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Assessing and mitigating post-operative castration pain in Bos indicus cattle

Laurence, M.ORCID: 0000-0003-1215-2848, Barnes, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-7227-230X, Collins, T.ORCID: 0000-0003-4597-0812, Hyndman, T. and Musk, G.C. (2016) Assessing and mitigating post-operative castration pain in Bos indicus cattle. Animal Production Science, 58 (5). pp. 909-919.

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Cattle on pastoral land are subject to potentially painful husbandry procedures. In northern Australia, these practices generally occur once a year after the muster and the procedures are usually performed on animals older than 6 months of age. It is seldom that any pain mitigating medications are administered at this time and there is increasing concern that this perceived impost on the animal’s welfare will become more significant at both an economic and cultural level. There is a need to investigate the possibility of using simple, cost-effective, readily available medications, administered using relatively quick and easily taught techniques to increase the chance of industry adoption. This research used castration of 6–8-month-old Bos indicus calves as the test model because it is arguably one of the most common and most painful procedures endured by the animals. Forty-eight, 6–8-month-old Brahman bulls were surgically castrated after random assignment to six different treatment groups (n = 8): no castration Control (NC); castration (C); castration with post-operative meloxicam (CMpost-op); castration with lignocaine (CL); castration with lignocaine and post-operative meloxicam (CLMpost-op); castration with pre-operative meloxicam (CMpre-op). Serial measures of weight, blood cortisol concentrations, balk score, crush score, and daily activity (steps taken, number and duration of rest bouts) were taken. Linear mixed modelling was used to compare experimental groups. Bulls that were castrated and did not receive post-operative meloxicam (C and CL) had significantly lower average weights at all time points (Days 0–13, P < 0.001) of 170.9 kg and 168.6 kg, respectively, than those that did (CMpost-op and CLMpost-op) at 174.7 kg and 173.7 kg, respectively. When lignocaine was not administered before castration, Day 1 post-operative cortisol concentrations were significantly lower when post-operative meloxicam was provided than when it was not (CMpost-op: 47.2 nmol/L vs C: 65.5 nmol/L). When post-operative meloxicam was not given, animals that were given lignocaine before castration had significantly lower cortisol concentrations than those that received no lignocaine (CL: 52.7 nmol/L vs C: 65.5 nmol/L). Animals that were given pre-operative meloxicam had, on average, significantly lower Day 1 post-operative cortisol concentrations than animals that received no lignocaine or meloxicam (CMpre-op: 44.8 nmol/L vs C: 65.5 nmol/L). Analysis of Day 1 (the day following castration) data showed that animals that were given pre-operative meloxicam (CMpre-op) were significantly more active than animals in all other treatment groups (P = 0.038). It was concluded that 6–8-month old, Bos indicus bulls benefit from the administration of both lignocaine before surgery and peri-operative meloxicam. The analgesic methods used are readily adoptable by industry with respect to cost, efficiency and degree of technical skill required.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2016
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