There are many moving parts when it comes to owning and operating a dairy – and many areas that need your attention.

Trout jennifer
Technical Services Consultant / AHV USA

A lot of emphasis is placed on managing animals and employees; however, it is important to not overlook a small area that likely holds thousands of dollars: the medicine room. Although everyone may organize a little differently, following a few simple practices may help you and your employees find exactly what you’re looking for, right where you left it, every time.

Read the label

It may seem simple, but reading the label on your medicine bottles is extremely important. This allows you to know where to store it, at what temperature, if it is light-sensitive and more. Treatments can become ineffective if they are not properly stored; therefore, it is important to be aware of the instructions on the label. To successfully adhere to various label instructions, it is important that the medicine room is at a controlled temperature (especially during changing seasons), has a properly working refrigerator and a dark place to store medicines if needed. Additionally, be sure to pay close attention to expiration dates, withhold periods and dosages.

Follow protocols

A copy of treatment protocols should be kept in the medicine room. These protocols should be developed by owner, herdsman and the veterinarian, and followed by those responsible for treating cattle. These protocols should be followed by all who work on the farm, especially anyone administering treatments. Be sure protocols include proper dosages, withhold periods and any treatment identification, such as leg bands or markings. When necessary, have both English and Spanish translated protocols available, making it easier for the whole team to understand.

In addition to following protocols, it is also important employees are recording all treatments that are being administered. Whether you use a computerized herd system or keep records in a three-ring binder or notebook, all treatments should be recorded, along with the symptoms that led to the treatment and the date, time of day and name of the person who administered the treatment. This will allow you to keep better track of your medicine room inventory, find cows that have been treated and know who was administering the treatments.


Organize, then organize again

In your own home, nothing ever seems to be where you left it. Do not let this become the case with your medicine room. An incorrect treatment can send a cow down the wrong path. Instead, organize your shelves into a simple, easy-to-understand system. For example, separate calf and heifer, and lactating cow and dry cow medicines when possible. If the medicine is only for a lactating cow, there is no need to keep it on the shelf in the calf barn. Take it another step and break down your medicines into categories such as hormones, antibiotics, vaccines, fluids, etc. Similar to protocols, if you are able to organize using English and Spanish labels when necessary, employees will have a much easier time finding what they need.

Although you may remove medicines from their temperature-controlled storage for use, remember to put them back where they belong; the dashboard of the farm truck is not an appropriate place to store any type of drug. Refrain from using any medicines that have accidentally been left out of their proper storage temperature for an extended period, as they may have become ineffective. Additionally, modified vaccines, such as ones that require mixing, should be monitored closely and disposed of if they are not being used. If in doubt, throw it out.

Reduce clutter

Your medicine cabinet at home might be full of things you use once a year, outdated prescriptions and old bandages that are worn out or no longer stick. Does the same go for your medicine room on the farm? It is important to remember that your medicine room doesn’t only consist of treatments but also the tools to administer. When you’re looking at expiration dates, get rid of anything that is expired. Did you find a medication you no longer use in your treatments? Toss it. This can prevent confusion or improper use of a medication. Ensure that bolus guns still trigger correctly, gel capsules haven’t disintegrated, and there aren’t used syringes lying around.

Create an inventory system

Check on your medicine room at least once per week, making sure everything is in order. Perhaps your inventory is off, or a bottle just isn’t quite the color it should be. Catch these issues before you have thrown hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars down the drain. Additionally, keep track of equipment and disposables, anything you use to administer or treat daily; make sure there is enough to last until the next delivery. Have one person designated to take inventory in the medicine room, whether it be the hospital manager or a herd manager. This will alleviate confusion and prevent ordering too much or too little of products.

While you are taking inventory of your medicines and treatments, remember to take inventory of secondary products in your medicine room. Don’t let your stock of needles run low, as employees may begin to administer different treatments, to different cows, through the same needles. Additionally, ensure you have ample syringes, wraps, gauzes and anything else you may use on the dairy to work with your treatments.

Dispose of medicines responsibly

In some cases, it may be beneficial to send old or unused medicines with your veterinarian for proper disposal. Never flush or dump unused medicines down the drain, as it may impact the water on or around your dairy, especially in large quantities. If throwing medicines in the trash, make sure they are sealed and cannot be broken or tampered with.

Taking these steps to ensure your medicine room is organized and efficient will be beneficial in several areas. You can save money, time and avoid the misuse of treatments all by responsibly managing the medicine room on your dairy. Whether you are storing medicines for 50 cows or 5,000 cows, it is important to keep your medicine room clean, organized, up-to-date and easy to navigate.