Thursday - May 30, 2019

Groundbreaking pain relief for millions of calves

A trial of a unique pain relief treatment for calves undergoing disbudding procedures was so successful that veterinarians believe it has potential to improve the welfare of millions of New Zealand calves.

Disbudding is a common, but potentially painful procedure carried out by farmers, vets and technicians. It commonly involves the use of a hot iron to cauterise and remove horn-producing cells before they fuse and grow into horns. Up to two million calves are disbudded in New Zealand every year.

The groundbreaking treatment, known as Tri-Solfen, was initially developed in Australia for use in sheep and is being distributed in New Zealand by Bayer.

The local anaesthetic and antiseptic topical liquid provides quick pain relief when applied to a wound, and controls and reduces the likelihood of infections and haemorrhaging.

Bayer senior technical services veterinarian Dr Kirstie Inglis, who was involved in setting up the New Zealand Tri-Solfen trial, says the product will make a big difference to calves on Kiwi farms.

“Tri-Solfen is really quite groundbreaking for New Zealand. It is the first time we’ve had a topical local anaesthetic to use on disbudded calves, available in the market.

“It contains two types of anaesthetic – a shorter acting one and a longer acting one – combined with adrenalin and an antiseptic. Used straight after disbudding Tri-Solfen will make a huge difference to calves at that time of year when they’re young and vulnerable, and in need of the best start in life.”

Independent lead researcher in the Tri-Solfen trial Dr Emma Cuttance, from VetEnt Research, says disbudding is known to be incredibly painful for calves.

“We found the Tri-Solfen product to be fantastic in reducing the pain that calves were experiencing following disbudding - out to 22-hours.

“In some study groups, there was a 90% reduction in marked pain response when compared to the control group, which is extraordinary.

“We’ve actually got something that could positively impact the welfare of millions of calves and I think that is such an exciting breakthrough for animal health and something I’m proud to be involved with.”

In October, legislation will come into force which, at a minimum, requires a local anaesthetic nerve block to be applied prior to the disbudding procedure. However, independent vets involved in the Tri-Solfen trial concluded that using just a pre-proceedural local anaesthetic nerve block alone just wasn’t enough. Tri-Solfen applied to calves immediately after disbudding had a positive effect on their behavioural responses and pain sensitivity for at least 22 hours.
Another important welfare outcome of the trial showed there were positive effects for calves that were disbudded under sedation compared with calves disbudded without sedation.
“I think there really is a need for the veterinary industry to take a closer look at how much pain calves are actually in during disbudding,” says Dr Inglis.

“The minimum legislation we have to adhere to is simply not good enough. We really have to be aiming for best practice and recommending that to farmers – it’s simply the right thing to do.

“I would encourage farmers to choose that their calves are disbudded under sedation, with a local block and then given Tri-Solfen - that will give them a great start. In fact, in the study it was this group that put the most weight on at our 28 day weigh-in.”

Tri-Solfen can also be used for pain relief on lambs following docking and on calves following castration.

About Tri-Solfen

Tri-Solfen is a topical solution applied via an applicator. It has four active ingredients:
• a fast acting local anaesthetic to quickly numb pain
• a long acting local anaesthetic for longer lasting pain relief
• a vasoconstrictor to constrict blood vessels and reduce bleeding
• an antiseptic agent to help prevent infection.

Tri-Solfen is a Restricted Veterinary Medicine available from veterinarians only.
Only available under veterinary authorization.