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How to inject subcutaneous and intramuscular injections.


For those of us who have been breeding sheep for a while, injecting is just part of the job and we rarely think too much about it, but for the newer breeders, it could provide some hesitancy. I have been asked to do an article on injections, so here we go. These are not the vaccination type injections, for which you would use the Sterimatic injector, and attach the bottle, but the single use syringe injections as in antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

Administering an Injection

Find the muscle section on the sheep's neck.

Rub the area a little.

Insert the needle.

Draw back slightly to ensure there is no blood, and then steadily depress the plunger. If there is blood remove the needle and try again in a different spot.

Remove the needle and rub the area.

Injection Sites

There are generally two types of injections you will need to give your sheep at some stage - subcutaneous (SQ) and intramuscular (IM). The Intravenous, jugular injection can be quite difficult and is best left to your Vet. The subcutaneous injection goes just under the skin whereas the intramuscular goes deeper into the muscle and will work faster for the antibiotic drugs. Your Vet will usually write on the drugs which type it is. The diagram shows the usual injection sites for sheep. My favourite place is always the neck. One of our past Vets used to use the back of the leg and we ended up with a lame sheep more than once, so I personally, avoid that area. Hitting the sciatic nerve is too risky for me. The neck can be easily reached and watched afterwards, although we have never had an abscess form from these injections. If we are giving a course of injections, we swap sides for each one, rather then giving them all in the one area.

How to Administer

Draw up your medication to just above the desired dosage on your syringe. Hold it up and tap to push any air bubbles to the top. Insert the needle back into bottle and depress the plunger to allow excess to go back into bottle. This way you ensure there is no air bubble to be injected into the sheep. If your Vet has drawn up syringes for you, again tap before use and check to make sure there is no air bubble at the top of the syringe.


Ensure the sheep is contained, either in a sheep handler or with someone holding it firmly. Lift the fleece and skin into a tent and insert the needle just under the skin at a roughly 45degree angle. If you have the needle parallel to the sheep’s body, you will go straight through and out the other side, thus wasting the dose, so angle it slightly. Draw back slightly to make sure there is no blood in the syringe. If there is, find another spot and start again. Depress the plunger steadily. Remove needle and place in a medical waste container. Dispose of syringe.


Same as above regarding loading the syringe. Locate a muscular area on the Babydoll’s neck, or back of leg if preferred. I usually use the neck area in front of the shoulder. Insert the needle deeper into the muscle, aspirate to check for blood and depress plunger steadily. Next injection will go into the same area but on the other side of the sheep. Just make sure to have the sheep firmly held and still, and keep your fingers away from the needle. There is nothing more dangerous to both sheep and handler than trying to inject into a sheep that is throwing itself around, so make sure they are restrained. 

Needles Fit for Purpose

There are a range of needles available and they vary in both length and gauge, so it is important to use the size best for the purpose. The higher the gauge number, the finer the needle, so a 25 gauge needle is much finer than an 18 gauge. If your medication is particularly viscous or thick, such as a Vitamin ADE injection, you may need the 18 gauge pink needle. If it is a watery type medication, you can go to something finer such as a 22 gauge. My favourite is generally the 22 gauge, 19mm needle, as it is moderately fine but also injects Penicillin well. I use the “BD” needles and it is the black one. Lengthwise, I prefer the shorter needles, especially for SQ injections, where you don’t want to go too far into the flesh. Intramuscular, you can go for the longer one if you prefer, but I find I rarely push it right in to the hub of the needle. Of course, you could do all the Injections with the heavier gauge needle, but consider how happy you were to find the Covid vaccination needle was a nice fine one as opposed to a horse needle! Your sheep deserve the same comfort. You will know if the gauge is suitable when you load it with the medication. If it is difficult to draw up, it is probably too fine. 


Syringes also come in a range of sizes and we keep several on hand. You can usually buy them individually or by the box from your Produce/Farm Store. We keep a few 10ml, but a box of 5ml, 3ml and several 1ml syringes. The 5ml are the most used, as you can fill them from anywhere from 1 –6ml. They always have the bit extra, so you can draw up that little bit more and dispel to remove the air bubbles. Keep a few of the 1ml syringes in hand as they are often handy for the lambs who are sometimes given less than 1ml of medication.


  • Ensure medications are kept according to instructions, either refrigerated or out of the light.
  • Always use within the use-by dates.
  • Always give Penicillin type meds. a really good shake before use.
  • Be aware Alamycin stings when injected, so the sheep may react, and it also changes colour when stored, but it is still okay if it is within the use-by date.