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Livestock Injections: Needle Do’s and Dont’s

Vaccinating your livestock is an important step in animal health. But it is important to understand the do's and don'ts of vaccinating and needle selection to avoid health problems in your livestock.

  • Don’t use disinfectants when cleaning modified live vaccine syringes. The disinfectant could destroy modified live vaccines that you later put in the same syringe.
  • Don’t mix products. If traces of bacterin are left in a syringe that is later used for a modified live product, the bacterin could destroy the modified live vaccine. Also, mixing products can damage carcass tissue.
  • Do mark and separate syringes. Use different syringes for modified live vaccines and for bacterins or killed products. It helps to mark the modified live syringes with red paint or tape and keep them separated.
  • Do clean the injection site. Injecting into a spot that is damp, muddy, or covered with manure greatly increases the risk of infection.
  • Don’t spread infection by going back into the vaccine bottle with the same needle previously used to vaccinate. If the needle is contaminated from an infected animal, the vaccine can also be contaminated – and possibly those animals following.
  • Do change needle frequently. Every 10-15 head or every syringeful of vaccine. It may seem expensive at the time, but the alternative could be much more costly. Also, if a needle develops a bend or burr, discard it immediately, as it will tear the tissue.
  • Needle size: Needles are measured two ways. Length and Gauge (diameter). When determining the correct gauge, remember that the higher the number, the smaller the diameter. Example: An 18 gauge needle is smaller than a 16 gauge needle.

Needle Size Recommendations

Longer needles are used for intramuscular injections (1-1/2 in.) and shorter needles (1/2 in. - 1 in.) for subQ injections.

Cattle, Hogs & Sheep - generally an 18 or 16 gauge with a 1 or 1-1/2 in. length.

Sows & Boars - usually given I.M., a 18 or 16 gauge with a 1-1/2 in. length.

Small pigs - 18 gauge x 1/2 in.

Dogs & Cats - 20 or 22 gauge with a 1/2 in. or 1 in. length.

Horses - 18 gauge x 1 in.