Proper Injection Sites, Handling & Storage at Calf-Working Time

Stacy Campbell
K-State Research & ExtensionKSU research & extension
April 10, 2013

Proper Injection Sites, Handling & Storage at Calf-Working Time

The months of April and May are traditionally the months when “spring round-ups” take place. This is the time that large and small cow/calf operations schedule the “working” of the calves. As the majority of the spring calves reach their second month of life, it is time to castrate the male calves and immunize all of the calves to protect them against blackleg. Also relatively new research suggests that in some situations, calves may be vaccinated for the respiratory diseases, i.e. IBR and BVD.

Correct administration of any injection is a critical control point in beef production and animal health. There is a negative relationship between meat tenderness and injection sites, including injection sites that have no visible lesion. In fact, all intramuscular (IM) injections, regardless of the product injected, create permanent damage regardless of the age of the animal at the time of injection. Tenderness is reduced in a three-inch area surrounding the injection site. Moving all the injection-site area to the neck stops damage to expensive steak cuts. Therefore, cow/calf producers should make certain that their family members, and other hired labor are sufficiently trained as to the proper location of the injections before the spring calf-working begins.

Give injections according to label instructions. Subcutaneous (SQ) means under the skin, intramuscular (IM) means in the muscle. Some vaccines (according to the label instructions) allow the choice between intramuscular (IM) and subcutaneous (SQ). Always use subcutaneous (SQ) as the method of administration when permitted by the product’s label. Remember to “tent” the skin for SQ injections unless instructed otherwise by the manufacturer.

Beef producers are encouraged to learn and practice Beef Quality Assurance Guidelines. You can learn more about the Kansas Beef Quality Assurance program by going to
● Read the label. The instructions for handling and administration should be there.
● If products require refrigeration, make certain that they are refrigerated when you purchase them, keep them refrigerated prior to use, and keep them refrigerated while chute side. Ice packs or a frozen gallon jug of water inside an ice chest work well to keep products cool.
● Be careful – you can get too much of a good thing. Some products that require refrigeration may be damaged if allowed to freeze.
● If products are designed to be stored at room temperature, or within a specified temperature range, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s temperature guidelines. These products may be inactivated if allowed to get too cold or too hot. The dashboard of a pickup exceeds room temperature quite regularly!
● You cannot always see physical changes that indicate that a product has been damaged by excessive cold, heat, or sunlight so you have to know how it was cared for prior to use to ensure that it will work as intended.
● Mark all syringes so that you know which product they contain while chute side. A piece of masking tape, or better yet a piece of colored tape (different color for each product), with the name of the product written on the tape is ideal.
● Do not pour injectable products from original packaging into a larger container. The injectable product was sterile when manufactured, but when you change containers there is a high probability of contaminating the whole container of product.
● Never re-enter a bottle with a used needle. The likelihood of contaminating the rest of the bottle of product is high. Put a new needle on the syringe each time you have to re-enter the bottle.
● To avoid having to re-enter a bottle, use a draw-off assembly and automatic refill syringe.
● Change to clean equipment any time existing equipment gets dirty enough that it creates a risk for injection site contamination.
● Clean and disinfect syringes and equipment at the end of each day’s use. Washing them out with water from the horse tank does not constitute proper cleaning!
It is important to fully read each products label, for instance did you know there are several pharmaceuticals and vaccine products that can be inactivated by sunlight. The injectable avermectins (Ivomec®, Dectomax®) are susceptible to inactivation by sunlight. All modified live viral (MLV) vaccines are susceptible to inactivation by sunlight. When using them, keep the bottles in the cooler out of the sunlight, keep the syringes out of the sunlight – sunlight will kill the vaccine in the syringe if left exposed to sunlight for more than a few minutes. Use of a cardboard box laid on its’ side with the open side facing away from the sun will serve as a shade over the syringe.
There are several more important product handling tips and guidelines for pharmaceuticals, and vaccines at our web site