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Welfare Improved Surgery


Merino sheep flock.

Welfare-improved surgery with pain relief is rapidly replacing the practice of traditional mulesing without pain relief.

Recent major developments driving this change include:

  1. Accreditation and training: the National Mulesing Assurance Program (NMAP) accredits practitioners trained in best practice minimal technique and in handling lambs with minimal stress for optimal recovery.
  2. Pain relief and wound care treatments: a pain relief and wound care treatment provides a dramatic and significant improvement in animal welfare (reference: Lomax, S., Sheil, M. and Windsor P.A (2008).  Impact of topical anaesthesia on pain alleviation and wound healing in lambs after mulesing. Australian Veterinary Journal, 86,159-168).

Pain Relief Treatments

A wound pain relief and antiseptic agent is now available to alleviate pain, protect against wound infection and prevent bleeding during welfare-improved surgery.

Within 30 seconds of application, the topical anaesthetic agent goes to work to eliminate pain and provide wound anaesthesia. The effect has been shown to last for more than eight hours. Lambs demonstrate few if any signs of discomfort in the hours after the procedure and it significantly reduces the cortisol stress response.

There has been rapid adoption of this formulation since its commercial release in 2005. In 2013/14, 75 per cent of mulesed merino lambs were treated with pain relief.  Research continues to further enhance the pain relief options.

Buccalgesic® (Troy Laboratories) and Tri-Solfen® (Bayer) are now registered for use for knife tail docking and castration. Troy has lodged an application to the APVMA seeking registration of Buccalgesic® for mulesing.

Metacam 20® (Beohringer Ingelheim) is registered for the alleviation of pain and immflamation.

See a Beyond the Bale article from March 2017: Pain Relief - Frequently Asked Questions