Julie Berry: Pain Management as an Animal Health and Welfare Practice
Julie Berry is a freelance science writer.
Another animal rights activist undercover video of a NY farm was released last week that targeted dehorning and other common animal care practices.
Animal rights activists continue to use these videos as a tactic to support legislation that guides how animals are cared for. While this legislation to general consumers can appear well-meaning, it is often not based on science, and can threaten to drive food production overseas.
However, farmers need to take seriously concerns of consumers about how animals are treated on farms, keep current on research and best management practices, and tell their farm family story effectively.
One area of growing research is use of pain management with practices such as dehorning and castration. A recent article published in the Journal of Animal Science showed that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) protocols used in calves at castration can increase average daily gain and reduce susceptibility to disease.
Castration improves meat quality and reduces animal injuries at the feedlot. No compounds are currently approved for pain relief in cattle and available products may not be practical or cost-effective.
“Identification of analgesic compounds that may also have performance benefits after castration would provide livestock producers with an efficient and economically viable way to address animal health and welfare concerns,” wrote the study authors.
The study “Effect of oral meloxicam on health and performance of beef steers relative to bulls castrated on arrival at the feedlot” compared the effect of the NSAID meloxicam on health and performance of calves received as steers versus bull calves castrated surgically on arrival at the feedlot. In castrated calves meloxicam reduced the pen-level first pull rate and reduced bovine respiratory disease. Meloxicam administration via an oral dose mixed in 50 mL of water before castration in post-weaning calves reduced the incidence of respiratory disease at the feedlot. Meloxicam mitigates pain associated with inflammation after castration.
“These findings suggest that meloxicam administration before castration in post-weaning calves may decrease the number of castrated calves requiring antimicrobial therapy for pneumonia and lessen the economic impact of BRD in livestock production systems. These results have implications for developing pain mitigation strategies involving NSAID in calves at castration with respect to addressing both animal health and welfare concerns,” wrote the study authors.
“Meloxicam administered to cattle by any route constitutes extra-drug label use because currently no analgesic drugs are specifically approved to provide pain relief in livestock in the United States. Under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act, extra-label drug use is permitted under veterinary supervision for relief of suffering in cattle provided specific conditions are met. Meloxicam injection (20 mg/mL) is approved for use in cattle in the European Union with a 15 day meat withdrawal and in Canada with a 20 day meat withdrawal time after administration of 0.5 mg/kg IV or SC.”