How to Drench a Calf

By Dr. Melissa Nelson

Drenching a calf is the process of administering liquids to a calf via the mouth. Livestock producers find this method a quick manner to give medications to a calf. Using drench devices takes less skill than passing a stomach tube through the esophagus and into the stomach. It will take some physical strength to handle the calf during the drenching process.

Preparation

Read the manufacturer instructions on the drenching device to learn how to properly use it and before attempting to drench the calf.

Prepare the medication for drenching by reading the label on the medication package.

Inspect all equipment for damage. Make sure the halter loops or buckles are well sewn and sturdy. Check the edges of the drenching tool for any sharp edges that may cut the calf's mouth or the operators hands.

Back a newborn or very small calf into a corner of the pen and straddle its neck with your legs. Hold the calf still using your inner thighs and use your non-dominate hand to steady the neck.

Restrain older or larger calves with a halter. Place the halter around the calf's head. Tie the halter to sturdy post next to a barn wall or solid fence. Use an easy-to-untie slip knot in case the calf pulls hard on the halter or struggles. Press the calf's body against the wall with a hip and use your non-dominant hand to control the calves head.

Drive the calf into a chute or head gate if you are using one. If the chute is adjustable squeeze the calf in the chute to calm it down.

Place a nose lead on older calf or use your fingers to grasp the tissue separating the nostrils. This method will help you hold the calf steady as you advance the drench tube. With young or more docile calves, you may be able to control the head by holding the lower jaw alone.

Administer Drench

Place your non-dominant hand under the jaw and slightly stretch the calf's neck out and up. Work your thumb in between the jaws in the area immediately behind the front teeth. There are no teeth in this part of the mouth. Be careful not to go too far back where the back molars are located. Firmly squeeze down to make the calf open its jaw slightly.

Insert the tip of the drench gun or drench tube using your the thumb placed in the mouth as a guide. Pass the tip over the back of the tongue being careful not to injure the mouth or the gums.

Slowly administer the medication making sure the calf swallows and does not inhale any of the medication into his trachea (windpipe).