Giving Shots

Animals occasionally require shots – maybe a routine vaccination, pain medicine, or antibiotics. Avoid shots if other methods are available (for example, using a pour-on dewormer vs. an injectable dewormer). The type of shot to give depends on what is being given.

Package instructions should always include the proper method(s) of administration and that method should be used:

administration vaccine or

injection sites

  or IV doseor Iv or IP

Types of shots:

  • IM: Intramuscular injections are injections put into the muscle of the animal.
  • IV: Intravenous injections are into a vein, such as the jugular or milk vein. Acts almost immediately.
  • SubQ: Subcutaneous injections are under the skin. For slow release or irritating medicines.
  • Intramammary: Inserted into teat end, through teat canal, to reach “mammary” tissue – inside one quarter of the udder.
  • Slow release behind ear: For long term medicine, performed by vets.

NEEDLES: Use only STERILE needles! Throw away after using once.

Gauge: The smaller the number, the larger around the needle.

  • SubQ: Use 16 gauge for cow; 18 gauge for calf under 300 pounds or when giving thin liquids;
  • IM: Use 16 gauge for cow; 18 gauge for calf under 300 pounds or when giving thin liquids; 20 gauge can be used for calves when injecting thin liquids.
  • IV: Use 14 gauge for cattle over 700 pounds (some use 16 gauge, smaller and slower); 16 gauge for 300-700 pound animals; 16 or 18 gauge for calves under 300 pounds;
  • IV Oxytocin into milk vein: Use 28 gauge 1/2 cc syringes
  • Intramammary: Mastitis tubes come with a blunt end plastic needle tip called a cannula.

Length: In inches

  • IM: Antibiotics: 1-1.5 inch for calf –    2 inch for cow
  •          Vaccines:       1 inch for calf – 1.5 inch for cow
  • IV: 2 inch
  • SubQ: 1/2 – 1 inch
  • Intramammary: Tips are around 2 inches long, to reach past the length of the teat canal.

 Max amount per location:

  • IM: 15 cc adult – 5-10 cc calf
  • IV: Large doses may be given. For example, one bottle of Calcium is 500mL (500cc) and more than one bottle (perhaps Calcium, then Dextrose or Saline) can be given at that one injection site for a cow. Ratio for calf would depend on treatment needs.
  • SubQ: Adults 20-30cc – Calf 7-10 cc
  •             If you need to give more than the above doses, you can separate the dose by location. For example, 20 cc of IM injectables could be split between each side of the neck: 10 cc on the cow’s right side and 10 cc on the cow’s left side of her neck.
  • Intramammary: One tube per quarter.


INTRAMUSCULAR:  In the neck (right picture) is a popular place to give IM shots. – Especially for meat animals, to avoid giving a shot in a good “meat” area of the rump.

Picture a triangle in the center of the neck. Do not give too close to the jugular/windpipe area or too close to the top in the neck ligaments. If given often, alternate sides or move to the thigh. (left picture)

In the hip buttocks area, within the circle area of his hand, basically between hook bone and pin bone is another alternate site for IM injections.      (see below)

Before giving the shot, firmly thump the area to desensitize the animal. Give the shot, wait a second after the medicine is in, remove the needle, cap the needle, then rub the area for a few seconds to disperse the medicine well:

SubQ injection sites
Sub Q injections are given by lifting up the pliable fold of skin behind or in front of the shoulder and inserting the needle to inject under the skin without going into the meat.
Photo from FAO website illustrating sub Q administration of injection. Click photo to go to website.


IV injections are most often used for sick cows. More detail for giving IV shots can be obtained by reading the section on how to give an IV.


  • Pre-warm the tube(s) in warm water to soften the oils for easier application.
  • Properly clean teat end(s) and scrub one teat end per one alcohol swap.
  • Insert cannula tube into end of teat and gently navigate through the teat canal. You may need to push and compress the length of teat in order to reach into the gland area.
  • Once past the teat canal, push to dispense medicine.
  • Use your hand to work the medicine from the bottom of the quarter of the udder upward. Massage upward fairly firmly & several times to disperse medicine throughout the quarter.
  • Remove cannula tube from teat & seal end with teat dip to protect.


Drawing blood for BIOtracking (blood pregnancy test):

Additional information on giving shots:

2 thoughts on “Giving Shots

  1. Angie Hokanson

    Question: what sites do you give a SubQ, subcutaneousl vaccination shot? I have a 2 and a
    1/2 month old Jersey calf that I gave a SubQ vaccination shot to and his neck got a softball
    size knot came under his skin. I massaged the area for a few seconds after giving him the shot.


    1. Spirited Rose Dairy

      Commonly, Sub Q shots are given in the neck, there’s lots of skin to work with. It sounds like your calf accidentally got an IM (intramuscular) shot, which can happen if the needle penetrates further into the neck than just under the skin. Sub Q can be somewhat difficult to gauge if you’re not real practiced at it. Even people who give shots often sometimes miss…

      If the softball knot happens immediately, then you’re giving too much fluid in one subQ spot, although most vaccinations are quite small and a single shot location should be just fine. If the knot appears later, then my explanation above about hitting muscle is probably more applicable.

      The knot could potentially burst (TMI, I know, but thought I should mention it!) but most often they will just gradually reduce in size and completely disappear. If you are concerned it is growing, you should probably contact your vet to talk the situation over.


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