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Behavioural measures reflect pain-mitigating effects of meloxicam in combination with Tri-Solfen® in mulesed Merino lambs

  • L. Inglis (a1), S. Hancock (a1), M. Laurence (a1) and A. Thompson (a1)


Flystrike costs the Australian industry $173 to 280 M per annum and 70% to 80% of Merino lambs are currently mulesed to reduce the risk of flystrike. To alleviate welfare concerns there has been widespread adoption of analgesics to mitigate the pain associated with mulesing. The objective of this experiment was to determine the effectiveness of Tri-Solfen® and meloxicam (Metacam® 20) at reducing pain-related behavioural responses to mulesing in Merino lambs. One hundred and forty Merino lambs were allocated to one of seven treatment groups: (1) non-mulesed (Control); (2) mulesed with no pain relief; (3) subcutaneous (s.c.) meloxicam administered 15 min before mulesing; (4) Tri-Solfen® administered at time of mulesing; (5) Tri-Solfen® and saline injection (s.c.) 15 min before mulesing; (6) Tri-Solfen® and meloxicam (s.c.) 15 min before mulesing; and (7) meloxicam (s.c.) at time the of mulesing. Behavioural responses such as standing, walking and lying were measured every 15 min for 6 h on the day of marking and for up to 2 h for 4 days thereafter. Standing (hunched v. normal) and walking (stiff v. normal) behaviours were then categorised into pain- and normal-related behaviours while lying remained in its own category. Mulesed lambs with no pain relief displayed significantly more pain-related behaviours than Control lambs during the 6 h post-mulesing (1.22 v. 0.22 out of a total score of 3; RSD=1.15). Lambs that received a combination of pain relief displayed significantly less pain-related behaviour than mulesed lambs with no pain relief on the day of mulesing (0.85 v. 1.22 out of a total score of 3; RSD=1.15). Administration of meloxicam or Tri-Solfen® on their own had minimal if any significant effect on pain-related behaviours on the day of mulesing. The results of this experiment support the use of pain-related behaviours to measure the efficacy of analgesics and the use of multimodal analgesia during mulesing of lambs.


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