Farm vets can help farmers minimise damage to meat

A new investigation into how meat can be damaged by farm injections has found that 4 per cent of cattle slaughtered in abattoirs in England had injection site lesions in the carcasses.

The study by researchers at the Universities of Nottingham and Bristol shows that compliance with recommended injection protocols could be improved to reduce this damage.

The aim is to encourage farm vets and farmers to make sure they are using the latest and best techniques for administering injections in cattle, to improve meat quality and the welfare of the animals. The study is published online in the Veterinary Record.

Veterinary surgeon Liz Cresswell, who performed the research as part of her internship at Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science , said: “I now work as a farm animal vet in Australia working with beef and dairy farmers. This research has made me talk to my clients about their injection techniques. I, and probably more vets out there, often assume farmers don’t want someone telling them what to do, but actually there are often areas they can improve on and they appreciate a brief check with their vet on routine procedures.”

The researchers investigated the presence of injection site lesions (ISLs) in UK beef cattle and how injectable products may contribute to ISLs. Four abattoirs in England were visited and 2853 carcases were visually inspected. Lesion samples were photographed and measured. In addition, a questionnaire about cattle vaccine uptake, storage and administration was distributed to cattle farmers in the UK.

A wide range of injectable veterinary medicinal products are available to support the health of beef cattle in the UK. Many of these are intended for intramuscular injection and are often administered by farmers. The formation of injection-site lesions is a risk when using injectable products and has potential consequences for meat quality, animal welfare and financial income.

Injections can cause trauma to tissues, resulting in an inflammatory response and potential injection-site lesions such as cysts, discolouration, nodules or abscesses and subsequent scar tissue.

Appropriate injection techniques to minimize damage to tissue include:

  • injecting in areas of lower value such as the neck and avoiding injections in higher value muscles such as the sirloin area
  • Using appropriate injection technique, needle size, sterile technique, changing needles between injections, and cleaning or disinfection of syringes
  • using subcutaneous injections preferentially
  • limiting injection volumes to 10ml or less

The research team found there is also great opportunity for abattoirs to improve feedback to farmers and their vets about injection site lesion damage in meat. The Food Standards Agency and the AHDB levy-board for Beef and Lamb are currently working on this in the Collection and Communication of Inspection Results (CCIR) initiative.