Covid-19 Update: We've taken precautionary measures to enable all staff to work away from the office. These changes have already rolled out with no interruptions, and will allow us to continue offering the same great service at your busiest time in the year.

Pain Management in Hot-disbudding Using Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

2092 words (8 pages) Essay in Sciences

08/02/20 Sciences Reference this

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work produced by our Essay Writing Service. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Grant Proposal

Pain management in hot-disbudding using Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) in dairy calves.

Project Summary

Disbudding calves is a routine husbandry practice in dairy farming.  Handling horned animals is unpractical and unsafe for the stockperson, it´s also illegal to sell and transport. In the UK it is illegal to disbud a calf, no matter the age, without the use of anaesthetics, except for chemical disbudding in calves less than a week old.  However, the use of anaesthesia will not control the post operatory pain in the following hours.  This project will measure the effect of the pain killer (Meloxicam) in combination with the standard protocol of analgesia (Xylazine) and local anaesthesia (Lidocaine) in disbudding calves.

a) Background Motivation

Calf dehorning is a routine practice in commercial beef and dairy cattle. It is a well justified activity because of safety reasons not only for the stockperson, veterinarian or technicians but also for other animals in the herd (Gottardo 2011; Stafford & Mellor 2005).  It will also generate less waste in carcases due to bruising and animals will require less space at the feeding path (Caray et al 2005).

“Disbudding” is used when a young calf (2 – 3 months old) has its horns removes (dehorning refers to mature animals). There are few techniques to perform disbudding: the hot-iron, chemical and surgical disbudding (Stafford and Mellor 2005).  In the UK, the chemical disbudding is the only technique allowed without the use of anaesthetics till the first week of age (Laven 2010); the rest have to follow the Protection of Animals (Anaesthetics) Act 1954 legislation.  However, legislation related to dehorning or disbudding differs between countries. Not long ago New Zealand approved a new legislation, where none cattle should be dehorned or disbud without local anaesthetic (New Zealand Legislation 2018).  The situation in most Europe is different, as the disbudding can be performed on calves up until 4 weeks old without anaesthetics or pain medication. 

Hot-iron disbudding normally takes place up to 8 weeks of age (Stafford and Mellor 2005), producing different grades of burnt all around the horn buds (Caray et al 2005). Stilwell et al (2007) quoted Broom and Fraser definition of pain as “an aversive sensation and feeling associated with actual or potential tissue damage”.  Following this statement, we should consider disbudding as a painful procedure.  Sadly, the management of pain sometimes is ignored in farm animals.  Pain is an important indicator of poor welfare in livestock; even though, in so many situations, it goes unrecognized by farmers and farm workers (Wikman et al 2013).

Cortisol is used as a physiological variable to assess pain as a response of stress.  After few minutes of a pain experience, cortisol will be released and kept over the baseline while the pain is felt (Stilwell et al 2007).  Till now, changes in plasma cortisol concentrations are the most useful technique to measure pain caused by dehorning or disbudding (Stafford & Mellor 2005).  Stafford and Mellor (2011) mentioned that plasma cortisol and salivary cortisol levels peaks at 30 minutes after the hot-iron disbudding. 

There is only one way to prevent pain caused by disbudding and it is with the use of anaesthetics and pain killers.  General anaesthesia, local anaesthesia and or systemic analgesia can also be used; however, general anaesthesia is unpractical in large number of farm animals.  Local anaesthesia (usually lignocaine) and Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the ones selected to minimize pain in this procedure.  The sedative Xylazine also has some analgesic effects; combining Xylazine as either as a sedative or analgesic with local anaesthesia and systemic analgesia should alleviate or eliminate the pain cause by disbudding or dehorning. This specific pain or the absence of it has been assessed using behaviour responses like ear flicking, head-jerk, head-rubbing (Caray et al 2015) and also productivity (Stafford & Mellor 2011).  Administration of local anaesthetics around the corneal nerve reduces behavioural and physiological pain responses for about 2h (lidocaine), 4h (bupivacaine), or 6h (lidocaine followed by bupivacaine) (Stafford & Mellor 2005). Administering analgesics (e.g. the NSAID Ketoprofen©) in tandem with lidocaine alleviates pain at least 8 h post-disbudding (Caray et al 2015).

Meloxicam in cattle has shown that a single subcutaneous dose was clinically effective for 3 days (Engelen 2016).  It can be found in the market under many commercial denominations, being Metacam© 20mg/ml (Boehringer Ingelheim) the most common and widely used.  It has been recommended to control pain after heat dehorning in young cattle, with the advantage of being used only once, approximately 10 minutes before the dehorning, in tandem with the local anaesthesia of the cornual nerve block (Metacam© 2018).

We don’t know if the not-use of NSAID sedation mix in disbudding is a response of lack of knowledge about the effectiveness of these drugs (Caray et al 2015) or because of the farmer´s budget and the cost cutting measures.

b) Objectives

The aim of this study is to demonstrate by measuring cortisol levels that the use of NSAIDs (Meloxicam / Metacam©) in conjunction with anaesthesia and analgesia standard protocols will reduce the post disbudding pain in calves for at least 24 hours.

c) Methodology

One farm in Ayrshire was randomly selected according to the disbudding method used (hot-iron). Thirty calves will be selected by age (3 – 6 weeks old) and kept under the same husbandry conditions. Half of them will be part of the control group and the other half will be the treatment group. All animals will be under analgesia (Xylazine) and local anaesthesia (Lidocaine 2%) for the disbudding, but only the treatment group will receive Metacam© at 0.5 mg/kg as unique dose with the anaesthesia and the analgesia.  The control group will receive an injection of placebo (saline solution) with the equivalent volume as the treatment. The hot-iron disbudding will be conducted by the farm staff as part of their routine activities.

The disbudding will take place at 9.30am. The hot-iron has to be pre-heated for at least 10 minutes to a temperature of approximately 600 ºC before dehorning.

To account the pain produce by hot-iron disbudding, we will measure salivary cortisol.  All the saliva samples will be taken in the same day till 24 hours after the disbudding, with cotton swabs, store in salivettes and kept -20ºC. Then centrifuge and assay for salivary cortisol-ELISA.

Treatment group

Control group


10 minutes

D  I  S  B  U  D  D  I  N  G


10 minutes

30 minutes

1 hour

6 hours

12 hours

24 hours

d) Significance

Farming and animal production are an important part of the country economy, however it is our responsibility to look after these animals.  The legislation in many countries supports the animal welfare, even though still much to do in terms of improving the welfare of the animals. The aim of this project is to show and proof how much pain is involved in the disbudding, and how the use of anti-inflammatories improves the animal welfare. 


Caray D, de Boyer des Roches A, Frouja S, Andanson S and Veissier I 2015 Hot-iron disbudding: stress responses and behaviour of 1- and 4-week-old calves receiving anti-inflammatory analgesia without or with sedation using xylazine. Livestock Science 179: 22-28

Engelen B, Jehee N and van Dinther K 2016 Meloxicam – A review literature: Dopharma Research B.V.

Gottardo F, Nalon E, Contiero B, Normando S, Dalvit P and Cozzi G 2011 The dehorning of dairy calves: Practices and opinions of 639 farmers. Journal of Dairy Science 94: 5724-5734

Laven R 2010 Disbudding calves. Available online at:

Metacam® 20 [package insert] 2018. Australia: Boehringer Ingelheim Pty Limited

New Zealand Legislation 2018 Part 2: Surgical or painful procedures. Available online at:

Protection of Animals (Anaesthetic) Act 1954. Available online at:

Stafford KJ and Mellor DJ 2005 Dehorning and disbudding distress and its alleviation in calves. The Veterinary Journal 169: 337-349

Stafford KJ and Mellor DJ 2011 Addressing the pain associated with disbudding and dehorning in cattle. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 135: 226 – 231

Stilwell G, Lima MS and Broom DM 2007 Comparing the effect of three different disbudding methods on behaviour and plasma cortisol of calves. Revista Portuguesa de Ciências Veterinárias 102: 281-288

Wikman I, Hokkanen A, Pastell M, Kauppinen T, Valros A and Hännien 2013 Dairy producer attitudes to pain in cattle in relation to disbudding calves. Journal of Dairy Science 96: 6894-6903


Contingency Plan

A mayor risk associated with the design of this study could be that the calves were unable to be sample, if this problem arises; a second farm has been allocated as a backup.








Spring cows start calving


Spring cows start calving


May – second week : Take samples

May – third and fourth week: Process samples


Analysis and write-up project


Analysis and write-up project


Analysis and write-up project


Project ready for assessment


Project Materials and Costs


Expenses GBP

Petrol  for 2 days -  to the farm


Gas buddex – Fairfield’s supplies


Meloxicam 20mg/ml (100ml bottle) Doses: 0.5mg/kg and BW approx. 60kg  -  (1.5ml/calf) –


Lidocaine 2% (100 ml bottle) – approx. 2ml / animal


Xilazine 20mg/ml (20ml bottle) – approx. 0.5ml/animal


Cotton swap




Laboratory service (fee)





Curriculum Vitae  








Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Find out more

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please:

McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams Prices from

Undergraduate 2:2 • 1000 words • 7 day delivery

Order now

Delivered on-time or your money back

Rated 4.6 out of 5 by Logo (202 Reviews)