Vet seeing widespread adoption of pain control measures

Observed benefits by producers, plus new products and influence of veterinarians all contributing to wide usage, says Ag Days speaker

Pain control is here to stay in the cattle industry — and not just because the beef codes of practice have brought these measures to the forefront, said an Ag Days speaker.

Western Canadian ranchers are widely adopting the use of pain control measures for procedures such as castrations, dehorning and branding because they see the benefits of doing so, said Dr. Roy Lewis, an Alberta-based veterinarian working for Merck Animal Health.

Investment in these products pays back quickly in animals that bounce back, mother better, are less likely to become sick and generally stay healthier after painful procedures, said Lewis.

“There’s a lot of good that comes from it,” he said.

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle was released in 2013. By next January 2018 the code calls for use of pain control when castrating bulls older than six months of age.

Lewis said he observes that already happening.

“A lot of the ranches are already giving that to calves at really their first stressful event in life during the so-called branding time, when they’re vaccinated, branded and potentially castrated,” said Lewis.

“We’re already years ahead of the requirements of the code, I think.”

Another key factor for wide adoption of pain control measures has been the influence of new graduates of veterinarian medicine, Lewis said, noting that 90 per cent of them are now women.

“Literally all the new graduates are coming out with the idea that we have to give pain control,” he said. “They’re up on all the products and the times that it’s necessary.”

There are also now more pain control products coming on the market offering slight advantages to one another, including convenience of use. These include products squirted into animals’ mouths or poured on their backs. More product on the market has also made prices more competitive.

“It’s driving the prices down so it’s becoming more economical to give this on a herd basis for things like castration and branding,” Lewis added.

In the second part of his talk he also spoke of preventive treatments producers can adopt to minimize their usage of antimicrobials.

The key is to always be looking for ways to minimize their usage, he said. That means being vigilant to use the right ones at the right time and not use them at all if you don’t have to, he said.

Lewis said the main concern from his perspective is that overuse of these products leads to antimicrobial resistance in bacteria that affect cattle.

“That’s what we’ve got to really manage for, and try not to overuse antibiotics because there’s not many new ones coming out there,” he said.

“You want to really think about which disease you’re treating and which system of which antibiotic will work the best.”

On that front there are also new measures coming forward for maintaining cattle health including improved ways of diagnosing what is ailing the animal so the right drug can be used to treat it.

“The labs are now doing more work to grow the organism and see what drug works on it,” he said. “We’re seeing more of that now and we’re going to be encouraging that.”

Immune stimulates and vaccines to help prevent disease will also help minimize the use of antimicrobials, he said.

“They’re even looking at genomics so cattle will have disease and parasite resistance.”

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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