ISSN 2398-2993      

Calf analgesia

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Contributor(s):

John Remnant

Alex Dugdale

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Background

  • Cattle are naturally stoic animals that may not show obvious, outward signs of pain.
  • Historically the recognition of pain and the use of analgesics in farm animals suffering from painful conditions or undergoing painful procedures has lagged behind use in companion species.
  • More recent research carried out in the UK suggests that there has been an increase in the recognition of pain in cattle by vets in the intervening time and a corresponding increase in the use of analgesics in cattle.
  • In this and previous studies, male veterinarians and those that have been qualified for longer tended to use analgesics less frequently.
  • In the same study, whilst routine management procedures of calves were considered as painful as other conditions, they were significantly less likely to receive non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • There is evidence that both castration and disbudding of calves results in pain, and that the use of both local anesthesia and concurrent use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory products can alleviate some of this pain.
  • As with any painful routine husbandry procedures a “3 Rs” approach is warranted to reduce the need for the procedure
    • Reduce: eg using sexed semen to reduce numbers of male calves needing castration.
    • Replace: eg.selecting polled sires to replace horned calves with polled calves, thus negating the need for disbudding.
    • Refine the procedure: eg the use of analgesics.
  • Many of these procedures are carried out directly by producers. 
  • Analgesic medicines and protocols will often need to be provided by a veterinarian.

Calf disbudding

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Calf castration

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Other calf procedures

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Calf disease

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Summary

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Pearson J M, Pajor E, Campbell J et al (2019) A randomised controlled trial investigating the effects of administering a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to beef calves assisted at birth and risk factors associated with passive immunity, health, and growth. Vet Rec Open (1), PubMed.
  • Remnant J G, Tremlett A, Huxley J N, Hudson C D (2017) Clinician attitudes to pain and use of analgesia in cattle: where are we 10 years on? Vet Rec 181, 400 PubMed.
  • Schulze I, Poos E M, Meyer H, List A K, Kaestner S B R & Rehage J (2016) Effects of preoperative carprofen on cardio-respiratory, hormonal and metabolic stress response in calves during umbilical surgery under isoflurane inhalation anaesthesia. Vet J 216, 18-24 PubMed.
  • Stock M L, Baldridge S L, Griffin D & Coetzee J F (2013) Bovine dehorning: assessing pain and providing analgesic management. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 29(1), 103-133 PubMed.
  • Coetzee J F (2013) Assessment and management of pain associated with castration in cattle. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 29(1), 75-101 PubMed.
  • Mulon P Y (2013) Management of long bone fractures in cattle. In Practice 35(5), 265-271.
  • Murray C F & Leslie K E (2013) Newborn calf vitality: Risk factors, characteristics, assessment, resulting outcomes and strategies for improvement. Vet J 198(2), 322-328 PubMed.
  • Francoz D, Buczinski S & Apley M (2012) Evidence related to the use of ancillary drugs in bovine respiratory disease (anti-inflammatory and others): are they justified or not? Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 28(1), 23-38 PubMed.
  • Laven R, Chambers P & Stafford K (2012) Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs around calving: Maximizing comfort, productivity and fertility. Vet J 192(1), 8-12 PubMed.
  • Stafford K J & Mellor D J (2011) Addressing the pain associated with disbudding and dehorning in cattle. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 135(3), 226-231.
  • Heinrich A, Duffield T F, Lissemore K D, & Millman S T (2010) The effect of meloxicam on behavior and pain sensitivity of dairy calves following cautery dehorning with a local anesthetic. J Dairy Sci 93(6), 2450-2457 PubMed.
  • Todd C G, Millman S T, McKnight D R, Duffield T F & Leslie K E (2010) Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy for neonatal calf diarrhea complex: Effects on calf performance. J Anim Sci 88(6), 2019-2028 PubMed.
  • Stilwell G, de Carvalho R C, Lima M S & Broom D M (2009) Effect of caustic paste disbudding, using local anaesthesia with and without analgesia, on behaviour and cortisol of calves. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 116(1), 35-44.
  • Baird A N (2008) Umbilical surgery in calves. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 24(3), 467-477 PubMed.
  • Hudson C D, Whay H R & Huxley J N (2008) Recognition and management of pain in cattle. In Practice 30(3), 126-134.
  • Huxley J N, Whay H R (2006) Current attitudes of cattle practitioners to pain and the use of analgesics in cattle. Vet Rec 159, 662-668 PubMed.
  • Stafford K J, Mellor D J, Todd S E, Ward R N & McMeekan C M (2003) The effect of different combinations of lignocaine, ketoprofen, xylazine and tolazoline on the acute cortisol response to dehorning in calves. NZ Vet J 51(5), 219-226 PubMed.
  • Fitzpatrick J L, Nolan A M, Scott E M, Harkins L S & Barrett D C (2002) Observers’ perceptions of pain in cattle. Cattle Practice 10, 209-212.
  • Stafford K J, Mellor D J, Todd S E, Bruce R A & Ward R N (2002) Effects of local anaesthesia or local anaesthesia plus a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug on the acute cortisol response of calves to five different methods of castration. Res Vet Sci 73(1), 61-70 PubMed.
  • Graf B & Senn M (1999) Behavioural and physiological responses of calves to dehorning by heat cauterization with or without local anaesthesia. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 62(2), 153-171.
  • Robertson I S, Kent J E & Molony V (1994) Effect of different methods of castration on behaviour and plasma cortisol in calves of three ages. Res Vet Sci 56(1), 8-17 PubMed.

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