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Welfare Improved Practices
Welfare-improved surgery with analgesics and anaesthetics is rapidly replacing the practice of traditional mulesing without the use of analgesics or anaesthestics.
Strong progress is being made and a significant proportion of woolgrowers have removed the need for the traditional mulesing procedure in some or all of their sheep.
In a 2017 survey of 1,200 merino breeders across Australia, the results showed that 83% of Merino lambs mulesed received analgesics and/or anaesthesia.
Recent major developments in welfare-improved practices
Tri-Solfen is a topical product applied after mulesing and contains local anaesthetic agents to alleviate pain, and haemostatic and antiseptic agents to reduce bleeding and promote healing.
In the six and a half years since Tri-Solfen was first registered, it has become widely used – three-quarters of Merinos mulesed now receive pain relief.
Ilium Buccalgesic® OTM, a buccal formulation containing the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) meloxicam, was registered in 2016 for the alleviation of pain associated with castration and tail docking in sheep and in October 2017 the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) approved Buccalgesic for the alleviation of pain associated with mulesing.
Numnuts is a handheld device that includes an easy-to-use banding tool providing fast ring application, plus an operator-safe two-stage injection mechanism that ensures the correct dose of pain relief is dispensed to the right location. The patented technology is scientifically proven to reduce tail docking and castration pain by up to 68%.
This recently updated training guide describes best-practice management and techniques at lamb marking (which includes tail docking, castration and vaccination) and mulesing. It is designed to assist woolgrowers and their contractors perform these procedures with the utmost care and attention, to ensure the best short term and long term welfare outcomes for the animal.
A recently concluded research project – co-funded by AWI, CSIRO and Troy Laboratories Pty Ltd – provides a welfare assessment of Tri-Solfen® and the Meloxicam-based Ilium Buccalgesic® OTM product, on female lambs for mulesing.
The best outcome was seen where Tri-Solfen and Buccalgesic were used in combination, delivering the benefits of both local anaesthetic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents. Buccalgesic therefore offers a good adjunct to Tri-Solfen in extending the pain relief period for sheep undergoing surgical mulesing.
- CSIRO Principal Research Scientist, Alison Small