With a variety of pain relief products for sheep on the market, how are you meant to know which is best suited to your flock?
That was the question that Livestock Logic director, consultant and vet Andrew Whale answered at a recent Victorian Farmers Federation webinar on the advantages and disadvantages of different pain relief products and methods.
Dr Whale said there had been an increase in interest for pain relief products since Victoria mandated the use of pain relief in the state when mulesing.
But he said there were a handful of practices that required pain relief on farm and it was important you picked the right product and method for your operation.
Firstly, he said it was important to understand the two different classes of drugs that were available.
"There are local anaesthetics like Tri-Solfen and NumOcaine or Numnuts, which offer very good pain relief to a certain area of the body but it is short-lived," he said.
"Then we have our systemic anti-inflammatories - Buccalgesic or Metacam - which are similar to Nurofen for humans, where we might take to get pain relief for four to six hours after the local anaesthetic has worn off."
He said Buccalgesic and Metacam should not be administered together as they contained the same ingredient and could cause liver or kidney damage.
Breaking down the different products, Dr Whale said Numnuts provided immediate pain relief after castration or tail docking that lasted about 45 minutes.
"This is when lambs experience that really nasty pain which comes from a lack of blood flow and essentially killing off those nerves when you put a ring on either their scrotum or tail," he said.
"This product is an S4 product which means it must be prescribed by a vet.
"It costs 67 cents per dose and males will need two doses (on a 15-kilogram animal)."
He said the advantages of Numnuts was that it was relatively easy to use and that you could visually see the immediate results it had in minimising pain.
On the negative side, he said it was costly, particularly the investment in equipment.
Looking at Tri-Solfen, he said it was "wonderfully effective" but it only lasted four to six hours.
"It's wonderful for mulesing, good for surgical castration and tail removal, but there is a lack of evidence to show it is a highly effective product when using a gas knife," he said.
"It has an antiseptic agent which helps dry woulds and keep them clean.
"It's of absolutely no use if you're applying a ring, because it needs to be absorbed through an open wound."
He said a big positive was that you could buy it over the counter and it was very easy to apply.
It costs $1.15 a dose for a mulesing wound.
A negative was that once the product had worn off, there would still be considerable pain experienced.
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Dr Whale said Metacam was injected into the bloodstream and no matter where the pain was being felt, the pain would be reduced.
He said it usually took 15-20 minutes to be absorbed and 30 minutes for the benefits to start kicking in.
It needed to be prescribed by a vet and cost about 70 cents per dose.
"It's easy to apply and one application covers all three surgical procedures," he said.
"You can get up to three days of pain relief."
He said Buccalgesic was put in the side of a sheep's mouth and it took time to absorb.
"It lasts for a similar amount of time as Metacam but there's probably not quite the level of information and data out there on how long it actually stays in the system," he said.
He said you needed a relationship with a vet to administer it and it cost 70 cents per dose.
"It's easy to apply and also covers all three procedures," he said.
He said different producers had different preferences between Buccalgesic and Metacam, but he didn't particularly think one was better than the other.
"It just depends whether they prefer giving needles or drenching," he said.
"I find giving injections easier but that's just my preference."
Dr Whale said he believed to provide adequate pain relief, you needed to administer two products.
"The gold standard would be to use one of each (a local anaesthetic and an anti-inflammatory)," he said.
"For clients using just a ring on the scrotum or on the tail, we believe Numnuts is the best approach because there's a very serious but short-term pain response associated and Numuts helps them get over that.
"If you're putting a ring on the scrotum and surgically removing the tail, use Numnuts on the scrotum and a systemic anti-inflammatory to help with the associated post surgery pain from tail removal.
"With surgical tail and testicle removal, we would recommend a systemic anti-inflammatory with Tri-Solfen to apply onto the wound to improve the pain response at the site of the surgery.
"And for mulesing, Tri-Solfen is the drug of choice to get them through the immediate pain but combine that with Buccalgesic or Metacam for longer-term benefits."
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