December 2014
For What It's Worth

Livestock Medicines and Responsibilities

Bad example of prescription and nonprescription livestock medicines that have been stored in the open, in indeterminate temperatures and likely exceeded expiration dates.  

With time, research and educational endeavors, people have become increasingly aware of direct and indirect sources of soil and water contaminants. One potential source is livestock medicines that have become expired, incorrectly stored or improperly disposed of. Hypodermic needles and plastic syringes are also of concern for litter, safety and biohazard issues. While these medicines and their accessories are not a major source of contaminants, they do have potential to become a contributing factor through ground and water contamination that then affects our recreational and drinking water.

It doesn’t matter whether we are talking nonprescription or prescription medicines, in the form of pill, liquid or powder. Unwanted or expired livestock medicines have the potential to be incorrectly disposed of by dumping on soil, in toilets or sinks, and disposed of in landfills. Then, via ground, septic tank or public water treatment, they leach into our soils and water systems. Such practices have potential to impact our environment, waterways, drinking water and health.

Used hypodermic needles should be stored in containers labeled for disposal of used needles and listed as biohazards. Then, as these containers become full, they can be taken to a local veterinarian’s office or event accepting these containers. Otherwise, these needles end up on the ground, in garbage cans or in landfills. To dilute syringes with medicine residue, wash them in soapy water and rinse. This helps weaken or break down what miniscule amounts of medicines remain in syringes.

  An ideal storage container for used hypodermic needles. Needles do not need to be lying in the open with easy access.

What types of medicines and accessories are we talking about?

- Antibiotics

- Coccidiostats

- Prescription and nonprescription

- Vaccinations

- Wormers

- Tranquilizers

- Estrogen

- Any type of pharmaceuticals

- Used hypodermic needles and syringes

- And more

Proper Storage:

- In cool, dark areas such as refrigerators (ideally without freezer compartments) designated for farm use.

- Out of direct sunlight.

- Outdoors only during times of moderate temperatures.

- In lockable cabinets or elevated shelves out of reach of animals, children and inquisitive types.




- Continuous exposure of medicines to direct sunlight.

- Leaving medicines in extreme temperatures such as hot or cold (above 80 degrees and below 45 degrees).

- Sunlight, heat and cold alters or breaks down many medicines.

- Keeping or using medicines that no longer have labels, are expired or have been around for more than a year.

- Leaving used needles or syringes lying around after use, or disposing of in trash or garbage.

Potential Resources for Assistance with Proper Disposal:

- Look for local collection events that promote taking back medicines.

- Local law enforcement and municipalities with relevant departments, state and federally funded agencies and programs, veterinarian’s office and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

If you are a livestock producer and now better understand responsible use, storage and disposal of livestock medicines, please take time to look around your house, barn and outbuildings to see what best management practices should be implemented on your farm. Seek out events that take back unused or expired medicines. By following through on aforementioned practices you can insure: livestock medicines have a sufficient shelf life; they are kept out of reach of curious children, cleaner recreational and drinking water, and a healthier environment for the general public and generations of the future.

Sources for Information:

"Disposal of Unwanted Medicines: A Resource for Action in Your Community;"

For more information or assistance please contact:

Dr. Karnita Golson-Garner

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

P.O. Box 967

Normal, AL 35762

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.