Getting the Most Out of Your Implant

By : Jana Gramkow, Ph.D., Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc.


Implants are one of the most profit-driving technologies available to cattle producers today. When implemented properly, implants contribute as high as a 14:1 return on investment (ROI). Two
important things to consider, and review annually, when incorporating an implant protocol into your operation are selecting the correct implant program and using appropriate implanting techniques.

Last month’s article provided a chart that outlined implants currently available, as well as suggested ways to incorporate them into your operation. There are two primary compounds found in implants; the first are estrogenic compounds that mimic the naturally occurring hormone estrogen and the second are androgenic compounds that mimic the naturally occurring hormone testosterone. These compounds slowly release hormone into the bloodstream over time. The length of time that an implant releases hormone is known as the payout period. As mentioned in last month’s article, different implants are formulated to have different payout periods.

In order for an implant to pay for itself and have the greatest ROI, the implant needs to match up with the number of days on feed and stage of production. In order to determine which implant should be given and when, work backward from the day the cattle should be sent to slaughter or sold. If your implant is going to run out prior to the cattle being sold, consider re-implanting. It is common for cattle to receive 1 to 3 implants in their lifetime. Choosing the correct implant is a  step in the right direction; however, the labeled payout period can be reduced if the implant is not administered appropriately.

Implanting procedures are extremely important in order to maintain efficacy of the implant. If implants are placed improperly or become infected, they will not release hormones as they were designed, which can greatly affect the potency. Infected implant sites can cause expelled implants or a quicker than normal payout resulting in bullers. Bullers can also be caused by implants that are crushed. To help prevent these issues, implants should be given with the gun designed for that implant, and guns should be kept in good repair with sharp needles. Implants should be placed in a clean, dry ear. If the calf’s ear is caked in mud and/or manure, the ear needs be cleaned using a solution of Nolvasan® water and a scrub brush or currycomb chute-side. Upon determining that the ear is clean, the implant should be placed in the middle third of the  ear, about halfway up from the tip to the head. Implants should be placed directly under the skin, taking care to avoid placing the implant in the actual cartilage of the ear. Once you withdraw the needle, take a moment to put pressure on the puncture site to help close up the hole. It’s also good practice to feel the implant site to make sure that the implant was placed properly and no pellets were crushed.

The implant needle should be disinfected between each calf. This can be done by keeping a pan, such as a paint pan, with a sponge soaked in Nolvasan® disinfectant chute-side. After each calf is implanted simply swipe the needle across the sponge to disinfect. This will help reduce the chances of infection of the implant.

In conclusion, choosing the appropriate implant for your operation and utilizing proper techniques when administering an implant will help maximize implant return. Contact a consultant at Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. for a customized  implant program that works for your operation For more information, visit

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