Dr Kristie Inglis, Bayer senior technical services veterinarian

Groundbreaking pain relief

by Ann van Engelen

A trial of a unique pain relief treatment for calves undergoing disbudding procedures has the 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. Up to two million calves are disbudded in New Zealand every year, and it commonly involves the use of a hot iron to cauterise and remove horn-producing cells before they fuse and grow into horns.

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 says the product will make a big difference.

“Tri-Solfen is really quite groundbreaking for New Zealand. It is the first time we have 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 adrenaline and an antiseptic. Used straight after disbudding Tri-Solfen will make a huge difference to calves at that time of year when they are young and vulnerable, and in need of the best start in life.”

Independent lead researcher Dr Emma Cuttance, from VetEnt Research says in some study groups, there was a 90 per cent reduction in marked pain response when compared to the control group, which is extraordinary.

“I think that is such an exciting breakthrough for animal health and something I am 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. Independent vets involved in the Tri-Solfen trial concluded that using just a pre-procedural 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.

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