Most vaccinations and medications given to livestock are not harmful to humans, but some are toxic. Since medicating livestock is a common practice on most ranches, accidental injections are possible. “Everyone must be knowledgeable about the substances being used and exercise caution during the inoculation process,” says Helen Schledewitz of the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences at Colorado State University.

    Ms. Schledewitz suggests these safety tips:

  • Always read the enclosed label instructions, Material Safety Data Sheets or the original label that comes with any medication. These will have warning information to advise you about necessary precautions. Managers should supply the information contained in the label or MSDS to their workers in the appropriate language.
  • Properly restrain livestock in a chute before vaccinating or injecting medications.
  • Do not use automatic-powered syringes when injecting human-toxic medications. n Do not carry loaded syringes in your pants or coat pocket.
  • Do not leave loaded syringes on the seat of a vehicle.
  • Always load the syringe in the work area. n Cap the syringe if it is not going to be used immediately.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look for slip, trip and fall hazards.
  • Watch your livestock for spooking, and never carry a loaded syringe around unrestrained livestock.
  • Dispose of syringes or needles in a hard plastic container that has a tight lid, and label the container “sharps.” This will warn everyone what is in the container and help prevent children from accidentally handling the used syringes.
  • If reusing needles and syringes, disinfect both the syringe and needles after each use.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling any medication or vaccine.
  • Post the number to your local poison control center by the house and barn or work-area telephone.
  • If someone accidentally injects themselves, wash the affected area well with clean water and soap, inform a supervisor or co-worker and call the local poison control center immediately.
  • If using a medication that has a potential for human toxicity or does not have an antidote, weigh the decision to use a different medication if one is available and appropriate. If not, get safe-handling tips from your veterinarian.
  • If using a medication with known human toxicity, do not tent the animal’s skin with one hand. Sudden animal movements can easily lead to accidental self-injection.

    This information is provided by the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agriculture Safety and Health. For more information, visit