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© 1998, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This NebGuide describes methods to maximize the effectiveness of injectable medications for cattle, while minimizing potential risks for the animal, the operator and the consumer. The key elements to giving proper injections are knowing why, when, where and how injectable medications should be used. Medications are commonly given to cattle as part of regular husbandry practices to improve health, control disease or increase productivity. Medications may be given by injection, by mouth (orally) or through the skin as a pour-on (topically). Injections are commonly given into the muscle (intramuscularly, or IM), under the skin (subcutaneously, or SC) or into the bloodstream (intravenously, or IV). Medications are administered to cattle by injection for a variety of reasons. For example, vaccines (biologicals) are injected to prevent disease, and antibiotics or anthelmintics may be injected to treat bacterial or parasitic infections, respectively. Other medications may be given by injection for supportive medical care, to relieve pain or to enhance production. Injection may be the best, or the only, route of administration for a particular medication. When there is a choice to inject or use another route of administration, the decision to use injectables may be based on cost, ease of administration, effectiveness, accuracy and reliability or other considerations related to the activity of the product.