Care4Cattle: Practical Solution for Pain Relief

Janice Chow
Written by
Janice Chow

Care4Cattle Grant Recipient: Dominique van der Saag, Australia

Project: Developing a self-medication strategy for practical delivery of long-lasting analgesia to cattle

Dominique van der Saag’s research into novel ways of administering long-lasting analgesia to cattle was selected by a panel of independent experts, as one of three winners of Bayer’s Care4Cattle grant.

“A self-medication strategy using lick blocks with analgesics is a novel idea for pain relief that could be of great benefit to cattle well-being globally. For cattle farmers, this would translate into less need for handling and stress for the animals, as well as reduced labour,” said Care4Cattle jury member, Carmen Gallo, who is with the Animal Welfare Group, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias, Universidad Austral de Chile.

Two women on a cattle farm

Dominique has long been aware of the impact procedures such as de-horning and castration and the administration of pain relief during and afterwards can have on the cattle.

“Whilst studying my bachelor in animal and veterinary bioscience at the University of Sydney, my interest in livestock and animal well-being really grew. I began to see how improvement of livestock welfare through the use of pain relief was extremely important.

“In many countries it is not mandatory to use anaesthesia or analgesia for painful procedures performed on cattle. However, there has been a shift in recent years, with producers wanting to take on pain relief practices so long as they are feasible to implement.”

Care4Cattle Logo

Dominique and her team of five others, looked in to novel ways in which animals could potentially self-administer pain relief, removing the additional stress of frequent handling. This saw the development of the idea of medicated molasses lick blocks (MMLBs), which would allowcontinuous administration of analgesics before and after routine surgical procedures.

“Repeated movement, handling and treatment of livestock following surgical husbandry procedures is not only impractical for producers but can also be detrimental to animal well-being. Self-administration of analgesia, through, for example, medicated lick blocks, has the potential to provide extended pain relief without causing further stress, pain or injury to animals.”

Cattle herd on a big farm

Dominique believes that practical administration of pain relief has great potential to be used worldwide. Something that the Bayer Care4Cattle grant funding will help her achieve through further research. The simple but practical thought behind this innovation means there is potential for this to be easily adopted.

She says, “This is the first step towards something that could be much bigger. Currently there are no practical options for long-lasting analgesia in livestock, which is necessary not only for surgical husbandry procedures but many painful conditions."

“If we can show it has the potential to be effective, this could be a strategy to improve cattle well-being. We would really like to see this grow into something bigger.”

The research that Dominique and her team have undertaken highlights the importance of simple yet effective innovations and the positive impact these can have on the well-being of these animals.

“For me, cattle well-being is very important and something that I think most people really value. Addressing animal welfare issues is not only important for cattle well-being but also the sustainability of dairy and beef industries.”

About Care4Cattle

The Bayer Care4Cattle initiative offers livestock professionals a total grant funding of €30,000 and the opportunity to further advance dairy and beef cattle well-being on the farm. Three stand out projects deemed to have the potential to further enhance cattle well-being, were selected by a jury comprising of independent animal well-being experts, alongside representatives from the World Farmers’ Organisation and Bayer.

Find out more about Bayer’s commitment to animal well-being.

Janice Chow
Written by
Janice Chow