Damage to eatable tissue from injectable animal health products, especially in the more expensive cuts of beef, surfaced as a significant problem in the 1991 National Beef Quality Audit conducted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and funded by the Beef Checkoff.

To address the finding, the NCBA Beef Safety and Quality Task Force developed guidelines for injectable health product use, and the NCBA began a national educational program to change the injection technique used for routine animal health injectable products. In an effort to remove injections from eatable tissue, the NCBA injectable animal health product-use guidelines encourage the selection and use of injectable products that can be given subcutaneously (subQ) and encourage the selection of the neck region for administration of all injectables in cattle.

Additionally, the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program encourages lifting (tenting) the skin and inserting the injection needle at the base of the tented area. Tenting the skin provides additional assurance that the injection is given between the skin and the underlying muscle (eatable tissue). As part of the campaign, the NCBA also asked companies and federal regulatory agencies involved in the development and approval of injectable pharmaceutical and biologic products to place an emphasis on subQ delivery.

SubQ and the tented technique


The subQ-tented injection technique is the preferred method of injection in the NCBA BQA program. Additionally, the BQA program emphasizes all injections in cattle, regardless of age, should be given ahead of the slope of the shoulder.

The subQ-tented technique requires lifting the skin with one hand and inserting the injection needle at the base of the tented area. While length of the injection needle may vary, a 1/2-inch to 5/8-inch needle is recommended. An 18-gauge to 16-gauge
needle is preferred.

SubQ and the needle-tented technique

The subQ-needle-tented injection technique, while not the “gold-standard” for giving subQ injections, may be required when the safety of the person giving the injection would be compromised by the subQ-tented-technique. Safety concerns arise when the animal-restraining device does not provide enough exposed injection-site area and when the injectable animal health product has a potential human health risk if accidentally injected in a person tenting the skin.

The subQ-needle-tented technique requires inserting the needle through the skin, but not so deep as to penetrate underlying tissue, then lifting the tip of the needle to raise the skin from the underlying tissue before giving the injection. Using the shortest length injection needle possible will minimize the potential for getting the injected product in eatable tissue. The length of the injection needle recommended for the subQ-needle-tented technique is 1/2-inch to 5/8-inch. As in the subQ-tented-technique, an 18-gauge to 16-gauge needle is preferred.

Restraint is important

Adequate restraint is critical for safe, proper administration of any injectable. Inadequate restraint is at the root of all bent and broken needles and most personal injury related to injectable product use.

This Practice Tip furnished by Dee Griffin, DVM, UNL-GPVEC.




When rations are well-balanced for fermentable carbohydrates and then balanced for these two limiting amino acids, animal health and performance benefit.

Essential nutrients can influence the health and performance of cattle, especially when not available in adequate supplies. When the level of an essential nutrient returns to optimal from sub-par levels, notable changes may be apparent. For this reason, it’s important to monitor the levels of essential nutrients that are bioavailable to livestock.   

For example, some amino acids may not be available in sufficient amounts from common feedstuffs. The two most nutritionally significant of these “limiting amino acids” are methionine and lysine. Insufficient levels of methionine and lysine can affect protein production. When rations are well-balanced for fermentable carbo-hydrates and then balanced for these two limiting amino acids, animal health and performance benefit.

“It has been suggested that ample supplies of these amino acids may help diminish the risk of metabolic disorders, influence reproduction performance, affect immune function and lessen fat infiltration of the liver,” says Jean-Claude Robert, PhD, Adisseo. Fat infiltration predisposes cows to fatty liver and ketosis.

On a production level, when rations are balanced for methionine and lysine:

  • Feed nitrogen is converted to milk protein more efficiently
  • Milk and milk protein yields will be higher
  • More efficient protein synthesis occurs
  • The requirement for total absorbed amino acids is minimized
  • The need for supplemental RUP to met methionine and lysine decreases
  • More space exists in the ration for other required nutrients
  • Less nitrogen is excreted into the environment
  • Herd profitability benefits

A two-step ration balancing program is encouraged, according to Charles Schwab, PhD, University of New Hampshire. “First rations should be balanced for fermentable carbohydrates,” he says. This supports rumen health, performance and maximum production of microbial protein. 

“Now the cows are poised to really respond when we balance the ration for methionine and lysine,” adds Schwab. He recommends eliminating or reducing low-lysine feeds and replacing them with high-lysine protein supplements such as fish meal, soybean meal and canola meal along with a protected methionine product .

“And, you’ll find that the cows are able to maintain a high performance level while on a ration with just
16-16.5% protein rather than the more traditional 18.5% protein,” he says. “What we’re doing is filling the other two percentage units with more fermentable carbohydrates because that’s what the cow uses to produce milk.”




   Photo credit: NRCS

As a result of the misinformation presented in August on NBC’s Today Show by food editor Phil Lempert, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association offers these key messages about grass-finished beef, carbon monoxide in beef packaging, and BSE.

NCBA encourages livestock in-dustry personnel to use the following messages if you receive questions about these particular issues.

Grass-finished beef

  • Like all kinds of beef, grass-finished beef is naturally nutrient-rich, with eight times more vitamin B12, six times more zinc, and two-and-a-half times more iron than a skinless chicken breast.
  • There are 29 cuts that meet the government’s guidelines for lean.• While all beef has small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, no specific type of beef is considered a primary source of omega-3. Grass-finished beef has slightly higher amounts of the fatty acid: A 3.5-oz. serving of grass-finished beef offers 15mg (less than 1/10 of a gram) more omega-3 than other kinds of beef.
  • To put this in perspective, salmon, for example, contains between 0.68 and 1.83 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per one 3-oz. serving — as much as 35 times more than beef.
  • All beef is grass-fed, as all cattle graze on pasture for the majority of their lives. But, grass-finished cattle are raised solely on grass.

Carbon monoxide in meat packaging

  • Many food products, including some meat products, are packaged with a small amount of gas to maintain their fresh color and enhance shelf life.
  • From salad mixes to bottled water, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) technology has been used safely for years. Scientific evidence and thorough government reviews indicate this type of meat packaging is safe for consumers and does not change the safety of the beef.
  • Red meat products are a bit like sliced apples and tend to change from a bright red color to brown or gray after being exposed to oxygen. This is a natural change in color that does not mean the product isn’t fresh or edible.
  • By adding minute amounts of carbon monoxide to the packaging at levels approved by FDA and USDA to red meat packaging, products like ground beef can maintain their natural appearance.
  • Carbon monoxide packaging does not change the safety of beef or the advice we provide consumers about safe handling and preparation of their meat.
  • The color of meat has never been considered a reliable way to determine whether meat is safe to eat. Consumers should rely on all of their senses to determine whether or not the beef product they are about to purchase or have purchased is fresh.
  • Consumers should refer to the use-by date on the package and be alert for a strong spoilage odor or a slippery texture.
  • Consumers should always follow safe handling and preparation steps for all meat. Safe handling and preparation steps are detailed on the federal safe-handling label, which appears on every package of meat.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

  • The USDA’s ongoing BSE surveillance program is scientifically justified and robust. The new level of BSE surveillance is 10 times greater than the World Organization for Animal Health recommended testing level.
  • The purpose of the one-time enhanced BSE surveillance was originally designed to run for a 12- to 18-month period to determine BSE prevalence in the United States. The enhanced surveillance program far exceeded expectations, testing an average of 1,000 cattle per day for a total of 759,000 tests over a 25-month period.
  • BSE surveillance is not a food safety program. Human and animal health is protected by a system of interlocking safeguards. What protects the food supply is the removal of material that would most likely carry the BSE agent (such as brain and spinal cord). This process happens every day with every animal to ensure this diminishing disease has no affect on public health.
  • Across the country, beef producers and veterinarians continually monitor the live cattle herd, further ensuring high quality, safe beef is delivered to dinner tables around the world.
  • BSE is extremely rare in the United States, and the enhanced surveillance program has confirmed this fact. An April 2006 scientific analysis showed the prevalence of this disease in the United States is extremely low-- less than one case per one million adult cattle or in total, less than four to seven cases in the 42 million adult cattle population.
  • The United States started taking preventive steps against BSE in 1989. BSE is not a risk in this country because significant actions were taken well before there was an opportunity for the disease to take hold.

This advisory is funded by the Beef Checkoff.