Proper Implanting Technique

There is no question that with a proper implanting protocol, calves become more efficient in terms of feed to gain ratios. The improved ADG, F:G and lean carcass yield observed from implanting calves results in improved returns per head; in general each implant, if properly placed, should return $15 to $40. These improved returns and feed efficiencies become increasingly important in years when feed prices are high. However, if an implant is improperly placed, the benefits of the implant quickly diminish.

What is meant by an improperly placed implant or an implant defect?

A defect is when the implant is: missing, abscessed, partially lost, crushed, bunched, placed in cartilage instead of under the skin of the ear, improperly located (i.e. too close to tag or head), surrounded by fluid from trauma, or walled off. The most financially significant of these defects are missing and abscessed implants. Missing implants are costly not only because of the waste of an implant but also because the animal will receive no benefits; a missing implant could render a cost of over $30 per head affected. Abscessed implants are also costly because the implant will be broken down in the abscess and not absorbed by the calf, costing about $26 per head affected. On average any one of the above listed defects may cause a loss of about $20 per improperly implanted calf. The mistakes made when implanting can be costly but luckily they can also be avoided by always using proper implanting technique.

Proper Implanting Technique

implant location

Begin by checking the needle for burrs and making sure the implant gun is in normal working condition. Extra needles should be on hand, as the needle should be replaced periodically as required.  Extra implant guns should also be readily available. Prevention of abscesses is accomplished by ensuring that the needle of the gun is cleaned with disinfectant between each animal and that the ear of each calf is clean and dry.  Disinfecting the needle is recommended to be done between each animal with a sponge saturated with chlorhexidine (Hibitane) disinfectant solution.

Proper placement of implants is of the utmost importance.  Acceptable sites to implant include: between the cartilage ribs in the middle 1/3 of the ear, or on the flattened surface on top of the ear.  The implant must not be close to any other existing implants or ear tags, and at least 2 finger lengths away from the base of the ear (see diagram).  It is very important to ensure the needle and implant are placed subcutaneously and not into the cartilage of the ear.

In order to insure that the implant is correctly placed the person implanting should feel the implant in the ear before the animal is allowed out of the chute. VAHS also provides as part of our services an implant check. Implant checks should be done 10 to 14 days after the cattle are implanted or about 10% of the pen.