Intramuscular injections

Intramuscular injections are made into muscle, using a longer needle and are usually used for antibiotics.

Intramuscular injectionIntramuscular injections are made into muscle. Image: Brookside Press

Before starting, READ the data sheet for the medicine carefully. It may recommend the size of needle, the injection site i.e. neck and the maximum amount of medicine to be injected at any single injection site. The data sheet also gives important information about dosage, withdrawal periods, storage and disposal.

Where practicable, the injection site should be clipped free of hair / wool and the skin cleaned with spirit or antiseptic.

Always make sure that the animal is correctly restrained, both for your safety and to ensure that the injection is made correctly.

  • Care should be taken to expel air bubbles from the barrel of the syringe.
  • In cattle, it’s usual practice to sharply tap the injection site to deaden it. The needle is then inserted without the syringe attached. Once it is in place, the syringe is put on and the medicine administered.
  • Insert the needle all the way into the injection site. If any blood shows, the needle must be removed and reinserted.
  • Attach the syringe and draw the piston back a little to check that there is no blood.
  • Depress the piston slowly to inject the medicine, pressing it all the way down.
  • Massage the injected area to aid the dispersal of the drug
  • Dispose of the syringe and needle in a sharps container.

Sheep and goats

Preferred injection sites for intramuscular injections are:

  • The side of the neck, 10-15cm in front of the shoulder in the mid neck area well above the large jugular vein. Using this site avoids potential damage to prime meat cuts.


Preferred injection sites for intramuscular injections are:

  • The thigh muscle
  • The gluteal muscle on the top of the rump, in beef cattle. This should be avoided in dairy cattle and calves as lack of flesh coverage can result in damage to the sciatic nerve.
  • The muscle in the side of the neck. Many animals will tolerate injections to the rear end better than into the neck.


Preferred injection sites for intramuscular injections are:

  • In weaners, growers, finishers and adults, up to 70mm behind the base of the ear.
  • Small piglets are often injected into the ham of the hind leg because there is not much muscle on the neck. This is not recommended in growers/finishers because of the possibility of abscesses.
Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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