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Pain Management in Production Animals

Identification of pain responses in calves and lambs can be difficult because, as prey animals, they are genetically wired to conceal pain as a survival mechanisms.

Animal husbandry procedures such as castration, tail docking, disbudding, and ear tagging are necessary but very painful, and this pain is experienced both during the procedure and for some hours, possibly days afterward.

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Pain Management Objectives

Pain management aims to lessen the pain and inflammatory response, reduce physiological reactions and reduce stress following injury.

By improving the animals’ ability to cope with the pain, its return to normal behaviours such as suckling, grazing, and walking is faster, and wound healing is more efficient.

Types Of Pain

The pain experienced by animals during and after procedures differs, and therefore so does management of this pain.

Fast pain is the initial, sharp pain felt at the site of the procedure – the sharp cut made by a knife for example.

  • Short in duration.
  • Localised to the area surrounding the surgical site.
  • Managed by local anaesthetic either injected or applied topically.

Slow pain is the secondary, dull throbbing pain that arises minutes to hours after the procedure.

  • If left untreated, can last for several days after the procedure.
  • Intense but can radiate and be felt in a larger area.
  • Makes the animals reluctant to move and graze, and affects their normal behaviour.
  • An effective treatment for slow pain is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as meloxicam.

The amount of time spent grazing by lambs given BUTEC was extremely improved, especially in the second half of the day, while those not receiving it were still unhappy and unable to graze.

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Dr Alison Small

CSIRO Principal Research Scientist, Armidale

Give Production Animals A Better Start With Long-Lasting Pain Management

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Effective Pain Relief For Lambs And Calves

BUTEC OTM has been shown to result in treated animals displaying less pain-related behaviours and displaying more normal activities such as grazing, rumination, suckling, and lying down relative to untreated animals following surgical husbandry procedures.

Castration And Tail Docking In Lambs

Merino lambs (n = 60) aged 7 – 10 weeks underwent knife castration and hot-iron tail docking. Lambs were randomly allocated to either a placebo group or BUTEC OTM treatment group.

Observations were carried out every 15 minutes for the first 8 hours post procedure and then 3 observation periods, 15 minutes apart, were carried out 24 hours post procedure. Observers were blinded to whether the lambs were treated with BUTEC OTM or placebo.

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  • Significantly less time was spent standing with a tendency for BUTEC OTM treated lambs to spend more time grazing, feeding from their mothers, and in normal lying, postures compared to placebo-treated lambs.
  • At 24 hours, significant differences were still seen in time spent lying indicating greater comfort and suggesting lambs continued to experience a benefit.

BUTEC OTM provided a substantial analgesia benefit to lambs on the day of marking and a benefit was evident on the second day when there continued to be increased comfort in BUTEC OTM treated lambs.

Mulesing In Lambs

120 female lambs aged 6 — 10 weeks underwent surgical mulesing and tail docking. Lambs were ranked according to body weight and then randomly allocated to treatment groups. They were observed at time intervals post-procedure by observers who were blinded to any treatments given to the lambs.

Observatin period

BUTEC OTM provides effective analgesia and improves the welfare of lambs undergoing surgical mulesing when administered either singly or in combination.5

Surgical Castration In Calves

Surgical castration was carried out on 40 cross-bred bull calves (9 — 11 weeks old). Pain-related behaviours were assessed every 5 minutes in the first hour post castration. Postural behaviours were classified every 15 minutes for 8 hours post castration and again for 4 hours on the following day.

  • There was an overall trend that BUTEC OTM administration mitigated both behavioral and physiological pain responses in calves post castration.
  • Evident reduction in pain-related behaviours in the first 8 hours post castration.3