Know your options for pain management for calves
Pain management for calves is an important topic for consideration, for two reasons. One, public concern for animal welfare has stimulated research and use of pain alleviation in livestock. Second, the standards for pain mitigation in calves undergoing disbudding, castration, extra teat removal, and branding have been identified in the proposed National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Program 4.0.
Tools such as a pre-operation local anesthetic injection (Lidocaine 2%), and post-operation drugs administered as a pour-on (Banamine® Transdermal) or oral pill (Meloxicam) are all suggestions in the proposed FARM program 4.0.
A veterinarian prescription is required for the below pain management tactics and research from Kansas State University shows that reducing calf pain can be done at a low-cost and benefit weight gain and reduce the incidence of bovine respiratory disease.
Lidocaine 2% is a veterinary-prescribed drug which is used as a local anesthetic administered at 2.5 milliliters (calves less than 8 weeks of age) to each cornual nerve providing short-term numbness during the procedure. The cost is approximately $0.50 per calf when disbudding and should be performed under the guidance of a veterinarian.
Banamine® Transdermal (flunixin transdermal solution) is the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pour-on drug for pain relief in cattle, but it is not currently approved for use in dairy calves. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for control of pain associated with foot rot and control of fever associated with respiratory disease in cattle When administered at 3 milliliters per 100 pounds of body weight on dry skin it comes out to a cost of approximately $1.20 per 100 pounds of body weight.
Meloxicam is another NSAID used for alleviating pain and can only be used when prescribed by veterinarians for use in dairy calves at 45 mg meloxicam per 100 pounds of body weight to alleviate pain and enhance calf well-being when they are dehorned, castrated, branded, or having extra teats removed. The FDA has asked veterinarians to assign the withdrawal time which is often listed at 21 days. Meloxicam has a 27-hour half-life which means the pain-relief lasts for more than 2 days.
If you’re wondering where we get our calf intel from you can visit our Nurture Research Center’s page. There you will find research related to calf and heifer nutrition and health.