Beef producers are busy in the spring and summer months processing cattle, performing common procedures such as castration and dehorning. Producers may also brand their cattle as a form of identification. These practices are commonplace on beef farms across Canada, and in many cases are necessary for the long-term health and welfare of the animals, however they cause pain. Reports show that producers and veterinarians who incorporate pain control measures during painful procedures often describe ease of use and potential improved gains in their herds.
Pain control is becoming a priority among producers and scientists as anesthetics and analgesics, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are more readily available.
How can producers mitigate pain in beef cattle effectively? Are there practical ways to manage pain in real life conditions? What is a producer’s responsibility when it comes to pain management? Dr. John Campbell with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Saskatchewan explained practical and effective methods of pain control in a previous BCRC webinar.
The National Farm Animal Care Council published the Code of Practice for Beef Cattle in 2013. The requirements for managing pain, some of which are outlined below, are an industry standard.
- Dehorning and castration should take place as early as practically possible, when animals are very young;
- As of January 1, 2018, producers who are castrating bulls older than six months must use pain control in consultation with a veterinarian;
- As of January 1, 2016, producers who are dehorning calves that have horn buds attached (i.e. older than 2-3 months) must use pain control in consultation with a veterinarian;
- Avoid branding wet cattle.
- When dehorning, castrating or branding, ensure procedures are carried out by competent personnel, using proper tools and techniques;
In many cases, producers are already taking non-invasive measures to reduce painful procedures in their cattle such as using homozygous polled bulls or reducing the use of brands.
For producers interested in improving welfare and possibly production in their herds, the first step is consulting with their veterinarian on when and how to practically adopt pain control measures during processing, branding, or weaning. There is an opportunity for beef farmers to consider the use of pain control for other herd health issues such as lameness, dystocia, mastitis, arthritis, or diarrhea.
Learn more about pain management here, including a table of pain control products licensed and available for beef cattle in Canada.
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