Injection site lesion message needs to hit dairy industry, expert says


Fort Collins, Colo.-While the beef industry has made significant inroads in reducing injection site lesions in beef carcasses, veterinarians need to work to educate dairy producers on similar changes to injection practices.

Fort Collins, Colo.-While the beef industry has made significant inroads in reducing injection site lesions in beef carcasses, veterinarians need to work to educate dairy producers on similar changes to injection practices.

The message comes from Dr. Gary C. Smith, the Monfort endowed chair professorat Colorado State University's (CSU) Animal Sciences Department. Smith speaksnationally to veterinary and producer groups about problems associated frominjection site lesions and the economic losses to the beef industry. Hehas also been directly involved with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association(NCBA) injection site lesion audit, which is now being conducted every fiveyears. The next audit, slated in 2004, will likely look at top sirloin butts,rounds (from dairy vs. beef cattle), steers and heifers.

Smith recently spoke at the Western Veterinary Conference on the subject.He tells DVM Newsmagazine that veterinarians have helped educate producersa great deal on the problem of injection site lesions and it is workingindustry-wide to make changes. But there is much more work to be done, headds.

Smith says that it is well documented that injection site lesions havea major detrimental impact to the economics of the beef industry. Simplychanging where a producer gives an injection on the animal, from the backleg to the front of the shoulder can save the industry big bucks and reinforcethe wholesomeness of the product. In addition, the industry had to recommendchanging the route of administration from intramuscular to subcutaneous.

Smith adds that the whole issue surfaced in the late 1980s when pharmaceuticalcompanies were being criticized because knots were developing after vaccineadministration under the skin. "The buyers of cattle were penalizingthose cattle with knots. So, the industry started putting injections inthe muscle," Smith explains. "We had no idea what that did, becausethings we found out later on like the toughening of meat three inches awayfrom the site of the needle penetration, or the fact that some of thesesites were green and yellow and awful looking to consumers."

The result? The beef industry started making some changes to protectthe quality and palatability of the product. NCBA commissioned CSU to conductnational injection site audits to determine the severity of the problem.

Smith says, "With regard to effecting change in production practicesof U.S. cattlemen, the national injection-site audits have been immenselysuccessful. Results of the first audit revealed that the incidence of injection-sitelesions in top sirloin butts in July 1991 was 21.3 percent; results of thefinal audit in this series revealed that the incidence of injection-sitelesions in top sirloin butts in July 2000 was 2.1 percent. Smith adds, "Veterinariansreally embraced these changes and dramatically reduced the numbers."

"Most cattle were given shots on one side of their body, so thatmeant that about half of the cattle coming to harvest had been given shotsin that area in the muscle."

The statistics from dairy animals used as beef is not nearly as impressive.In fact, an estimated 60 percent of round cuts from dairy animals had injectionsite lesions.

But if you ask dairy producers if they are going to change their injectionpractices, they will likely say no. The typical response is that they sellmilk. "As long as they can keep the cow alive, wherever we have toshoot or poke or jab her. We don't care about the surplus cow and what sheis worth. Are you absolutely sure that if we give the shot somewhere else,she will be able to produce the same amount of milk?"

Smith adds, the frequency of injection-site lesions in muscles of theround from beef and dairy cow carcasses declined by 11 and 25 percentagepoints, respectively, from 1998 to 2000. These reductions in the frequencyof injection-site lesions are substantial, but not sufficient because oneof five beef cattle rounds and more than one of three of dairy cattle roundsstill have injection-site lesions. Injection-site lesions in beef and dairyrounds cause about $9 million in losses annually (Roeber et al), Smith says.

Smith's million dollar-plus message is this: Don't inject in a retailcut.

A matter of pride

So, how do you get a client to make changes in the way they inject animals?

Smith says, "I try to tell them it is a matter of pride. I say,'You are not going to get a penny more for these animals if you do it rightor you do it wrong. If you take pride in your industry and you want consumersto be satisfied with your products, then you need to change some of thethings you do.' "

Smith explains, "So often we talk about hot-iron branding and castration,and someone in the audience will stand up and say 'Well, I'll do it whenthey pay me to do it.' I always respond that it is disappointing that youwould think that little of your industry. Long-term, this helps everyoneconcerned."

Smith adds that to get a client to change it might just be making themaware of the issue. "I ask producers, how many of you have seen processingcrews putting an injection below the withers? Anything you can do to givethe right advice to those people, will be helpful to the beef industry."

The objective is to make producers aware of the problem and ask for theirhelp to educate others.

A closer look

Smith says that in a collaborative study with CSU with the help of thepharmaceutical industry, Academy of Veterinary Consultants and AmericanAssociation of Bovine Practitioners, they wanted to find out if there wereproducts used that might not cause injection-site problems. So, the studylooked at seven diffeent compounds to create the lesions. "We foundout that even injections with sterile water were causing the problems. Itwas the wound that was causing the problem more than the adjuvant or whateverwas in the medicine. It was much worse with certain adjuvants, than it waswith others, but the toughness problem persisted irrespective of what wegave them."

Smith says that agriculture has clearly documented that the injectionsite lesion stretches far beyond the initial site of the injection.

In some cases, lesions were detected four steaks above and four steaksbelow the initial penetration site. "It is an enormous loss to theindustry," Smith adds.

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