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Be smart with remote delivery systemsBe smart with remote delivery systems

Stupidity has put a valuable tool at risk. Let's switch to smart and not see any more of that.

Alan Newport

September 21, 2016

2 Min Read


I remember being a little shocked last year when I heard the hullabaloo over remote delivery systems, commonly called “dart guns,” from Beef Quality Assurance and others in the industry.

After all, I have spent some time with these units, having delivered some meds with them and also learning how to calibrate them and writing a two-page guide for Beef Producer in November 2014.

I just couldn't imagine what the problem could be.

Last week while at AABP I was informed that a couple of the pneumatic darts were found whole and inside beef carcasses at a packing plant.

Now I'm shocked. I can't imagine how anyone could do something that stupid.

Last week while I was the American Association of Bovine Practitioner's meeting, I listened to a couple presentations, neither particularly enlightening.

In the first study 15 calves were given Tulathromycin (Draxxin) in the neck by one of two methods: hand injection with a syringe or remote delivery from 30 feet with a dart. All the calves were restrained in a chute for the treatment and ultimately euthanized and autopsied to compare hand injected sites with remote delivery sites.

The short story is they found no difference in the two types of injection via any of their measurements.

However, they had four darts fail to deliver a full dose because the ejection charge inside the dart did not fire. Again, having some familiarity with the technology, I found this odd.

The second study actually injected one of three antimicrobials or a saline solution via pneumatic dart into the lower round (biceps femoris muscle) of 40 calves, ostensibly to test the effects of the treatment upon subsequent carcass quality. The calves were fed and finished in about six more months. Researchers reported they found no problems other than a small but significant decrease in the antibiotic-treated round versus the untreated one.

This goes directly against injection guidelines by BQA and therefore I can’t see any reason to perform the second study at all.

In reality, the answer to nearly all problems with remote delivery lies entirely in responsible use by users.

First, remote delivery should be used only when cattle-handling facilities do not exist or are honestly too difficult to reach. I realize that’s a sizeable piece of cattle country.

Perhaps more important, if you’re too lazy to learn how to use these tools and to set them up properly, you should get someone to do it for you, ideally a veterinarian. These tools are not like a syringe. They must be calibrated and then set for the correct speed (amount of energy) for the distance and weight/size of the dart.

Last, I suggest that every effort should be made to pick up darts from pasture after treatment. Would you leave syringes lying about on the ground?

There is no excuse for any serious error when we’re working to sell our beef products as safe and humane.

About the Author(s)

Alan Newport

Editor, Beef Producer

Alan Newport is editor of Beef Producer, a national magazine with editorial content specifically targeted at beef production for Farm Progress’s 17 state and regional farm publications. Beef Producer appears as an insert in these magazines for readers with 50 head or more of beef cattle. Newport lives in north-central Oklahoma and travels the U.S. to meet producers and to chase down the latest and best information about the beef industry.

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