KIMBERLEY (WA) beef producers the Brockhurst family have used a state-government backed Business Improvement Grant to explore the use of pain relief in cattle in extensive northern grazing conditions.
The Brockhurst family purchased Larrawa Station in the East Kimberley in the late 1980s, gradually developing the property over the past 30 years with extensive fencing and waters and a Grey Brahman herd.
“Our main reasoning behind trialling pain relief was the welfare of our weaners. Some of our necessary husbandry procedures do cause pain, and if we can minimise that, we want to,” he said.
“My family is also aware that animal welfare is increasingly becoming a focus in this industry and broader community, and we wanted to take that into account.”
The project aimed to see what impact pain relief would have on weaners during branding, particularly if there could be further benefits such as a decrease in time off feed.
“When processing weaners, we apply Buccalgesic to the side of their gums (orally). It usually takes about ten minutes before it kicks in and the cattle start responding to it. We used it when processing both heifers and steers, but our priority was using it on young bulls that were being castrated,” Mr Brockhurst said.
The family started trialling Buccalgesic on weaners in 2017 through the BIG program, and decided to continue the applications in 2018, using their own funds.
“The decision to continue using the product was based on the response we saw in cattle – namely that the weaners were not sulking and returned to normal eating and drinking behaviour quicker than those not treated,” Mr Brockhurst said.
“The only issue we have had to be mindful of with the product is that it can fall out of the cattle’s mouth if not applied correctly. We found that applicator guns that are hook-shaped, instead of the straight-shape applicator tubes, work best.”
Mr Brockhurst said he would recommend using Buccalgesic to other stations if it could be worked in to their program and budget. “It works really well for us with our early weaning program where the weaners are kept in the yards. For other stations that turn weaners out into the paddock of good quality pasture immediately after processing, the benefits may be more subtle. It’s important for each owner and manager to measure up the pros and cons, and make sure they choose the type of pain relief that is right for their operation,” he said.
“Either way, I think using anything which results in good animal welfare outcomes is good for our business.”
Pain relief medication for processing livestock
The primary objectives of pain management in medical procedures such as castrating steers are to alleviate pain and inflammatory response, and improve animal recovery time.
Currently, three pain relief products have been registered and approved for use with cattle in Australia:
Buccalgesic contains a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which decreases the inflammation that causes pain.
Manufacturer: Troy Pharmaceutical
Purpose: Pain relief, reduces inflammation
Application: Before procedure – paste applied orally to the gum
Time it takes to work: 10-15 minutes
Period of relief: 24-72 hours
Withholding period: 14 day meat WHP and a 21 day export slaughter interval.
Availability: Required veterinary prescription
Website: Click here
Tri-Solfen contains anaesthetics that locally block sensory nerves which cause pain. Tri-Solfen also contains adrenaline which allows the product to reduce blood loss.
Purpose: Pain relief, Reduces bleeding, Reduces risk of bacterial infection, Assists in healing by sealing and protecting the wound
Application: Post procedure – topical spray
Time it takes to work: Immediate (within 1 minute)
Period of relief: Approx. 24 hour
Withholding period: 90 day meat WHP.
Availability: Over the counter
Website: Click here
Metacam also contains a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which decreases the inflammation that causes pain.
Manufacturer: Boehringer Ingelheim
Purpose: Pain relief, Reduces inflammation
Application: Before procedure – injection high on the neck behind the ear.
Time it takes to work: 10-15 minutes
Period of relief: 26-72 hours
Withholding period: 8 day meat WHP
Availability: Requires veterinary prescription
About WA’s Business Improvement Grants (BIG) program
Agriculture WA’s Business Improvement Grants (BIG) program empowers enterprises to improve their capability and captures key performance indicators to identify strengths and weaknesses of the industry more broadly. It supports commercial cattle producers in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions to enhance their competitiveness and growth prospects by connecting them with business advice and mentoring support. The program commenced in 2015 with the aim of helping to improve the performance and resilience of northern beef businesses.
A 2017 review of northern beef activities revealed the BIG program was of great value to industry and achieving tangible results, and positive impacts and change. The $1.125 million program supported 48 pastoral enterprises, including 12 Aboriginal businesses, to seek expert advice and develop a formal business plan as Part One of the program.
Part Two of the program enabled BIG program participants to implement the priority business improvement identified in their business plan and benchmark their performance.
The program is providing positive trends in business performance, key performance data across industry and insights into industry issues, and evidence of positive cultural change.