How many times do you reuse needles when doctoring calves? For stocker calves, Beef Quality Assurance guidelines recommend that needles be changed at least every 10 animals. I'm sure most of us have used needles beyond that recommendation. Have you then noticed how sharp a new needle is? How easy it is to use? Figure 1 shows a microscopic view of a new needle.
Once a needle is used, it loses its cutting edge, similar to a knife after repeated use. Even though you may not be able to see the dull edge clearly, the dull/burred needle causes several problems. Skin tissue damage creates excess inflammation and stops the wound from sealing quickly. This can allow bacteria in and let the drug seep out. Additional effort is required to administer the shot, resulting in fatigue, frustration, and the potential for misplaced injections and broken needles. It's not worth it.
Figure 2 shows a needle that was bumped against the steel squeeze chute and damaged. Any time a needle is dropped, scraped, bent, etc., it should be considered damaged beyond use. Change it immediately.
Needles are cheap, and, more importantly, they are the physical link that delivers important and sometimes extremely expensive drugs to your valuable cattle. Make sure you are always using fresh needles.
Needles should be changed often to:
Properly managing needle use is a key component of ensuring that the beef we produce is safe and wholesome. It is the responsibility of all beef producers to consistently meet these consumer expectations.