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NumNuts to provide rapid pain relief in animal husbandry

30 November 2015

A cheekily named pain product for sheep is poised to drive improvements in animal husbandry practices by providing rapid pain relief in the castration and tail docking process.

NumNuts, developed by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Scottish engineering firm 4cDesign, incorporates a single action handheld ring activator and injection mechanism to administer a local anaesthetic - lignocaine, as used by the dental industry - to quickly and effectively reduce pain.  
Proof-of-concept trials have shown serious reductions in pain behaviour such as ‘tucked up’ posture, bleating and lying down when sheep are treated using the NumNuts tool. The anaesthetic acts within 30 to 60 seconds of injection and remains active for approximately four hours by which time the tissue in the testes and tail is dead, eliminating residual pain.
MLA Program Manager, Animal Health, Welfare and Biosecurity, Dr Jim Rothwell, said NumNuts would be a simple and effective tool, easily used by producers to achieve excellent gains in animal husbandry.
“Our research has demonstrated the ability of this tool to very rapidly reduce pain throughout husbandry processes that are important to both production and broader animal safety,” Dr Rothwell said.

“The NumNuts tool will allow producers to administer effective pain relief in a safe, controlled and fast-acting manner without the need for a veterinarian to be present, making it a practical and economically viable option for on-farm use.
“The livestock industries understand there is broad community interest in animal welfare and this is an issue that is also of great importance to primary producers.

“We know happy animals are productive animals and this new technology shows the proactivity and willingness across the sector to continually seek to innovate in the area of animal welfare and to embrace best practice.”
The development of NumNuts had contributions from Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and research from Moredun and CSIRO, and is currently in the commercialisation process. It is anticipated it will be available to producers for on-farm use in 18 months.
The tool is expected to cost around 20c/treatment and is designed for lambs aged two to 12 weeks which is the recommended age for marking lambs under the new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. The Guidelines state that pain relief is desirable if practical and cost effective for lambs at marking and is required for animals over six months of age.

General Manager of On-Farm Innovation and Adoption Dr Matt McDonagh said NumNuts is a great example of levy payer funds being invested in research and development to deliver a practical on farm tool for sheep producers.
"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 period," said Dr McDonagh.

For media enquiries contact:  Rose Glasser, MLA Media Manager, p: 0408 729 165, e: