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Vaccination technique

Most vaccines are administered subcutaneously i.e. under the skin (not into the muscle) – see Figure 2. Severe reactions can occur if you inject oily vaccines into muscle. The preferred site is in the neck area forward of the shoulder. Injecting here minimises the potential for carcase damage and financial loss, should trimming be necessary.

If administering injections subcutaneously, use a short needle (1/2 inch or 12.7 mm). Set the needle on the syringe so that the open end of the bevelled point of the needle is facing the skin and not visible to the eye – see Figure 2.

If the head is able to be restrained, then a two-hand technique is the most accurate way to ensure correct delivery of the vaccine. Lift a fold of loose skin with your free hand and inject at the base of the ‘tented’ skin, ensuring that the needle does not pass straight through the fold of skin.

If animals are injected in the race, then a one handed technique is the safest and easiest method. Change needles regularly to improve the accuracy and confidence in correct injections and use a 45-degree angle of entry.

For intramuscular injections, use a longer needle (20 mms) and inject at a perpendicular approach to the neck muscles.

Operator safety

Extreme care must be taken when injecting cattle to avoid accidental needle-stick injury to the operator (e.g. when the animal is inadequately restrained and twitches/jumps when it feels the needle). The second hand, lifting the skin to form the “tent” for a subcutaneous injection, is particularly vulnerable and the reason why shrouded, self-tenting vaccinators are a good option to consider.