Proper Calf Injections

As spring work begins with new calves, be sure that family members and hired labor are trained on how to give the animals vaccines. It’s important to read the product label and understand how it’s administered. Subcutaneous means under the skin, and intramuscular means in the muscle.

Dr. George Barrington is a veterinarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. He says a vaccine’s effectiveness depends on getting it into the proper tissue at the right location and concentration.

"The majority of time we try to go subcutaneously around the neck, and that’s for a number of reasons. One, it tends to be absorbed better. Two, it tends to be away from higher quality cuts of meat," says Barrington. "The majority of products now are formulated so that a subcutaneous administration is utilized, and again that has to do with beef quality assurance, or meat quality assurance."

Springtime means mud and energetic calves can be coated with it. Barrington recommends cleaning the injection area so you’re not putting mud and fecal material into the injection site.

The size of the vaccine needle depends on the viscosity of the fluid going through it.

"For example, if the product’s really viscous, you can use a smaller needle but you’re going to have to be there for an extended period of time just trying to get it to go through the needle,"  he says. "So, it’s kind of a trade-off. A bigger needle is going to get more of a reaction, yet at the same time you’re not going to have to prolong the event."

Also make sure the animal is properly restrained. You want the injection to go into the calf’s skin, not yours.