Maximising levels of patient comfort

Maximise patient comfort and help get lambs back to their paddocks

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Lambs receive human level of care when undergoing animal husbandry procedures.

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The use of anaesthesia and analgesia during all medical procedures will not only help recovery, but assist with behavioural, immune system health and physiological aspects.

The use of anaesthesia and analgesia during all medical procedures will not only help recovery, but assist with behavioural, immune system health and physiological aspects.

Looking after the youngest members of a sheep flock and getting them back to their paddocks quickly after lamb marking not only ensures ongoing improved health and welfare, it also means minimal stress and maximum recovery.

And the adoption of pain relief in the form of anaesthetic and analgesic (A&A) by many Australian sheep producers is helping maximise patient comfort.

Dr Tim Gole from 'For Flocks Sake' said the secret to a successful lamb marking is treating the lamb and the environment the same as we would when a human undergoes surgery.

"We need to really push the story that lambs are getting a human level of care when we perform animal husbandry procedures," Dr Gole said.

"Sheep producers are surgeons and we must look at our sheep as patients.

"We have to think about things like hygiene, minimising stress and maximising the lamb's recovery.

"The cleaner we can make it, the less chance we are going to have in producing infections."

Dr Gole said timing is imperative, with the perfect age for lamb marking between two and eight weeks.

"Smaller wounds have shorter healing times which allows them to heal as fast as possible and gives bacteria less chance to cause dramas," Dr Gole said.

"Any older than eight weeks will end in bigger wounds so there will be higher contamination rates. Too young then the little ones will receive a significant setback."

But all surgeries have their complications, and one of the biggest in lamb marking is arthritis.

Arthritis can occur when bacteria gets into the joints, which don't have good immune systems.

"They get there from marking wounds if the bacteria gets into the bloodstream from the wound and goes along in the bloodstream until it finds a spot," Dr Gole said.

"But the bigger the wound, the more contamination and the more contaminated, the bigger the chance of arthritis."

Other aspects that need to be applied at lamb marking is shorter needle length to lesson the chance of unwanted inflammation in the muscle and making sure the tail docking length is between joint three and four.

At the correct length, the ewe can lift her tail the urine and faeces is channeled away from the breech area. This is important to minimise the discolouration which down the track attracts flies.

Short tails also don't give a sun-roof over the breach area increasing the risk of getting skin cancer in the vulva area.

"Tails that are too short also don't act appropriately to minimise the chance of rectal prolapse," Dr Gole said.

"The idea of having a tail that is three joints long allows the muscles around the sphincter to have a type of anchor to snap shut."

To minimise the effects of any surgery local anaesthetics such as Numnuts and Tri-Solfen work quickly by dealing with the acute pain phase.

And for the chronic pain stage analgesics such as Metacam and Buccalgesic or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be administered.

These chemicals work by reducing the effects of the inflammation they decrease the pain and the discomfort.

Studies show when used together there is reduced discomfort behaviour, ease of moving around post marking which means improved mothering-up and less drag in their tails meaning less wound contamination.

Another benefit is a reduction of stress on the immune system

"A lambs immune system gets suppressed during the lamb marking experience," Dr Gole said.

"But by using A&As their white blood cells are better at fighting all the inflammation and also any chance of getting the infection."

But he said the huge benefits of using these products is less physiological and biochemical stress.

"We end up with happier sheep and happier sheep have by far faster wound healing times," Dr Gole said.

"We know some of the marking procedures with all red meat industries can cause negative emotional responses in ourselves, in our consumers, but also in a non-consuming public.

"So producers get to manage the expectations of consumers, inside and outside of the supply chain and help producers gather and maintain market access using quality insurance programs."

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