Calves should be routinely provided with appropriate analgesia alongside local anaesthesia to effectively manage pain during necessary procedures, the veterinary industry has said.
In a joint statement, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) said the recognition, management and treatment of pain in calves were identified as a priority animal welfare problem.
BVA and BCVA’s Analgesia in calves position statement specifically recommends the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in addition to local anaesthesia when conducting disbudding and castration in calves.
The organisations said that these are procedures that have been shown to cause acute pain at the time of the procedure and chronic pain afterwards.
Analgesics have been shown to reduce the signs of pain in this post-operative period in a wide range of research studies.
The position also recommends the ‘Three Rs’ approach to castration and disbudding of calves, advocating that, where possible, these procedures are: Replaced by, for example, selecting polled sires to replace disbudding; Reduced by, for example, appropriate use of sexed semen to reduce the number of male calves requiring castration; or Refined, with the use of analgesics.
Adequate pain management
British Veterinary Association President Gudrun Ravetz said: “BVA and BCVA’s joint position further reinforces the profession’s focus as animal welfare advocates, and conveys the need for adequate pain management that is reflective of current scientific understanding of pain recognition and treatment in cattle.
“Existing legislation requires a level of anaesthesia and we would encourage veterinary colleagues and stock-keepers to also discuss appropriate analgesic regimes used so that vets prescribe appropriately licensed NSAIDs and other analgesic medicines as required, as part of ensuring a good life for the animals we farm for food.”
The recommendations support the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science’s study which has found that calf husbandry procedures were significantly less likely to include the use of analgesics in addition to the local anaesthetic (that is routinely used) for other similarly painful procedures.
While local anaesthesia can reduce or eliminate much of the acute pain, chronic pain may still remain once the relatively short duration of local anaesthetic action wanes, the organisations said.