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Pain management during aversive procedures in extensively raised beef cattle.

Project start date: 01 October 2013
Project end date: 02 March 2018
Publication date: 10 September 2018
Project status: In progress
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
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Routine husbandry procedures  including castration, dehorning, branding, ear notching, ear tagging and spaying are commonly performed on beef cattle and usually without any form of pain relief.

Extensive literature exists demonstrating the pain and distress resulting from these procedures. Some alternatives to these painful practices are being developed, with variable success in their uptake,  including  immunocastration and more widespread use of polled Bos indicus cattle.

However, the current practices do need to continue for an extended interim period for numerous reasons, including ease of management, improved safety and enhanced productivity.  Importantly,  consumer demand for improved animal welfare is driving increasing corporate responsibility for stakeholders throughout the beef industry to provide effective analgesia  for these husbandry interventions, preferably at a reasonable cost that can encourage producer uptake.

Recently, the practical constraints associated with provision of conventional forms of anaesthesia and analgesia in beef cattle, have been addressed through the development and registration of 'farmer applied' pain relief products. A topical anaesthetic (TA) gel (Tri-Solfen®, Bayer Animal Health Australia) designed to be applied to open wounds, and a buccal meloxicam (BM) gel (Ilium® Buccalgesic OTM, Troy Laboratories) designed for oral trans-mucosal absorption, have been developed for post-operative anaesthesia and analgesia of lambs and calves undergoing surgical husbandry procedures. A meloxicam injection (MI) is also available for use in cattle. Other forms of anaesthesia, including  cryoanaesthesia have also been investigated.

This project aimed to assess the efficacy of cryoanaesthesia, TA, BM and MI alone and in various combinations, for the relief of post-operative pain caused by routine husbandry procedures in beef cattle. In addition, the effects of provision of analgesia on production parameters, including weight gain and mortality, were noted.

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Primary researcher: University of Sydney