Pain management and the role it can play in beef production | Livestock


Dr. Bruss Horn, DVM, and owner of the Verden Veterinary Clinic in Verden, Oklahoma, discussed the topic of pain management in cattle at the recent Chisholm Trail Beef Improvement conference in Fairview, Oklahoma.

Horn says consumers are increasingly verbalizing criteria for what to expect from their food, and cattle that have received some form of pain management are becoming increasingly popular.

“Consumers are looking for animals that are organic and have not had growth implants, but they are also looking for products that they know have been treated humanely and have had pain control,” a- he explained. “They buy on emotion. You will see more and more people looking for humane cattle. “

Fortunately, this isn’t just another boring hoop for ranchers to go through, as administering pain medication is actually beneficial for cattle.

“We have data that shows that if you control the pain it increases performance,” Horn said.

Dr Bruss Horn, DVM, speaks to a crowd of beef producers at the Chisholm Trail Beef Improvement Conference on February 21. (Newspaper photo by Lacey Newlin.)

What does the doctor prescribe?

Some of the animals that could benefit from pain management include calves that needed assistance with calving and animals that faced stressors such as weaning, transport, weather and processing, which includes vaccinations, deworming, castration, dehorning and tagging.

Horn says there are several commonly used pain management medications, and they all have their pros and cons. One of the most common is dexamethasone, an injectable anti-inflammatory drug. Cortisone is also commonly used, however, Horn cautions that it is an immunosuppressant, so cattle are more likely to get infections when treated with it. In addition, he says it should not be given to adult cows that are mated, as this will cause them to abort their calves. Lidocaine is another pain reliever, but it is a short-acting drug that will not provide pain relief for a very long period of time. Aspirin is another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can be given for minor pain.

Banamine and meloxicam are two common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. Banamine offers oral, injectable, and transdermal options. Horn says transdermal banamine has been very popular since its release about five or six years ago and works well in eliminating pain. The producers pour the Banamine solution onto the back of the calf and provide 48 hours of pain relief at $ 0.84 per 100 pounds of body weight. The injectable version of Banamine should be used intravenously in cattle.

Meloxicam comes in pill or injectable form at around $ 0.04 per 100 pounds of body weight. Horn says breeders must be diligent in disinfecting bullet guns between calves, as tonsil tissue carries Salmonella and can be passed on to other calves. In addition, meloxicam can be crushed and used in the diet of adult animals.

Prevent pain, bring gain

Horn says calves that require assistance at birth don’t always have good antibody transfer and that administering NSAIDs, such as meloxicam or banamine, can promote feeding and simply ensure that the calf feels better in general. Horn says studies have shown that calves that received NSAID treatment at birth weighed more after 10 days of life than those that did not.

“I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but these first 10 days are very important,” he said.

Administering pain management to feeder cattle has been shown to prevent disease and reduce antibiotic use. Horn says research from Kansas State University indicates that treating pain reduces the risk of bovine respiratory disease in feeder cattle, which is the most common and costly disease afflicting this beef industry sector.

Horn agrees that not everyone wants to spend the time and money treating cattle for their pain, so he suggests taking steps to prevent it. One of the first ways to avoid pain is to select hornless cattle so that the cattle do not have to be dehorned.

“Dehorning is much more difficult for cattle than castration and it delays them a lot,” Horn said. “Plus, we can scratch from day one, which makes the process much easier for them. “

Horn’s advice is to cut off the horn buds and apply dehorning paste and tape it all over from day one. He says if producers wait until they are 10 to 14 days old to put in the dough, the calves tend to scratch their horns, which creates discomfort.

Second, Horn says to castrate at a young age because the longer the calves remain bulls, the more pain they experience when castrating.

“I can show you a lot of data that says calves cut at an early age are as good as calves cut at six months,” he said.

Horn also says he recommends surgical castrations as opposed to banding, as calves recover from the cutting procedure much faster and return to normal activities sooner. Finally, he says, if producers have the time and patience, the frost is less painful for the calves to endure.

“You’re probably wondering why a person would do this,” Horn asked aloud. “Because one day the use of pain management will be dictated to us. They will say we want your cattle to be treated humanely and we want to know that you have administered pain management before you sell them. “

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