For some ranchers procedures like dehorning/disbudding, castration and branding are necessary evils of the job. But necessity doesn’t make the work any easier. In an effort to improve animal welfare, and to respond to consumer concerns, the beef industry is addressing procedures like these with pain mitigation, and improved genetics.
The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle was released in 2013, and it outlines the importance of pain control. In fact, according to the code, pain control has been required for dehorning and disbudding since January 1, 2016. The same date signalled the start of pain control requirements for castrating bulls older than nine months of age. By January 1, 2018, the requirement will expand to include all bulls older than six months of age.
“We have really two options for pain control,” explains John Campbell in the following interview. “We have anesthetics…and then we also have analgesics, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which help to control the pain after the procedure for a period of time.”
Campbell is the department head and a professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. He spoke to RealAgriculture’s Debra Murphy at the recent Canadian Beef Industry Conference.
In the case of dehorning, Campbell mentions dairy studies that found calf behaviour was much more normal in calves given local anesthetic and pain control products.
Unfortunately, similar methods for local anesthesia aren’t available for all painful procedures, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to offer those calves.
“For castration and branding — two other painful procedures — we don’t have the same ability to use the local anesthetic the same way,” says Campbell, “but we’ve got some pretty good research…to say that ‘hey, when we do this (use the pain control product afterwards), our calves are happier, they mother-up faster, we have less complications, some people are even saying they’re gaining more weight…”
“This is just one more thing to show society that we really care about our animals.”
Read More: Pain Mitigation via the Beef Cattle Research Council