22 September 1995

Wise management of medicines can reduce drug bills

By Jonathan Riley

BETTER management of medicines could cut pig producers drug bills, according to John Carr of East Yorkshire-based Garth Veterinary group.

On many farms he has visited over half the drugs have been potentially damaged through poor storage. For example, he says one 200-sow unit wasted £1500 worth of drugs in this way.

He says all medicines, not just antibiotics, must be stored under conditions stated on the label. Most vaccines should be stored at a temperature of between 2C and 8C – above or below this and they could be inactivated. Most antibiotics should be stored below 25C. "This summer many have been exposed to temperatures far in excess of this," says Dr Carr.

"Insist on a well maintained fridge which has a maximum/minimum thermometer recording temperature fluctuations to ensure that medicines are kept within the required temperature limits.

"When taking medicines from the fridge use a box to carry fresh needles, syringes and as many bottles as needed around the farm. Then return the box to the fridge once the jobs have been completed," says Dr Carr.

Exposure to light will also deactivate many medicines, and so a cool, dark cupboard, again fitted with a max/min thermometer, is necessary to prevent drug wastage. Within the cupboard there should be a lockable container for drugs such as prostaglandins which are governed by tighter restrictions. Dr Carr stresses the need to ensure that prostaglandins are not handled by women of child bearing age.

"Wherever medicines are kept they must be locked up and out of the way of children," he says. "In case of accidental injection the farm should have a list of all COSH&#42 Data Sheets and by law all drug use including in-feed administration must be recorded.

"Many farmers fail to appreciate that drugs have a limited shelf life and continue to use them after the expiry date."

In the future, bottles will also have a "once opened" expiry date. But for now, Dr Carr advises that no more than one months supply of any drug is kept on the farm.

Often bottles that have been heavily punctured are no longer airtight. When this is the case, the remaining contents could have been inactivated and possibly contaminated with dirt.

"Vaccinating pigs with such products is a waste of time and money and may do more harm than good by introducing bugs to the pigs bloodstream and/or causing abscesses," he says.

Injuries and ineffective vaccination can also result from over-used and dirty needles.

"Ideally all needles should be used once only, but as a general rule to keep costs down, dont use needles more than 20 times. Needles used to treat sick pigs should not be used again and new needles must always be used on a new drug bottle," says Dr Carr.

Use of the wrong needle for a particular job is also a common reason for the failure of a drug to control a disease.

"When needles used for intramuscular injections are too short, vaccines will not penetrate muscle layers and the drugs are then wasted," he says.

Keeping pigs calm in effective handling equipment when injecting drugs can also reduce wastage and the number of damaged needles, save time, and improve a drugs efficacy.

Alternatively, if administering drugs via the water supply, producers must ensure all animals are taking in sufficient water by providing all pigs with access to clean, working drinkers.

"Similarly, medicated feed requires proper feed bin and feeder management and all equipment must be cleaned regularly and thoroughly so that pigs due for sale are not fed medicated feed accidentally within a drugs withdrawal period," he says.

For further information on use and storage of medicines contact your vet or the Pig Veterinary Society, Grove House, Corston, Malmesbury SN16 0HL (01666-822967).