Giving inoculations to sows in farrowing crates or gestation stalls has just become a lot safer.

The Canadian Pork Council's Canadian Quality Assurance (CQA) program has just approved the use of a new hip injection technique, developed by Darcy Pauls and Claude Mason, DVM, both with Puratone Corporation in Niverville, Manitoba.

At one time, ham injections were the industry standard, but over time producers switched to the neck to avoid damaging or discoloring the ham. While neck injections work well for slaughter animals, they can be very difficult to administer to sows in gestation stalls.

“One day, we sat back and asked, ‘Is there a better way to give these injections?’” says Pauls, Puratone general manager. “They administer hip injections to cattle; why aren't we thinking about this for pigs?”

Employee Safety

The biggest advantage to hip injections is employee safety, since it allows the barn worker to passively slip in behind the sow. The animal remains calmer, making it safer for the sow and the handler.

“It is much easier on fingers and hands,” Pauls says. “If you are a six-ft.-tall individual, perhaps it's not all that difficult for you to lean over a stall (front) and try to inject an animal in the neck when she's backing up. We all come in different statures. For some, the job can be difficult when the animal backs up and moves her head. If you're in an awkward position you could wrench an arm.”

Hip injections are much simpler to administer because the animals' hips are exposed, almost at working bench level, Pauls says. “This makes the job easier and lets you do a better job.”

Pauls also believes using the hip site solves stockmanship problems. Neck injections can jeopardize the relationship between the stockperson and the animal. He feels the herd becomes calmer and reacts better with barn workers when they don't associate them with aggressive behavior like pricking them with a needle.

“A hip injection is not a ham injection,” reminds Pauls. “The hip is up above, on the top of the animal. The injection is not into the ham, which is a valued cut of meat. Also, I want to be clear we are talking about using it on our breeding stock animals (only); this is not the way we're treating market animals.

“We use the hip site only for low-dose vaccines of 2 ml. or less; if we need to treat an animal with penicillin or something that requires larger doses, we use the neck,” he adds.

Injections are given in an area between the front of the hipbone and the hip joint, about 2 in. off the spine (see photo/diagram). It's a clean area that's less prone to abscess, and still allows true intramuscular deposit of the product. Products are inserted perpendicular to the skin surface using 1½-in., 18-gauge needles.