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Storage & disposal
of farm veterinary supplies

By Jan Ludington

We have all seen pictures on the news about hypodermic needles showing up on beaches or public streets or parks, posing a health risk from punctures, diseases or sickness. We also hear growing evidence that new resistant strains of disease and illnesses are the result of improper use or disposal of medicines. This got me to thinking about the handling of veterinary and farm waste generated from our own animal operation. My husband and I, like many goat owners, give our own vaccinations or inject antibiotics, do small surgical operations or doctor the occasional wound. These practices all generate some form of waste and all must be handled in a very specific way. Proper storage and disposal of farm veterinary supplies should start at the beginning with the purchase of any supply or product to be used in connection with any dairy goat operation.

Purchasing Medicines and Vaccines

Medicines and vaccines should only be purchased through a veterinarian or licensed livestock medical outlet. One should always check the expiration dates and methods of storage and transport these according to their label instructions. Only purchase medicines that are approved for use for which they are intended. Do not purchase medicines for non-extra label use unless done under advice of veterinarian through an established vet-client relationship. Do not mix combinations of medicines unless done under advice of a vet. Purchase only enough product that can be used in a reasonable period of time. Choose a package size which suits your needs. Keep in mind cost, storage capacity, size and number of animals to be treated or the amounts needed for treatment or prevention.


Keep an inventory of all medicines that are used and review this with your vet from time to time to make sure you know how to properly use them. Make a note as to where each is stored and the expiration dates on the packages. Keep a medicine usage record book. This should include dosage amounts, reason for use, identification of animal used on, reactions or any other pertinent information. This should be completed on later than 72 hours after any administration and withdrawal times should be noted. Create a reference binder or file of labels and packing inserts for all the products you use. Keep this in a readily accessible place for consultation or emergency use such as self-injection.


All medicines and medical equipment should be stored in a secure place and out of the reach of children at all times. Establish a designated place to store medical supplies and store according to label guidelines. Proper storage improves effectiveness and reduces treatment errors. Different classes of products should be stored on separate shelves and the shelves should be labeled to maintain an organized storage unit. Small dorm size refrigerators work well for products which need refrigeration and can be kept on high shelves out of reach of children. One should practice good hygiene and cleanliness in both the refrigerator and the cabinet. Never store food in the medicine refrigerator! Always clean the tops of part-used bottles with alcohol before returning to their storage place. Store in a refrigerator between 2-8°C these products.

  1. All vaccines, ones containing modified live organisms will have a markedly reduced effectiveness if stored at room temperature.
  2. Hormones, e.g. oxytocin
  3. Iron
  4. Some antibiotics, e.g. penicillin

Store in a dark cool (8-25°C) storage cabinet to prevent product decomposition as some are heat and light sensitive:

  1. Some antibiotics
  2. Sedatives
  3. Stimulants
  4. Vitamins and minerals
  5. Disinfectants
  6. Dewormers.


Guidelines are set forth by each state on how to properly dispose of medical and veterinary waste. Specific information can be obtained from your state EPA, Public Health Department, or State Veterinarian office. A list of some of these agencies can be found at the following EPA website. www.epa.gov/ejpaoswer/osw/stateweb.htm. You may be able to identify a local vet, hospital, pharmacy, physician or dentist office that will accept farm or household generated medical wastes. Check with them to see if and what they except and if there is a charge involved as they generally are on a contractual route pickup for such waste. Some states have registered collection sites. Wastes are divided into different categories and each is handled in a particular way.


Sharps are classified as any items that are capable of causing cuts or punctures thus posing a threat by reaction, infection, illness or injury. They include needles, syringes, scalpels, lances, blades, glass slides, pipettes or broken glass bottles or vials. Sharps commonly used on the farm include needles, syringes and scalpels. Sharps should be collected in a sharps container. These can be purchased from various places. A sharps container can be made by getting an empty bleach or detergent bottle made of heavy plastic. The heavy plastic is necessary to avoid accidental punctures if the container is stepped on. Glass bottles, thin walled jugs such as milk jugs, coffee cans, pop cans, or plastic bags are not acceptable for disposal of sharps. The container should be clearly labeled as a sharps receptacle and when full should be sealed with a piece of duct tape. When attending shows or on the road be sure to bring a small sharps container as well as bags to carry other medical waste back the farm.

Drug and Vaccine Containers

These are any container that contains or has contained any medication or vaccine. This includes mastitis tubes, topical spray containers, de-wormer containers, ointment tubes or jars, vitamin and mineral bottles or any container that contains any agents that could contaminate the environment with chemical or infectious materials. Reading label information can help in disposal of such materials. Some are very general and some are very precise. Outdated or “use entire contents when first opened.” Products need to be disposed of as product safety and efficacy can no longer be guaranteed. Manufacturers sometimes will accept unopened expired medicines for disposal.

Unused products should never be dumped down the drain, toilet or on the ground—discard the container with their contents. Discarding them in the water will allow for the medicine to find its way into the environment and can be toxic to wildlife, fish and humans. Live or modified live viruses can be rendered non-infectious by simply adding bleach to the bottle. Disposal should be handled in much the same way as sharps. A rigid hard plastic container such as a bucket or a rigid cardboard box lined with a heavy-duty plastic bag and clearly labeled should be used to contain any drug or vaccine materials. The bag can then be sealed and the container disposed of by burning or in a sanitary landfill. Check with your local landfill about acceptance of these materials.

Miscellaneous Medical Waste

Other medical wastes that may be generated on livestock farms often include gloves and bandages. These items should be placed in securely fastened leak proof bags and disposed of with the regular trash. Other waste can include pesticides, and rodent control products. The labels on containers often give very specific ways to dispose of them. This sometimes requires triple rinsing and drying and burying or burning. Landfill sites are often equipped to handle this type of disposal and should be consulted on their disposal. Some communities have special days to turn these products in for safe disposal.

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