Mulesing, Castrating, Tail Docking and Pain Relief - New Options in the Pipeline
Last year, we were asked by a sheep farmer what percentage of sheep in WA currently receive pain relief during mulesing and we included some information on that in the Spring issue of Livestock Welfare Matters.
In summary, the most up to date information on pain relief and mulesing can be found in the WA Sheep Producer Survey 2014 and comes from a survey of 4,910 WA sheep producers by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (formerly DAFWA).
The survey results showed that overall, including prime lamb and wool production, 59% of merino lambs were mulesed with pain relief and this was a slight increase when compared to survey results in 2011.
We encourage producers to use pain relief when mulesing, castrating or tail docking. Currently, pain relief options available for cattle producers include the Metacam injectable, Tri-Solfen topical treatment which is used in castration and disbudding, and meloxicam buccalgesic. These products are also available to sheep producers.
And, there is a promising new addition to pain relief products for castration. Numnuts is a ring applicator that injects lignocaine, a fast-acting local anaesthetic, that can be used when tail docking and castrating. Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) funded the development of this relatively new device through producer levies. The work was undertaken by a Scottish based animal health company.
Numnuts delivers a dose of anaesthetic which lasts up to six hours for lambs. By that time, tissue around the lamb’s testes is dead which eliminates any residual pain.
Field studies were conducted in 2017 with positive results. You can find more information here.