Pain Relief (Cattle)

Stock Sense » Resources and Fact Sheets » Pain Relief (Cattle)

Importance of Pain Relief

Pain relief is considered a necessary measure for the health and welfare of an animal while some animal husbandry practices are performed. While the purpose of pain relief is to relieve the animal of pain, it also allows animals to recover quicker and have less of a negative impact on both welfare and production. Though there is currently no legislation requiring the use of pain relief in cattle husbandry procedures, it is strongly encouraged that they be used, to improve welfare.

Husbandry Activities That May Require Pain Relief

There are several cattle husbandry procedures that may require administration of pain relief products. These may include:

  • Castration
  • Dehorning/Disbudding
  • Spaying/Neutering
  • Branding

Understanding the type of pain that may be associated with each husbandry practice is key to choosing the appropriate pain relief. For instance, castration may produce both immediate pain (nerve damage) and long-lasting pain (inflammatory or neuropathic). Therefore, using only one type of pain relief product may not be adequate.

Types of Pain Relief Products

There are two different types of pain relief:

  • local anaesthetic, or
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Anaesthetics and analgesics (NSAIDs) provide pain relief in different ways. Anesthetics act almost immediately after application or administration, and will numb the affected area by blocking its sensory function. Analgesics on the other hand, act by reducing the physiological inflammatory pathways response to an activity, and aid in longer lasting pain relief by reducing triggers to pain at a cellular level.

A veterinarian will be able to best determine which type of pain relief is best suited to the animal and the procedure being carried out. While topical anaesthetics can be purchased over the counter under the direction of a veterinarian, other anaesthetics and analgesics will need to be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Pain Relief Products

There are several products available for pain relief in cattle:

Product Type of Pain Relief
Local anesthetic (topical)
NSAID (oral)
Local anesthetic (injectable)
Meloxicam, Ketoprofen, Flunixin meglumine
NSAID (injectable)

While this factsheet provides information to assist producers with pain relief and products, a veterinarian or professional should always be consulted, and use of this factsheet should be as an informative guide only.

Choosing A Product

Several aspects that you may need to consider are:

  • Husbandry procedure
  • Size and age of animal
  • Number of animals
  • Multiple treatments required?
  • Skill of technician
  • Withholding period of product
  • Shelf life of product
  • Storage requirements

If you are unsure about which product would work best for you and for the activity you are undertaking, consult your veterinarian.

Before Conducting Animal Husbandry Activities

Before you perform any activities that require the use of pain relief, you should also consider implementing some of the following to minimise stress to the animals and handlers:

  • Try to conduct husbandry procedures associated with pain on animals as young as possible.
  • Have a technician that is adequately trained and skilled.
  • Have good hygiene practices.
  • Monitor animals in the coming days and weeks to identify any complications early.

What Can You Do As A Producer

As a producer, it is important to consider the animal health and welfare aspects of providing pain relief to cattle when carrying out animal husbandry activities. This includes, but is not limited to, the activities listed above. Ear notching/tagging and nose ringing also show benefits, when performed with pain relief.

It is worth considering the adoption of alternative practices for some husbandry practices that minimise pain, and in some cases, remove the need for these husbandry practices altogether. For instance, breeding for polled cattle can eliminate the need for dehorning practices.

Further Resources

Future Beef

National Library of Medicine – Pain Management in Farm Animals: Focus on Cattle, Sheep and Pigs

Sustainable Australian Beef

Meat & Livestock Australia – Pain relief

Click here to download a PDF version.

For further information, please contact the VFF Livestock Group on 1300 882 833 or by email [email protected]

Disclaimer: All care is taken in the preparation of the information and published materials produced by the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) including but not limited to errors, defects or omissions in the information provided. VFF does not make any representations or give any warranties about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability for any particular purpose in the preparation of the information and published materials. This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute financial, legal, investment, production, or marketing advice. To the maximum extent permitted by law, the VFF and all persons acting on behalf of the VFF in preparing documents, are excluded from all and any liability for any loss or damage of any kind arising in relation to this publication including any reliance on the information contained herein.

Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter