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Change recommended for neck injection site

published: October 4th 2002
by: Martha Hollida Garrett

Cattlemen are being urged to tighten the area of the neck, where they give injections to cattle. The new, recommended site is smaller, but yet part of the triangle area that has been recommended since the first beef quality audit was conducted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Associa-tion (NCBA).

The new injection site zone is a hand’s width in front of the shoulder and several inches shorter than the previous zone (see diagram).

This is a beef quality assurance (BQA) issue, as the beef industry wants to reduce the number of greenish lesions showing up in beef cases where retailers use modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP). This is a combination of 80% oxygen and 20% carbon dioxide used to promote bloom on packages of meat.

Dee Griffin, DVM and a member of the NCBA BQA Task Force, has conducted some of the studies related to MAP and the chuck muscle.

“We’re talking about one muscle, the Serratus ventralis muscle, which is about 1 to 1.5 inches deep in the neck and extends into the injection site triangle from the shoulder side of the triangle and then halfway across the triangle. We need producers to avoid giving intramuscular (IM) injections in the back half,” said Griffin

He  explains that the study has shown 15% to 20% incidence of greenish lesions in chuck steaks,  where MAP is used. These are non-visible injection site lesions, however, once the MAP process is applied, the meat develops a greenish cast in these areas. He says the greenish lesions are likely not new, they just had not been detected before the use of MAP.

By tightening the injection site area, this muscle is avoided and the incidence of lesions can be significantly reduced.

It is important to note that this particular cut of meat has gained popularity in recent years as its use by retailers for steaks has greatly increased.

The first beef quality audit revealed to the industry that over 20% of the sirloin steaks in the beef chain had lesions. At this time NCBA immediately began an education program to move all IM injections to the neck area as this was a huge economic factor for the industry and individual cattlemen. In less than a decade this percentage was reduce to just two percent from the previous 20 percent.

Now cattlemen are asked again to change their chute side ways and refine the area injected in the neck as part of the continued process to assure consumers of beef’s safety.

Dr. Ron Gill with the Texas A&M Extension Service, recently spoke at the Beef Cattle Short-course at Texas A&M University on factors concerning proper injections.

He says to always inspect syringes prior to processing and to check the barrels for chips or cracks which would lead to leakage and under dosing. Cattlemen should check calibration and dosage settings prior to and continuously through the process. Some syringes can fluctuate dosage settings very easily, leading to under or overdosing.

He strongly cautioned beef producers to administer proper dosages of each product. Many products are now administered in low dose (2cc) volume to reduce injection site reaction. Many products are still formulated to be delivered in 5cc doses, while some products may be 2cc when administered alone, but 5cc when other products are included in the dose. He says to always read label and dosing instructions prior to processing. Many products have changed their dose rate or approved route of administration recently.

Quality and accurate calibration of syringes is vital. Even slight changes in working components change dose rates. Components can break or bend without being detected. Inspect carefully. Some multi-dose syringes are not accurate enough for low dose products. Always keep spare parts readily available in case something happens to the working syringe.

Gill also addressed the injection site issue and said to use the proper injection site and route of administration. IM injections should all be given in the neck and should be injected by inserting the needle perpendicular to the neck. Subcutaneous (SubQ) injections should be given in the neck region using the tent method or behind the foreleg in the elbow pocket. If products can be given either SubQ or IM, choose the SubQ route as in addition to the lesion problem, research has shown that tenderness is affected in a 2-3 inch radius around an injection site, even when a lesion is not observed.

Gill also said to always use the smallest needle possible when vaccinating. Almost all beef cattle vaccines and antibiotics can be administered with one of two lengths ( 1 or 1/2 inch) and one of two gauges (16 or 18 gauge). The smaller gauge number, the larger the needle diameter. A 16 gauge is a larger needle than an 18 gauge.

A needle one inch in length will work for  IM and SubQ injections in calves. A  1 to 1/2 inch needle should be used for IM injections in yearling and mature cattle. Either a 1 or 1/2 can be used in SubQ injections in older cattle. A 3/4 inch needle will work for SubQ injections if care is used to make sure the needle entered the skin perpendicularly.

Cattleman are urged to administer  products at least three inches apart, and to administer vaccinations in both sides of the animal’s neck.

These recommendations and the utilization of the new neck injection site will continue to make eating beef a positive experience for consumers.

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