Take Your Shot: Are Dart Guns an Effective Solution for Treatment?

Take Your Shot: Are Dart Guns an Effective Solution for Treatment?

By Jaclyn Krymowski

Animal care, especially administering antibiotics or other treatments in remote farm locations or hard-to-navigate areas has proven challenging as long as we’ve raised cattle. Traditionally cutting and roping each individual was the only option. But with remote delivery devices (basically dart guns for vaccinations and antibiotics), that task is quickly changing.

Minimizing handling stress and disease of cattle is a major objective for which cattle ranchers strive
While roping, retraining and working facilities can accomplish this while avoiding as much stress as possible, there are instances where animals are severely sick or lame that make this impossible. Some are now using remote delivery devices, or RDDs to overcome this obstacle and make the whole task easier.

Using Dart Guns with Cattle
In March 2023, the USDA conducted an updated study to understand and determine the use of dart guns in the beef industry, particularly cow-calf operations. Results indicated that dart use varied considerably depending on operation size, with larger operations using them more frequently(32.8%) than medium (15.8%) or small (4.3%) operations.

The study noted that “pneumatic darts can be used to administer antibiotics and other injectable medications to cattle to reduce the need to run animals through a chute or use other immobilization practices such as roping.”

RDDs can also be a very viable option in many instances where the safety of animals and people is a concern.

There are a few options for remote delivery devices, including pole syringes or dart delivery systems (pneumatic, CO2, or .22 charged), as outlined by Heidi Carroll, former South Dakota State University extension livestock stewardship field specialist and Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) coordinator in her bulletin, Discussing the Dart Delivery Method for Treating Cattle.

To take advantage of the benefits of using remote delivery devices, include a safer option for both rancher and animal, along with providing medication to the animal without restraint. At times it is more convenient with a quicker delivery and easier administration to a poor-tempered animal.

That said, it does have its limitations, particularly with certain treatments that require multiple injections or large amounts of product, as it can only hold so much volume. Therefore, it should not be resorted to for treatments that only have small doses.

Taking Precautions
The official BQA guidelines and some seasoned veterinarians do want to instill a healthy dose of precautions for the industry before fully embracing darts.

For example, a remote delivery does not guarantee that the drug is administered in the proper injection site. It can also not ensure the delivery method is accurate, as with products that must be administered exclusively subcutaneously.

As with any other veterinary device, maintaining the equipment for sterility is another big concern. Because the needles and syringes are small and being shot at high volume, everything must be rigorously inspected for safe delivery to reduce the risk of injury like abscesses and bruising.

There is some debate in the beef industry on the accuracy and delivery of medications through remote delivery devices, and especially in regards to meeting the BQA guidelines, Carroll notes. Do they ensure the best welfare of the animal? Are they able to reach the proper injection site, use the correct route and dosage? What about the potential for broken needles?

The concern with broken needles is that they can become lodged inside the muscle and could be a hazard during processing or become lodged in the animal and cause infection or abscesses.

There are also concerns about meat quality. Besides broken needles, failing to inject at the proper site (usually the neck region) could damage high quality cuts. This can happen easily when firing from long distances or if an animal moves unexpectedly. Injection site blemishes in high quality meat areas are no small matter. They already cause the industry massive losses, more than $4 million according to estimates.

“Many producers appreciate the availability of a treatment method that can be applied in the pasture, with no sorting, capture or restraint of animals required,” writes Troy Smith, in an article carried in a 2020 issue of the Angus Beef Bulletin entitled, Darting BQA Problems. “However, dart guns are also used to treat cattle being grown or finished under confinement. Rather than sorting animals and putting them in a chute, dart treatment is applied in the feeding pen.”

Future of RDDs
What does the future of remote delivery devices look like? They are definitely not about to entirely go away in the near future. And concerns will exist even if the current ones are addressed.

Educating and setting an example of when and how to use them can potentially help to reduce the percentage of times they are misused or used when another alternative is available.

Just as all the other technology in the industry continues to grow and develop, there will most likely be changes and more alternatives as we go. Continuing to educate and promote proper usage will be the biggest key (and potential challenge) for ensuring that dart guns (and other RDDs) are utilized to their potential in the appropriate situation.

While remote delivery devices like dart guns offer a valuable tool for specific situations, such as treating sick animals in remote locations, their use shouldn’t become routine. Prioritizing effectiveness and timeliness is crucial and responsible cattle producers should avoid using them in contexts where proper handling facilities exist. Ultimately, developing a clear protocol for when and when not to use remote delivery devices is essential for ensuring animal well-being and responsible antibiotic use.

Key Considerations for Proper Water Management

Key Considerations for Proper Water Management

By Maura Keller

As the heat of summer takes hold, many producers’ attention turns to ensuring their livestock receives an adequate water supply during the warmer months. From evaluating the effectiveness of a current watering system to determining the benefits of an upgraded system, concerns that producers face about water equipment are as varied as the systems themselves.

Mike Ragsdale, one of the owners and creators of RPS Solar Pumps in Woodland, CA, points out that pumping water is not a one-size-fits-all project for producers. Every day, the RPS Solar Pumps team hears from producers nationwide who inform them of current challenges on the ranch, including finding equipment that can adapt to drought conditions, the cost of hauling water, the repairability of pump equipment, sizing systems for long pipelines to distant pastures, and adapting water pump equipment to surface water applications.

“Not to mention we also hear about producers’ concerns about electricity costs, and many producers’ desire to put in some sort of backup system to ensure water delivery even during times of grid blackouts,” Ragsdale says.

The team at RPS Solar Pumps are also finding people want more knowledge and the ability to work on their own water pump equipment. When they understand the system and work on the equipment themselves, downtime is reduced during critical times when water is needed.

“Sometimes, a water system can be down, with an installer booked out for days, when the fix only takes a few minutes. Having the knowledge and experience to work on the equipment themselves can prevent costly down time,” Ragsdale says.

RPS Solar Pump’s primary business is providing solar water pumps to ranchers, farmers, and off-gridders all across the USA and parts of the world. They work with people from all sorts of backgrounds and all levels of experience daily to help understand their water needs and help plan a solar water pump system that will accomplish their goals.

“Sometimes this is a simple submersible well pump into a stock tank; other times, it can be a more complex multi-pump pressure system,” Ragsdale explains. “We like to say, if you have a water pumping need, we have a solar pump system that will work for you.”

As part of every interaction, the RPS Solar Pump team walks customers through every part of planning a solar pump system. This includes going over their initial needs, their initial plan, and then helping modify that plan to make it work with the types of solar pump systems available. As Ragsdale points out, part of every interaction with a customer includes helping to plan and size a complete water system, from recommendations on what pump to use, to plumbing diameter, to suggestions on frost-free systems. RPS even provides “turnkey” water pump install solutions, taking the guesswork out of installation for first-timers and old-timers alike. Kits include all the pipe, wire, and stainless steel plumbing sized appropriately to a producer’s specific project.

Key Considerations
When selecting a new watering system, producers have plenty of attributes to consider. Solar or traditional? Size requirements? Proper placement? Continuous flow? According to Jamie Koepke at Hoskins Manufacturing, a manufacturer of watering systems in Hoskins, NE, the key factor for producers to consider is the type of watering systems that would best suit the producer’s facility.

“The producers need to make sure they have a big enough drinking capacity for their animals along with fresh clean water daily. If an animal isn’t getting adequate water supply it can be vital to their health,” Koepke says. Other key factors to consider include the availability of water and electricity to the site. In addition, the water lines need to be big enough to get plenty of water to the tank for the animals.

“Make sure you have a big enough tank so all the animals can get to the water,” Koepke advises.

Hoskins Manufacturing offers several different sizes of automatic electric and continuous flow waterers, all of which are insulated with R-Tech insulation. Having been building waterers since 1966, the company has improved the heating aspect of its waterers with newer insulation. Along with that and proper installation, livestock can have fresh water in the summer as well as the cold days of winter. The company’s stainless steel tanks are easily cleaned, durable and a cost-effective option.

In addition, when sizing a water system for a well, Ragsdale says producers need to consider:
• Production ability of well
• Well depth and static water level in the well
• Horizontal and vertical lifts/elevation change from well to tank
• Number of cattle
• Amount of storage onsite/number of tanks used
• Need for freeze protection
“First, evaluate your well or spring’s production ability because that will limit how much water you can reasonably pull at a given time. Next is to estimate the water’s depth in your water source, and add any elevation changes and pressure needed after reaching the surface,” Ragsdale says. “This allows for a calculation of ‘Total Dynamic Head’ which, when paired with the volume of water needed per minute or per day (informed by tank size and head of cattle), allows for the selection of a style of pump (helical vs. centrifugal) and a size of motor and solar array.”

The RPS team always recommends adding storage tanks to cattle solar systems, even if they already use stock tanks. Especially with low-flow wells, ranchers express concern that the pump by itself may not be able to supply enough water at a single point in time. As Ragsdale explains, the whole point of pumping water from a well is to get the liquid above ground and use tanks as “water batteries” around the property.

“This allows pumping from sun up to sun down, storing away as much water as your well allows, and then you can use water as needed as your cows drink during sunlight hours and nighttime,” Ragsdale says. “That way, you alleviate any stress about managing when the cows will come into drink or how many at once. Planning the amount of storage will allow your system to keep up with demand even on the hottest days.”

Want to save money on drilling a well? Consider what surface water resources are available. Ponds? Streams? Springs? According to Ragsdale, producers are pleasantly surprised to hear that RPS solar submersible pumps are often floated horizontally to pump out of a stream or pond, and tied off to the bank for safety. A popular setup includes submerging a barrel near the edge of a stream, with a submersible pump inside the barrel. Another option is to utilize a solar-powered surface pump that suctions and self-pressurizes water out to tanks.

And in this age of economic uncertainty, Koepke points out that producers are facing increased pricing and everyone is looking for the best “bang for your buck.”

“Our product is built tough for all types of livestock. They are built with galvanized metal frames and stainless steel tanks, so the waterers will last for many years,” Koepke says. “We encourage producers to do their homework. Make sure you have a big enough water tank to supply the livestock with enough water. Also, talk to fellow producers before purchasing a water system. Our motto is ‘Quality Doesn’t Cost It Pays.’ It might cost more up front but buying a quality product will pay off in the future.”

Continuous Evolution
As with most technology, water equipment has evolved in recent years. Choice and affordability are where much of the evolution has occurred in solar pumping for cattle operations. As Ragsdale explains, producers now get to select from various systems they can build together with accessories to provide water for animals in challenging locations – not a “one size fits all” solution.

“As solar panels and motors have become more efficient, costs have decreased significantly for smaller systems that only need 200 watts of solar,” Ragsdale says. “The systems are very modular and mostly plug and play making setup and installation easier than ever.”

On the other end of the spectrum with advances in electronics and solar panels, there are now large solar pump systems that can reach depths up to 1,000 feet or pump up to 400 gallons per minute, using only 7,500W of solar power to power a 5HP submersible pump.

At RPS Solar Pumps, they now use ultra-efficient permanent magnet brushless DC motors for a majority of their systems. “We wholeheartedly prefer these motors compared to their induction and brushed counterparts,” Ragsdale says. “You never have to replace carbon brushes; less heat is generated, meaning longer and more efficient operation for years. We are always trying to incorporate advanced technology into our systems to provide further benefits. These include our wireless solar-enabled tank-full system, which autonomously shuts off a pump when the tank is full up to five miles away – all without running conduit long ways through rough terrain, as was required in the old days.”
Ragsdale adds that producers should look for companies that allow you to self-install.

“We know USA ranchers and farmers want to protect the right to repair. Several water pump companies will void your warranty if you attempt to self-install or self-troubleshoot. Skip any submersible pump that isn’t constructed with a 100% stainless steel exterior or offers a genuine warranty from a brand that has been around for years,” Ragsdale says. “As with many products these days, there are lots of fly-by-night vendors making claims of price, support and warranty, yet offer only an offshore email address for support. We call ourselves a ‘DIY Success Company; as our goal is to support rural folks who believe in doing the job themselves and doing it right the first time. With this knowledge, they can take control of their water supply and save fistfuls of money while doing it.”

MJE Livestock Equipment Partners with Pearson Livestock Equipment to Enhance Ranching Operations Nationwide

MJE Livestock Equipment Partners with Pearson Livestock Equipment to Enhance Ranching Operations Nationwide

Article and photo courtesy of MJE Livestock Equipment

Montezuma, KS – May 6, 2024,  MJE Livestock Equipment, a leading provider of innovative livestock handling solutions, is excited to announce a new strategic collaboration with Pearson Livestock Equipment, one of the most respected names in the cattle handling industry.

This partnership is a testament to our commitment to ranchers nationwide, as it aims to provide them with the finest squeeze chutes, enhancing their working facilities and portable corrals, and ultimately, their operational efficiency.

With a well-earned reputation for quality and reliability, Pearson Livestock Equipment’s squeeze chutes are renowned for their durability and functionality. MJE Livestock Equipment is proud to integrate these top-of-the-line chutes into its product offerings, with headgates painted in MJE’s signature steel blue to ensure they integrate seamlessly with existing equipment, providing ranchers with a product they can trust.

“This collaboration represents a pivotal step in our commitment to providing comprehensive solutions to the ranching community,” said Heather Jantz, Chief Operating Officer at MJE Livestock Equipment. By incorporating Pearson’s well-regarded chutes into our lineup, we are not just adding a product; we are completing a suite of tools that enable ranchers to manage their livestock more effectively and efficiently.”

The partnership between MJE and Pearson is founded on a shared vision of enhancing the rancher’s workflow and operational efficiency. Pearson’s squeeze chutes, known for their robust construction and ease of use, perfectly complement MJE’s existing range of portable corrals and working facilities. This holistic solution is designed to support the health and productivity of their herds, demonstrating our understanding and support for the challenges ranchers face.

“We are excited to work alongside MJE Livestock Equipment, a company that mirrors our dedication to the agriculture industry,” said Brice Sawin, Sales Manager at Pearson Livestock Equipment. “Our squeeze chutes are designed to meet the rigorous demands of modern ranching, and through this partnership, we can ensure that more ranchers have access to the equipment they need to succeed.”

MJE Livestock Equipment’s dealer network will be crucial in distributing these chutes, ensuring that ranchers throughout the United States can easily acquire and integrate these advanced handling solutions into their operations.

Ranchers interested in learning more about the enhanced range of products now available through MJE Livestock Equipment and its dealers should visit www.mjelivestockequipment.com or contact their local dealer. This partnership signifies the joining of two leaders in the field and marks a significant advancement in the resources available to the ranching community.

About MJE Livestock Equipment

MJE Livestock Equipment makes the lives of farmers and ranchers easier through strategic herd management advice, facility design, and American-made livestock equipment built with innovation that makes ranching easier and cattle safe, healthy, and happy.

To learn more about MJE Livestock Equipment and become part of their fast-growing network of dealers, visit our website: www.mjelivestockequipment.com/dealers

About Pearson Livestock Equipment

Pearson Livestock Equipment is known for its commitment to quality and durability, producing some of the industry’s most respected cattle handling equipment. With a focus on innovation and reliability, Pearson continues to set the standard in the livestock equipment market.

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