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The license to farm – The use of anti-inflammatory medications

When an animal has an illness or injury, they will have inflammation and pain. The degree of pain is not always obvious to us as animals cannot tell us, but they do show us in a variety of ways.

Pain has both physiological (increased temperature, increased heart rate, inflammation, loss of function) and psychological (painful lameness means the cow doesn’t want to walk to the feed leading to not eating; kicking the cups off because of a painful udder) effects.

As animal guardians, we have the opportunity and responsibility to prevent and reduce inflammation and pain with the use of on-farm non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs).

Just as you or I would take ibuprofen or paracetamol for a headache or sore knee to feel better, your animals should also be given pain relief. The sooner they feel better, the sooner they will start eating, which will give them the energy to heal.

NSAIDs can have many good advantages such as pain relief, reducing fever, reducing toxins in the blood and anti-inflammatory effects. There are several registered NSAIDs available for on-farm use. The choice of the appropriate NSAID will depend on several factors such as preventative vs treatment, chronic vs acute pain, dehydration, milk withhold, age of animal, and the practicality of injecting an animal each day.

On farm, NSAIDs should be used during the following occasions (but not limited to):

· Down cows to minimise muscle and nerve damage caused by lying down

· Assisted calving

· Mastitis

· Lame cows

· Prior to disbudding, docking, castration in conjunction with local anesthetic

· Scouring calves

· Respiratory infections

The benefit of NSAID use to the animal reduces both physiological and psychological effects of pain so an animal returns to normal function faster and therefore returning to producing faster and an improved benefit on your bottom line. With increased scrutiny of farming and ongoing consumer demand for optimal animal welfare, use of pain relief on-farm demonstrates care for animal welfare and contributes to the sustainability of farming.

Just because we can’t see pain, doesn’t mean it is not there. In today’s farming practices let’s make the new saying “less pain, improved gain”.

NSAIDs don’t replace anything already on your treatment regime for a sick animal, rather they complement what you are already doing.

Remember if you are reaching for an antibiotic reach for an anti-inflammatory as well to improve healing and relieve pain. If you are unsure which type of pain relief/anti-inflammatory is right for a situation, give your vet a call to create a customised NSAID use plan for your farm.