Injecting cattle – part 2

Injections are needed for vaccines, some dewormers or when treating sick animals, says Prof Cheryl McCrindle.

Injecting cattle – part 2
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If injections are not carried out correctly, they can cause disease or even kill your cattle. Injecting cattle is also dangerous for you as a farmer, because sticking needles into cows can make them react violently. You can be injured – or make yourself extremely sick if you accidently inject yourself. As noted last week, it is important to use a sterile syringe and needle. And always take a few extra along, as a cow can accidently kick the syringe and needle away.

To fill a syringe, remove the lid from the bottle of medicine and push the needle in through the rubber cap. Attach the empty syringe, then turn the bottle upside down. Make sure the end of the needle is below the fluid level in the bottle, or you’ll suck air into the syringe. Pull the plunger back slowly and the syringe will fill with liquid. Before injecting, hold the syringe with the needle facing up and push the plunger carefully upwards to remove the air from the syringe.

Although it’s possible to immobilise a cow by tying a rope around its horns and ‘spanning’ its legs with rawhide rope, it’s far more sensible to have cattle in a crush when you want to inject them. A neck clamp is useful too, but not essential.
It is always better to put several cows in the crush with the one you want to treat, as cows are usually calmer if in a group.
Dairy cattle are normally tame enough to be worked with in the milking parlour.

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If you’re vaccinating an entire herd, try to put cattle of the same size into the crush, as small calves can be trampled and injured. Vaccinations should not be done on cattle that are heavily pregnant. Some vaccines can harm pregnant animals or their unborn calves, and jamming such cows into a crush can injure the foetus and result in an abortion.

How to give an injection properly
There are three types of injection and each is given in a specific place on the animal’s body.The most common is the subcutaneous injection, given just beneath the surface of the skin. This is used for vaccination, or for deworming remedies such as Ivomectin, and is administered on the side of the neck. A short needle is used and pushed in at a slight angle.

Intramuscular injections usually involve larger quantities of medication. Use a long needle and slam it straight down, from above, into the muscle of the rump, midway between the ‘hookbone’ and ‘pinbone’ of the pelvis or hip. If blood pours out of the needle, withdraw it slightly and reinsert at a different angle. The syringe containing the medicine is then attached and the plunger depressed.

An intravenous injection is given into the jugular vein, and must always be administered by a vet.