News & Advice

Take the pain out of disbudding calves this season

Jul 30, 2019 | Compliance, Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Young Stock

Julia Baynes and Emma Bullock, Veterinarians, Anexa Vets

Disbudding calves is one of the most painful procedures performed on farm. Many of you are aware of the new regulations coming into effect this season under the Animal Welfare Act. All animals that require removal of horn buds or horn tissue require an appropriately placed and effective local anaesthetic nerve block. 
Studies have shown using a local anaesthetic nerve block to prevent pain during disbudding comes into effect within 4 minutes of administration and can last up to 3-4 hours. After this point, the anaesthetic wears off and the calf begins to feel pain. This is demonstrated in the graph below. 

This is why Anexa Vets recommend additional pain relief, such as an anti-inflammatory (i.e Metacam). This will provide pain relief for at least 24 hours and anti-inflammatory action for up to three days, long after the local anaesthetic has worn off. Studies have shown that using anti-inflammatories at disbudding not only reduces calf pain behaviour and stress, there is also a reduced growth check. 
Recent studies have also shown sedating calves for disbudding is associated with reduced stress and pain behaviour and faster recovery times. It’s a quick and effective method of disbudding, allowing other jobs to be done at the same time, such as vaccinating, ear tagging, and extra teat removal. 
Do the best for your calves this season. Speak to your vet about all of the pain relief options available for disbudding. 

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