Avoiding vaccination lumps

Currently there is very strict screening of animals for live export, and animals with skin lesions and lumps are being rejected. There are reports of animals being rejected because of lumps developing after vaccination, so it is important to try to reduce the number of lumps caused by vaccination.

Most vaccines should not leave visible lumps more than 4 weeks after vaccination if good hygiene and vaccination technique is used. Dirty and blunt needles are a common causes of lumps from vaccination. When piercing the skin, blunt needles pick up bits of skin and dirt and leave it under the skin where it can cause infection. Therefore, keep needles clean and replace them about every 50 animals. Also, avoid vaccinating wet cattle if possible as it increases the chance of infection at the injection site.

Another reason for persistent lumps is incorrect placement of the vaccine. It is important that the vaccine is placed between the skin and muscle into the subcutaneous tissue. Correct needle orientation helps achieve this (see figure below). Vaccinating into the muscle or into the skin can both result in persistent lumps.

The correct needle orientation and technique for vaccinating cattle (Photo from ‘Vaccination for beef cattle in northern Australia’, MLA)

General vaccination tips

  • Vaccines should be kept cool: Insulated vaccine pouches should be used use to slow heating of vaccine and protect it from light when working in the yards for more than an hour or two. Place the vaccine in an esky with cool packs or car fridge during breaks.
  • Use separate syringes for each vaccine and administer at different sites – approximately 10cm apart along the neck.
  • Good hygiene is critical: Keep needles clean during vaccination. If the needle becomes contaminated, either change the needle or rinse it in a disinfectant solution.
  • At the end of each day, thoroughly wash the vaccinating gun with dishwashing detergent to remove residues of the vaccine, especially the valves, then flush thoroughly with clean water. Lubricate the seals in the vaccinator with the recommended lubricant (e.g. castor oil) to ensure the plunger moves freely in the barrel to avoid the gun sticking during use. The vaccinator should be disinfected with a mild disinfectant (e.g. Milton™), but the disinfectant should be thoroughly removed with clean boiled water before next use.
  • If vaccines allow re-use of an opened pack, follow instructions on the pack to avoid bacterial contamination of the vaccine once opened. Failure to do so may also result in lumps.
  • When finished vaccinating, thoroughly wash the vaccinating gun, flush with a mild disinfectant solution, then allow to dry completely. Store in a clean, dry place and flush thoroughly with warm clean boiled water prior to the next use.
  • Oil based vaccines (e.g. Vibrovax®) seem to be more likely to leave lumps for longer. A way of avoiding visible lumps on the necks of cattle (e.g. sale bulls) from oil-based vaccines is to inject the vaccine under the skin, on top of the neck, immediately in front of the hump where lumps will be less visible (the preferred site for other vaccines is along the neck).

For more information check out Vaccination for beef cattle in northern Australia and the Principles of using vaccines and Vaccinating best practice for healthy herds (video).