Survey reveals animal welfare as the top reason for pain management medication on farm

Animal welfare has been rated as the primary reason farmers will use pain management medication, according to a survey undertaken by Norbrook.

More than 100 British farmers participated in the survey, which examined farmer and veterinary surgeon approaches to pain management on farms. Respondents were asked to identify the conditions for which they routinely administer pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication in cattle, sheep and pigs.

“An overwhelming 83% of farmers selected better animal welfare as the main reason for controlling pain in livestock,” said Steph Small BVSc MRCVS, Veterinary Advisor for Norbrook. “Not only do the results indicate why farmers select to use pain management medication, they also provide significant insight into pain management practices, and perceptions surrounding the associated impact on productivity.”

Ms Small said that according to the results, cattle receive more routine pain relief from farmers and vets than sheep and pigs. In cattle, most farmers routinely manage respiratory disease, intestinal disease, lameness and mastitis with pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication.

“In sheep, mastitis is the only condition where approximately 44% of farmers use pain relief ‘most of the time’. Although more than 70% indicated that they could make more use of anti-inflammatories after assisted lambing, responses revealed that less than 30% of farmers use anti-inflammatory medication ‘most of the time’ in this instance,” added Ms Small.

Farmers were also asked about the signs that typically trigger the use of pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication. The most common were lameness, drooping head/ears, decreased/suppressed appetite, teeth grinding and coughing. The study also showed that when selecting pain relief medication, duration of action, vet’s recommendation and withdrawal period were the most important factors.

Rebecca Laborne, Large Animal Product Manager at Norbrook, said: “The main reasons farmers highlighted for deciding not to use pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication was that more information was needed to understand when to treat pain and what product options are available to them.”

Mrs Laborne adds that there is still more that can be done to improve pain management and ensure that farmers benefit from improved herd health, welfare and productivity.

Norbrook provides a range of pain management and anti-inflammatory products, including local anaesthetics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The company’s Best Practice Guide for pain management in livestock provides strategies for improving animal welfare and economic efficiency. The guides are available free from vet surgeries and local Norbrook Territory Managers.

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