The use of pain relief during castration and dehorning of calves on commercial beef operations can be limited by constraints associated with the delivery of analgesic agents. As topical anaesthetic (TA) and buccal meloxicam (MEL) are now available in Australia, offering practical analgesic treatments for concurrent castration and dehorning of beef calves, a study was conducted to determine their efficacy in providing pain relief when applied separately or in combination.
Weaner calves were randomly allocated to; (1) no castration and dehorning/positive control (CONP); (2) castration and dehorning/negative control (CONN); (3) castration and dehorning with buccal meloxicam (BM); (4) castration and dehorning with topical anaesthetic (TA); and (5) castration and dehorning with buccal meloxicam and topical anaesthetic (BMTA). Weight gain, paddock utilisation, lying activity and individual behaviours following treatment were measured.
CONP and BMTA calves had significantly greater weight gain than CONN calves (p < 0.001). CONN calves spent less time lying compared to BMTA calves on all days (p < 0.001). All dehorned and castrated calves spent more time walking (p = 0.024) and less time eating (p < 0.001) compared to CONP calves.
There was a trend for CONP calves to spend the most time standing and CONN calves to spend the least time standing (p = 0.059). There were also trends for the frequency of head turns to be lowest in CONP and BMTA calves (p = 0.098) and tail flicks to be highest in CONN and BM calves (p = 0.061).
The findings of this study suggest that TA and MEL can potentially improve welfare and production of calves following surgical castration and amputation dehorning. The study is from the Sydney school of veterinary science, and School of life and environmental sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Van der Saag D, White P, Ingram L, et al. Animals (Basel) 2018;8(3). pii: E35. doi: 10.3390/ani8030035.