Size Matters: The Impact of Proper Needle Selection & Management

Published on Tue, 06/27/2023 - 1:46pm

Size Matters: The Impact of Proper Needle Selection & Management

Article by Paige Pratt, PhD

Size matters in all kinds of scenarios: you have to wear the right size of boots when you work cattle in the mud or your sock might get muddy, you have to know what size of shirt your wife wears when you are buying her a Valentines gift, as making a wrong guess might not lead to marital bliss. Size also matters at the head gate of your working chute. Needles that are too long, too short, too big, or too small in diameter can all cause issues while you are treating or vaccinating calves.

Most of us have given injections all our lives, and most administration decisions are simply done the way grandpa used to do it, but things have evolved since grandpa started farming and the way we treat animals is no exception. Being a part of a progressive industry requires each one of us person to do their part, so step up the plate, grab your needle and syringe, and remember the key points below.

First and foremost, you need to read the label and determine if you are giving a subcutaneous or intramuscular injection. Then, you need to get a weight on the animal, not only for proper dosage of antibiotics, but also for proper selection of the needle. Lighter calves require shorter and smaller diameter needles, while heavier animals require longer and larger diameter needles. It is important to note, as the number of the gauge increases, the diameter decreases.

If you select a needle that is too short, your injection won’t enter the correct tissue and absorption of the product can be altered, resulting in failed efficacy. If the needle is too long, then you can experience wrong delivery and the product could be delivered into the muscle or, on a young animal, there is potential to strike the bone or a nerve, resulting in potential harm.

If you have been to the doctor recently, you can understand the value of the discussion regarding the gauge of a needle. In cattle, viscosity and volume of the product being administered impacts gauge. On a cold day with a thick antibiotic, you might have to use a smaller gauge (larger diameter) than you would for a vaccine on the same animal.

Hub material is another differing factor among needles with 2 primary options: poly hub or aluminum hub. Poly hub needles should be utilized for smaller animals and single administrations as they have less durability and strength. Aluminum hubs will provide you with a stronger, more durable product and should be used on larger animals and/or when a higher number of head are being processed.

Last, but certainly not least, is the value of a sharp needle. While we all function on a tight budget with small margins, a needle is not the place to skimp. Never use a bent needle and never attempt to straighten a needle that is bent. A sharp needle will eliminate tissue trauma, so train your crew on Beef Quality Assurance standards and proper needle selection and don’t try to stretch the life of the needle too far as you will be more likely to break the needle. Due to the chance that a needle could break and the implications that has on customer health and satisfaction, it is highly recommended to utilize detectable needles that can be easily found by the metal detectors of the processor. The only needle 100% detectable will be made of stainless-steel alloy. The value of that investment is paid forth in consumer trust and satisfaction; there isn’t a single person who eats meat that wants ground metal to be part of their experience.

When an animal is given an improper injection, the result can be product loss through trimming or carcass condemnation. While many of us do not personally experience the loss of income from pounds lost on hot carcass weight due to trimming product, the day is coming where we will all be held accountable through systems that are tracking an animal from the gate to the plate. Looking to the future, traceback to each producer, by the utilization of blockchain or credits or debits given to our carbon footprint, will afford us opportunities if we make the decision now to embrace best management practices.