Pain relief with NumNuts

06 November 2015

Its name might cause a grin, but the ‘NumNuts’ castration and tail docking tool will play a serious role in providing pain relief during animal husbandry practices.

The hand-held tool, which is currently being commercialised and is expected to be for sale in about 18 months' time, features a single action castration/tail docking ring applicator and injection mechanism which administers the local anaesthetic lignocaine (used by the dental industry) for rapid pain relief.

NumNuts is the result of a partnership between MLA and Scottish engineering firm 4cDesigns, which was established during the MLA-funded development of a barber’s pole worm vaccine, BarberVax, by Moredun Research Institute in Scotland.

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) also contributed to the project, with research by Moredun and the CSIRO.

“Our goal was to develop a pain relief tool which could be used on-farm by producers, without the need for a veterinarian’s skills,” MLA’s Program Manager for Animal Health, Welfare and Biosecurity, Jim Rothwell, explained.

“It gives producers a practical and economic solution in response to community concerns about the necessary husbandry practices of castration and tail docking and demonstrates the industry is embracing best practice.”

The anaesthetic acts about 30 to 60 seconds after injection and doesn’t wear off for around four hours, by which time the tissue in the testes and tail are dead, eliminating residual pain.

In proof-of-concept trials, there was a significant decrease in pain behaviour such as ‘tucked up’ posture, bleating and lying down.

The tool is designed for lambs aged two to 12 weeks, which reflects the new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for sheep and cattle, which also state pain relief is desirable if practical and cost effective for lambs under 12 weeks, recommended for animals over three months of age and required for animals over six months of age. It is expected to cost around 20¢/treatment.

Proof-of-concept trials are now underway for a cattle castration version of NumNuts, and MLA is also funding research to set the minimum residue levels of lignocaine, which will determine any meat withholding periods.

Information: Jim Rothwell E: jrothwell@mla.com.au

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