The first time I attempted to give a calf a bolus pill didn’t go quite to way I had seen it done. My father made it look so easy. Just place the pill in the tip of the applicator, and then place it in the back of the calf’s mouth push the ring on the applicator applying the pill down the little bovine’s throat.
Not thinking of all the practice my father had, I started getting pissed off when this calf kept spitting up the bolus. No lie that calf spit up that pill about thirty times on my first try.
Then a father said “Stand on the side of the calf, reach your arm around the neck and hold its lower jaw prying the mouth open with that hand, then place the pill in the mouth with the other go down to the back of the tongue.” Well, it worked on the third try.
Many years and many calves have passed since that first time, now giving cattle a bolus pill is like second nature to me. Every once in awhile a still get a pill spit out, but normally it goes down pretty easy.
I have had to administer a pill without the applicator. It can be done, but I recommend with an applicator. Much easier and a lot less chance of getting your fingers bit down on.
I like to run the cattle up a chute giving them little room to move around in to apply the bolus. You got to be careful when working this close to bovines they can fight back. Clam and slow, taking time to get it right is the approach I use. With a cow I like to stand on the outside of the chute up on the side boards at a safe distance giving myself room to get out of the away when they rear back.
I find much easier to give adult cattle injections than oral medication, thus I rarely administer bolus pills to adult cattle. Now calves are a different story, I prefer to give calf oral medications over injections. Most bolus work faster and longer than injections also is easier to apply in calves. I think because I have so much control over the calf when holding it by the lower jaw and placing the pill goes quickly.
Standing on the side, reaching around, and holding the lower jaw of a calf works well for administering all types of oral medication, drench, paste dewormers, bolus pills, and liquid antibiotics, you will have to pen or trap the calf to do so. If no chute is available you will have to restrain it in a corner of a pen or with a rope, sometimes you can get lucky and sneak up and grab it by a hind leg.