Available Pain Relief Options for your Mulesing Practices

You’re all now aware that from the 1st of July in Victoria it will be an offence to mules sheep without using pain relief.  But what is available, how do they work and what provides the best pain relief?

From 1st of July you must use a pain relief product registered by the APVMA for pain relief in sheep when mulesing.  If you go to the APVMA website and look up what products are available, there are numerous products which are registered for pain relief in sheep. Some of these are gaseous anaesthetics, so practically for mulesing your choice is down to three different products; topically applied local anaesthetic in the form of Trisolfen® and two other products, Buccalgesic® and Metacam 20® which both contain the same active ingredient Meloxicam. Meloxicam is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), similar to ibuprofen which most of us are familiar with.

Trisolfen® is applied directly to the mulesing wound and the local anaesthetic begins to work within minutes, and last up to 24 hours.

Metacam 20® is an injectable solution while Buccalgesic® is often described as a drench, but it is designed to be absorbed across the mucosa of the mouth. It does not work particularly well if it is given as a drench i.e. if it is swallowed. These products work within 10-15 minutes and work by decreasing inflammation and pain at the wound site.

In summary, products containing meloxicam appear to be slower acting but provide a longer period of analgesia than Trisolfen®.

Using two forms of pain relief

There are some advantages in using two different pain relief products at the same time.  Using a local anaesthetic and an anti-inflammatory like Meloxicam, provides more immediate and greater pain relief for a longer period of time than either product used alone, as they act on two different pain pathways and are complementary.  You shouldn’t however use two products like Buccalgesic® and Metacam20® injectable at the same time as they both contain the same active ingredient Meloxicam.

The other consideration for which pain relief products or combinations to use is during tail docking and castration. (It is not mandatory to use pain relief for castrating and tail docking if the lamb is under 6 months of age). Meloxicam containing products will aid pain relief with elastrator rings and surgical tail docking and castration, while Trisolfen® will provide analgesia to surgical castrations and tail dockings when applied to the wound. Also products like Numnuts which use local anaesthetic are specifically designed for ring application with pain relief.

To chat more about this article, contact Dr Pat Kluver, VFF Senior Livestock Project Specialist via pkluver@vff.org.au

To listen into Dr Andrew Whales’ webinar on pain relief presented in July, click here to register and be linked to the webinar.

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