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How to Give a Tetanus Shot to Cattle

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Protective gloves

  • Eye goggles

  • Disinfectant cleaner

  • Paper towels or material to wipe skin

  • Tetanus vials

  • Hypodermic needles and syringes

Tetanus, or “lockjaw,” is caused by bacteria. Generally, tetanus poses little risk for cattle, according to veterinarian James G. Floyd, Jr. Cattle are primarily given tetanus vaccinations in association with calving, castrating, an injury or wound, and flooding. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the type of tetanus shot to administer, because various forms exist.

Schedule a tetanus vaccine for a calf at least two to four weeks prior to castrating. Administer a tetanus antitoxin shot immediately after an injury. Give cattle tetanus vaccines at least six weeks after receiving drugs, such as steroids, that reduce their ability to produce antibodies.

Read the vaccine instruction to determine the dosage and product preparation requirements, such as shaking or bringing to room temperature. Put on gloves and protective eyewear or goggles to decrease accidental contact with the shot fluid. Take a hypodermic needle, insert it into a vial, turn the vial upside down and pull the plunger to draw the correct dosage into the syringe.

Restrain the cattle in a chute or have an assistant halter and hold the animal. Use disinfectant cleaner with a towel or other clean fabric to clean the skin area prior to injection. Avoid any area with abrasions, cuts or irritation.

Pinch up or pull the skin upward to create a pocket between the skin and underlying tissue. Push the needle through the skin into the pocket, at a 30 to 45 degree angle to the injection site. Push the plunger to inject the fluid into the pocket. Remove the needle. Wipe the area with cleaner. Using subcutaneous injections in the neck area decreases reaction problems.

Place the needle into a disposal container. Use a fresh hypodermic needle and towel for each cow to avoid contamination or spreading infections. Dispose of any partially used vials and refrigerate unopened vials.


  • Cows vaccinated at birth and one year, or vaccinated and given a one-year booster, generally do not require further vaccinations.


  • Avoid accidental injection of shots into yourself or your assistant. Inspect cattle for injuries after floods because floods cause bacteria to rise to the surface and increase the risk of tetanus. Do not vaccinate cattle within 21 days from slaughter. Avoid vaccinating sick or stressed cattle to improve response to vaccines.