Here’s How I Do It…
This is a new column to provide techniques and ideas intended to help sheep producers who are just getting started or are looking for alternative practices to a variety of farm tasks. I will not say the information provided through this forum is “The Way”, just that it may be “A Way”, and possibly more efficient or effective than some current techniques. We will come up with some topics and hope to hear ideas from many other KHSI members. We are interested to learn about “How You Do It”, and we will work with some of the ideas presented and help get them into article form.
The first topic is about using vaccination and drench guns. Before using guns, I did a lot of single-dose injections with a syringe & needle and a lot of drenching with a single-dose drench syringe. Many of us may not have been exposed to the techniques for administering any medications to animals and some videos. This was the case for me, and at about 100 animals, I had to find a better way.
I saw a variety of guns online and in catalogs. Spending almost $40 including freight was a bit risky, but I got lucky and purchased an adjustable 6 ml Prima Tech Bottle Mount Syringe. While I was at it, I splurged another $8 for the Sterimatic Injection Pack. The gun came with different size bottle mounts… exactly what I needed. The Sterimatic component is a needle guard that threads onto the gun and covers the needle. This is a 2-piece guard that collapses when pressed against an animal. What a winner. I saved a ton of time, I haven’t injected myself since (I used to do this twice a day) , I get the right dose every time and the needle guard only allows the needle to protrude out about ½”, so I do not shoot vaccine through 2 layers of skin and onto the ground anymore. A device of this type is highly recommended. The guard is called “Sterimatic”, as it come with a replaceable cap that says it sterilizes needles for up to 100 injections. This also saves on time and money to continuously replace needles.
Using the right length needle is critical to the success of using the guard. The guards are for 1” or 1-1/2”. I figured this out after a bit of frustration. To prevent using the wrong needles from now on, I wrote the needle length on my guards with a Sharpie. I still get a bent needle once in a while, and I change needles more often than every 100 sheep, but this is 20x better than single doses and sticking myself.
After such success with the vac gun, I ventured into drench guns. Previous to this, I used a 30ml drench syringe for each de-wormer (we do the dual de-wormer method) and did a little math with each does and set the dose nut (stop nut) to provide the right dosage. I would have to constantly stick the syringe back into the original container to refill, though I knew I was creating some contamination of the fluid. I was juggling syringes and trying not to spill containers or having to put the caps back on after every refill. I went shopping and came up with the same brand of an adjustable 12.5 ml drench gun. However, since the bottle did not connect directly to the gun, I would need to figure this out. I took a shot and bought 2 bottles with rubber stoppers.
At first, I thought they sent the wrong rubber stoppers. I just couldn’t figure it out. It took me quite a while until I realized that I had to kind of turn the rubber stoppers inside out over the neck of the bottle. Once I got the stopper right, the rest is simple with the adapters in the gun kit. The bottles come with a plastic hook molded into the profile of the back/bottom, they just need popped lose. I now fill the bottle, install my rubber stopper (smiling at myself every time), slide on the proper collar, screw on the bottle spike and hang the plastic hook over a bungee hook. I use 2 guns - one for each anthelmintic. I also found that most of the plastic bottles with dextrose and other fluids can be reused with the same rubber stoppers. I label the bottles with a Sharpie and use that bottle only for that product.
If we have more than 10 sheep that need the same oral treatment, we use the drench guns. I never vaccinate without the syringe gun anymore. The biggest problem I had was that the syringe gun was knocked from my hand once and the weight of a new bottle of vac snapped the neck of the bottle connection. I now stock the replacement spike and tool. While I was at it, I bought a spare drench gun, as we just can’t be without them.
Below left is my vac gun showing the CD/ T and Covexin 8 vaccines both fit with the same blue adapter (the adapter for the larger CD/T bottle came with the gun). The Sterimatic needle guards thread onto the needle end and the clear is for 1” needles and the green for 1-1/2”. The Stericap is the white disk that snaps into the end of the guard. You can see the spring inside the guards that allow them to retract as the needle penetrates. The gray knob between the handles adjusts the dosage amount. For vaccinating, I set it at 2ml or 5ml and just make sure it fills the whole way before administering. Be sure that the gun is oriented with the bottle upwards when releasing the handle, so a full dose gets into the gun.