunger to the dosage line, filling the syringe with air. 
  5. Remove cap and needle unit and connect the syringe to the draw needle.  
  6. Push the air into the vial.  
  7. Keep the needle tip in the vial and turn upside down. 
  8. Pull back the plunger to the line on the syringe for your dose.  
  9. Keep the syringe tip in the medicine. 
  10. If there are bubbles in the syringe, tap with your finger to move air bubbles toward the needle. Push gently on the plunger to push the air bubbles back into the vial. Check your dosage line, and redraw if needed. 
  11. Leaving the draw needle in the rubber top, remove the syringe from the needle and replace the cap and needle unit on the syringe. 
  12. When the last dose is drawn, cap and dispose of the draw needle. Do not store vials with draw needles in them. 
  13. Do not draw more syringes than can be stored appropriately and used that day. 
  14. As the syringe sits, the suspension may separate. Carefully shake syringe to recombine before injecting. 

Properly restrain the goat to minimize risk for the handler and the goat. 

Inject only into a clean, dry area. 

goat-vaccinations

Subcutaneous injections: 

Common sites are: loose skin under the foreleg, over the shoulder, the side of the neck, over the ribs. 

Pull up on the skin, forming a tent. Insert the needle into the tent, at a 15-degree angle, without penetrating the other side or the muscle. Draw back on the plunger. If blood or air is drawn in, reposition the needle. If no blood or air is drawn, slowly press the plunger until the syringe is empty. Withdraw and dispose of the needle and syringe. Massage the injection site. Do not give more than 5ccs in any one injection site. 

Intramuscular injections: 

Common sites: While charts may indicate the leg or loin, IM injections are best given in the neck area to avoid damaging muscles that correspond to cuts of meat or the sciatic nerve. 

Insert the needle perpendicular to the animal, through the skin into the muscle. Draw back on the plunger. If blood or air is drawn in, reposition the needle. If no blood or air is drawn, slowly press the plunger until the syringe is empty. Withdraw and dispose of the needle and syringe. Massage the injection site. 

Intravenous injections: Veterinary guidance is recommended. 

Administering injections is not difficult and gets easier with practice. If you feel uncomfortable handling and positioning the needle and syringe, you can practice with an orange. Draw food coloring in your syringe, and practice the angle of subcutaneous injection, just below the peel, but not in the fruit (you’ll find it easier on a goat where you can tent the skin!). You can also practice intramuscular. Peel the fruit to check your work. 

Adverse Reactions: 

Some animals have adverse reactions to vaccines and medication, from a lump to an abscess to anaphylactic shock. Lumps — sterile nodules that do not rupture — are common in CD&T vaccinations regardless of technique, and they are reactions to adjuvants in the vaccine that help trigger the immune response. An abscess that ruptures is the result of bacteria introduced by nonsterile technique. Anaphylactic shock is rare and requires immediate administration of epinephrine, a prescription injectable. 

Vaccines and goat vaccination schedules: 

Work with your veterinarian to develop a herd health plan. The vaccines you administer may vary based on your herd’s exposure, the prevalence of risk in your area, and your herd calendar. Some injectables should not be used in pregnant goats; others are recommended before kidding. Most killed vaccines require two doses initially and an annual booster. Your vaccination schedule should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for intervals unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise. 

Note the administration of vaccinations and injectables in your goat’s health record. All goat vaccinations and many injectables have mandatory withdrawal times to ensure that meat, milk, and milk products are free from contamination before human consumption. Do not send animals to market until the withdrawal time is complete. Using an injectable not labeled for goats is called “extra-label usage” and should only be done under a veterinarian’s advice. It may not be allowed in food production animals, or a withdrawal time has not been established. Your veterinarian can guide you. 

Goat vaccinations and injectables can be valuable in herd management, but only if properly stored and administered.  

Karen Kopf and her husband Dale own Kopf Canyon Ranch in Troy, Idaho. They enjoy “goating” together and helping others goat. They raise Kiko primarily, but are experimenting with crosses for their new favorite goating experience: pack goats! You can learn more about them at Kopf Canyon Ranch on Facebook or kikogoats.org  

Originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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