Pain relief options for lamb marking

What options are currently available?

Tablelands Telegraph – September 2021

Amy Masters, District Veterinarian

Across the Central Tablelands spring lambing is well underway which means marking is just around the corner. If you are wondering what pain relief options are available and how to use them, now is a great time to review the range of products currently on the market.

Many producers will be familiar with the topical gel Tri-Solfen® which can be applied to mulesing, surgical castration and surgical tail-docking wounds. It contains local anaesthetics (to numb pain at the site), adrenalin (to reduce blood loss) and a disinfectant which combine to not only provide immediate relief but also aid wound healing. This product is also registered for use in calves following castration, disbudding and dehorning. Tri-Solfen® can be bought over the counter at your local rural retailer.

Local anaesthetic also serves as the mainstay for the newest pain relief product to hit the market, Numnuts®. This device combines a standard rubber ring applicator with a mechanism that injects local anaesthetic (NumOcaine®) at the site of ring placement. It can be used for castration and tail-docking lambs. An applicator for castrating calves is still in development. NumOcaine® can only be purchased from your private veterinarian.

Whereas the first two products mentioned provide an immediate but relatively short-term relief from pain, the following two products have a longer lasting effect. Both contain the anti-inflammatory meloxicam either as an injection (Metacam 20®) or oral gel (Buccalgesic®). The oral gel is administered in the space between the molar teeth and the inside of the cheek. Livestock anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body sometimes for up to 3 days. These products can only be purchased from your private veterinarian.

Best practice lamb marking would provide immediate and sustained pain relief by use of both a local anaesthetic and systemic anti-inflammatory.

Trials consistently demonstrate that effective pain relief supports a better and more rapid recovery from these standard husbandry procedures, and a faster return to normal behaviours compared to their untreated flock mates. Any strategy you can use to reduce the level of pain experienced by your lambs will improve their welfare and assist an industry aiming to continuously improve these standards.

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