Management techniques.


Injection techniques

SC injections

It is useful to ensure you have an appropriately sized needle and syringe for the type of animal and type of product you wish to inject, generally smaller thin skinned animals and watery drugs need smaller needles and large thick skinned animals or oily drugs require larger needles.  If in any doubt, please ask for advice from your vet.

1.      Suitably restrain the animals to prevent needle stick injuries.

2.      Identify an area of loose skin and tent it between two fingers.  Common sites are
sheep: armpit, neck or over the ribs.
goats: armpit or neck.
cattle: over the ribs.
pigs: behind the ear.
We do not recommend injecting cattle in the neck as it can cause lumps which interfere with TB testing.

3.      Insert the needle into a triangle of skin formed when you tent the skin, under the skin at a slight angle, approx 1cm of needle at least should be inserted, more if the animal has thick skin.  In sheep ensure you have entered the skin and not just into the wool, you may need to part thick wool for this.

4.      Pull back the plunger to ensure you have not entered a blood vessel and then if no blood is seen inject the contents under slow even pressure.

5.      Withdraw the needle and safely dispose.

6.      Massage the area and apply a little pressure.


IM injections

These are made into the muscle in an animal’s neck or haunch.

We generally inject into the muscle of the haunch, avoiding the neck as any lumps here can interfere with TB testing.  However, some people prefer to avoid the haunch in animals near to going to slaughter in case there is any damage to the muscle (meat) in that area.

1.       Restrain the animal adequately to avoid personal injury and needle stick injury.

2.      Identify the site for injection, ideally it should be clean and dry.  Some medicines will require large volumes to be injected and may need to be spread over several sites.

3.      Firmly pat or thump the site 3-4 times to desensitise the area.

4.      Firmly insert the needle perpendicular to the skin

5.      Attach the preloaded syringe and drawback, if any blood is seen in the syringe remove the needle and reposition as you may be in a vein.

6.      Gently but firmly apply pressure to the plunger to administer the injection.

7.      Remove the syringe and needle and apply pressure or rub the affected area for a short time.

8.      For example: in cattle we would use a 1.5 inch 14-16g needle, for sheep and calves a 1 inch 18-19g needle.  Please take into account the size and skin thickness of your animal, the depth of their muscle mass and the thickness of the product you are trying to inject.

Rectal temperatures (in °C)

These are normal ranges of rectal temperature in different species. To get an accurate reading, make sure there is no air coming in with thermometer. Stress from rounding up and catching an animal can make the temperature go up slightly.

Cattle 37-39

Sheep 38-40

Pig 38.5-40

Chicken 40-43

Cat/dog 37.5-39

Colostrum administration 

Colostrum is the first super rich milk produced by the cow or ewe in the period immediately before and after birth.  It contains high levels of protein and energy and also antibodies which are absorbed through the gut of the newborn and provide immunity for the first few weeks of life.

It is very important to ensure all newborns receive adequate colostrum shortly after birth.  It is key to reducing disease and losses in newborn animals.  We talk about the four Q’s of colostrums management


A healthy dam in correct body condition score with no concurrent disease will produce the best colostrum.  If you are interested colostrum quality can be assessed in the lab.  Young animals can also be tested to see if they have required adequate colostrums although there is little you can do for the individual animal if it is low, it can help you plan better management for others in the future.  If it is impossible to obtain natural colostrum from the dam it is possible to use either frozen or artificial colostrum, this needs to be sourced carefully to avoid spreading diseases such as Johnes disease.


It is ideal to have 50ml/kg bodyweight per feed, especially the first feed, and recommended that an animal can have up to 210ml/kg bodyweight in 1st 24hrs spread over several feeds.


The first colostrum should be taken during the first 6 hrs of life and the animal should continue to have small frequent feeds in first 24 hrs.  It is important the colostrum is taken soon after birth because as time goes by the efficiency of the transfer of immunity to the new born decreases.


The colostrum should be administered with the minimum disruption to the newborn.  In many small holder cases this will simply be to monitor the new born sucking well itself.  However with other management practices some farmers will routinely administer colostrum by stomach tube to new borns to ensure they have had enough.  You need to be prepared that you may have to do this or get someone to do this if you do not see the new born sucking within the magic time period.

Foot/hoof trimming


Hoof growth is affected by many factors, including breed and genetics, pasture moisture and nutrition. Sheep in high rainfall areas will need to have their hooves inspected more regularly than those on dry ground. Housed sheep usually require more hoof trimming than pastured animals.

Good paring shears are important to do the job properly.  Paring shears should be kept scrupulously clean.  Foot trimming can be back-breaking work if there are a lot of sheep’s feet to trim. So handling equipment for example a turnover crate can make this easier.

To trim the feet, securely hold the leg of the sheep. Inspect the hoof and remove any mud, manure or small stones between the walls of the hoof. A rotten smell is usually indicative of foot rot. After cleaning the hoof, begin trimming around the perimeter of the hoof.

Avoid cutting off large chunks of hoof. Stop at the first sign of pinkness as this means you have gone too close to the blood supply. The foot should be trimmed from the heel to the toe to remove excess growth of the "horny" portion of the hoof.  Hoof trimming is important for treatment of shelly hoof where pockets of mud can get caught under flaps of hoof, however it will not cure footrot which should be treated with antibiotics or a footbath.  It is also recognised that overtrimming can be harmful or spread infective organisms between sheep.  The NADIS website has lots of useful information on lameness and foot trimming in sheep.

When trimming feet, avoid stressful times such as hot weather or late gestation. It's a good idea to combine hoof trimming with other management tasks, such as shearing or vaccinating. It is easier to trim hooves that are soft from heavy dew or rain.


Again the hoof growth is affected by many factors as in sheep. Because of the size of the animal and the hardness of the hoof, we recommend using a professional foot trimmer for cattle.

Turning sheep

Turning sheep up onto their back end makes it possible to examine the udder, feet and mouth. This position can also be a useful form of restraint for injection administration.  Care should be taken with this procedure in very big rams/pregnant animals as the extra pressure on their lungs can be dangerous for them.  If there seem to be any breathing problems let the sheep down immediately.


1.      Stand with the sheep against your legs, facing right if right handed and left if left handed.

2.      Hold the nose of the sheep in your dominant hand and place your other hand on the furthest away hip from you.

3.      Turn the ewes head away from you towards its shoulder whilst putting pressure on the hip pulling it towards you.

4.      As it rolls lift the front legs and sit the ewe upright on its haunches between your knees.

5.      The majority of sheep will remain calm in this condition and can be restrained by gentle squeezing with the knees and letting the head fall to one side. This means both hands are free to perform procedures.

6.      Gently lower the ewe back to her feet.


Condition scoring

Condition scoring is an easy and accurate method of estimating the condition or nutritional well being of your animals without weighing them.  It is done by looking at or by palpation (feeling) of the amount of back or pelvic fat on the animal.  A score is then allocated from 1 (Very thin) to 5 (very fat).  It is useful to ensure your animals are at the correct condition score at the correct times of year so they are ready for breeding or giving birth or can be separated for management purposes into groups for increased feeding or weight loss if over fat.

AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) has some handy guides on how to body condition score your sheep and cattle.

Cattle: scoring.pdf



In order to avoid under dosing of worming products it is important to determine weights correctly.  The best method is with a weigh crate (check its accuracy) but otherwise estimates based on measurements of circumference or breed can be found online. 
Separate animals into groups of similarly sized animals. Check the drenching gun/devise is measuring correctly before use by depositing a dose into a syringe or measuring jug. 
Make sure the animal is adequately restrained and if possible tilt the head gently upwards (some handling facilities will cause this to happen automatically when the animal is fully restrained). 
Slot the nozzle in the gap between the molar and incisor teeth and then over the back of the tongue before administering the dose.  Withholding food for 12-24 hours (not in heavily pregnant animals) can increase the efficacy of white and clear drenches but is less important for yellow drenches.


Dagging or crutching is the removal of soiled wool or fur from an animals undercarriage to prevent fly strike and promote cleanliness for example around lambing time.  It is usually done with dagging shears or slippers.  Farmers may also trim the “swishy” bit at the end of a cows tail if it becomes over soiled to prevent rings of faeces building up that can cut off the circulation.

Mutilations: Disbudding inc goats, castrating, tail docking

DEFRA have published codes of recommendations for livestock for each species which can be referred to if any doubt.

Castration of calves may only be carried out with a rubber ring without anaesthetic during the first week of life. After this, anaesthetic must be used by a trained operator or veterinarian to perform either open surgical castration or burdizzo (crushing) castration.

Castration and tail docking of lambs using a rubber ring may only be done without anaesthetic during the first week of life but should be done after the ewe-lamb bond has developed to prevent miss-mothering.

Chemical disbudding of calves may only be performed using caustic dehorning paste in the first week of life and efforts should be taken to protect the mother’s udders from contact with the paste.  As a practice it is considered less welfare friendly than disbudding with a gas burner which must be performed with local anaesthetic and is advised to be performed with an anti-inflammatory such as Metacam.

Dehorning (where the buds have grown into horns as the animal gets older) must be performed with anaesthetic by a veterinarian, an anti-inflammatory is also advised.

Removal of supernumary teats may only be done by a trained operator using local anaesthetic.

Clipping of piglets teeth is not recommended as necessary for small holder production

All of the above procedures are considered as mutilations and smallholders should consider with their vet if they are suitable or necessary for their animals.


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