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Cattle production: Where to vaccinate your cattle

Question: On which part of the body would you vaccinate cattle? And what should be done before and after vaccination?

Most vaccinations given to cattle are injected under the skin (subcutaneous). But there are a few vaccines that have to be injected into the muscle (intramuscular).

  • Ensure that you read the package instructions carefully for the correct dosage and information on how to apply the vaccine.
  • Also consider precautions, such as the pregnancy status of the animal.
  • The skin isn’t usually disinfected beforehand as it is when an individual sick animal gets an injection.
  • Disinfectants can have a negative effect on live vaccines, for instance.
  • That’s also why disinfectants aren’t used to sterilise vaccination syringes and needles.
  • The syringes are cleaned with warm (boiled and cooled) water.
  • Reusable needles are boiled for at least 10 minutes in fresh water.
  • The risk of introducing germs through the skin or transmitting them from 1 animal to another has to be restricted.
  • Don’t vaccinate animals if the skin is wet, especially not after dipping them in a dip tank.
  • When the skin is dry and relatively clean, the risk of introducing germs through injection is smaller.
  • Use a clean needle for each animal.
  • The needle should be changed at least after every 10th animal vaccinated.

The best position for vaccinating cattle under the skin is in a triangular area in the neck that’s safe for injecting, as long as you inject within the demarcated area.

Photo: Michigan State University

The 3 sides of the triangle are formed by the front of the shoulder blade, the top of the vertebrae and the top line of the neck. In this area there are no major blood vessels, nerves or bones that can be damaged while injecting cattle.

Always consult the veterinarian from whom you buy the vaccine regarding other specific procedures.

There are special conditions under which it is critical to change needles after injecting each animal – for instance, when the herd is revaccinated against black quarter because 1 or more animals have died from the disease.

Also read: Livestock production: Methods of medicating your cattle

  • This article was written by Dr. Danie Odendaal and first appeared in Farming SA.

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