Liz Cresswell is an English vet currently working at the Kyabram Veterinary Clinic. She qualified as a vet in Nottingham in the United Kingdom and worked there for 15 months to complete a postgraduate qualification in farm animal veterinary practice. In 2015, she moved to Australia and has enjoyed working in mixed practice in Northern Victoria since then. She has provided Country News with handy tips on how reducing injection site lesions can improve meat quality and returns.
Giving injections such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, vaccines and reproductive hormones to cattle is something that farmers and vets do on a daily basis.
Often we do not think about the potential consequences, but one of the most common side effects is the formation of an injection site lesion (ISL).
Research carried out in the United Kingdom suggested that 4.1 per cent (about 100000 animals) of cattle at slaughter had some kind of ISL — these can be in the form of abscesses, cysts, discolouration or scar tissue, and can persist for months or years after injection.
So why is this important?
ISLs have implications for meat quality, animal welfare and economic loss.
The ISL and surrounding tissues need to be trimmed from the carcase, resulting in significant financial loss to the producer.
Often injections are given into the rump, a more expensive cut of meat, resulting in greater financial loss.
The introduction of beef quality assurance programs surrounding injection in the United States generated estimated savings of $US76million to the beef industry.
Preventing pain and inflammation is important for animal welfare.
There are several simple strategies which can be implemented to reduce the risk of ISL formation:
■Check the data sheet: Research shows that fewer than half of farmers refer to the data sheet.
Different products are licensed for different routes of administration and are more likely to cause a reaction (and less likely to be effective) if given by the incorrect route or in the incorrect site.
Instructions change periodically, so it is worth keeping up to date.
■Needle hygiene: Using a new needle is impractical for group injections but vaccinator guns can help keep needles clean and sharp.
Injecting only in clean, dry areas on the animal will reduce the bacteria dragged through the skin and prevent abscess formation.
■Preferably inject in the neck: If ISLs do form, then cheaper cuts of meat will be trimmed from the carcase, reducing overall losses.
■Do not use the same needle for different products: Drugs can interact with each other, reducing their efficacy and increasing the chance of ISL formation.
■Use different needles for drawing up and injecting: This reduces the chance of diseases being transferred between animals and keeps the needle cleaner.
■Replace needles as frequently as possible: Start each injection session with a new needle.
Forty-three per cent of farmers change needles only when broken or blunt, which also increases the risk of ISL formation.
These tips can make a big difference to the efficacy of injectable medicines and to reducing losses associated with ISLs. Talk to your vet for further advice on injections and their administration.