One way to counter some of the loss in weight that occurs during the stressful experience of marking and castration is by using pain relief. In the two years since he adopted the practice Mike says his calves no longer take a backward turn.
Mike’s youngest daughter, Dr Sabrina Lomax, works with the Dairy Science Group at The University of Sydney and did her PhD on pain relief and helped trial Tri-Solfen (Bayer Animal Health) in lamb mulesing and castration with its inventor, Dr Meredith Sheil. The product has been used in calf castration for the past two years.
Dr Lomax’s enthusiasm for pain relief has rubbed off on her father who says the outlay in cash terms – about $3 a head – more than pays for itself at sale time with increased kilos on the scales.
Dr Lomax advocates two channels of pain relief beginning with Buccalgesic (Troy Laboratories), an anti-inflammatory which has an active ingredient called meloxicam (the patent for which has recently been released, leading to cheaper alternatives).
This is administered to male calves half an hour or so before castration. It’s role is to reduce swelling and discomfort, more appropriately termed the “inflammation cascade”, for the following 24-48 hours. Dr Lomax recommends giving 2.5-5ml orally into the mucosa of the cheek (5mL per 100kg) not down the throat as the active ingredient is absorbed through the mucus membranes in the mouth.
Once the scrotum is opened Tri-Solfen is administered with a drench gun, at 2ml per testis, along the spermatic cord before testes are cut so that the retracting tissue, with all its exposed nerve endings, are bathed in a pool of anaesthetic and antiseptic. There is also less wastage from product spilling on the ground this way. During her studies Dr Lomax was convinced of the efficacy of anaesthetic at marking and castration.
In calves the result is similar. Mr Lomax has adopted the pain relief system for the past two seasons and says calves no longer lay on the ground as they once did.
They are up on their feet more quickly and are able to suckle and move ahead. That makes a difference to putting on kilos.
With dry conditions looming from the start of this year Mr Lomax sold weaners in January, rather than March, and turned them off at an average weight of 263kg (for an average daily gain of 1.17 kilograms), compared to the year before when they weighed 279kg (1.02 kg a day) at full term weaning.
This year he will sell in November and hopes to achieve a minimum of 180kg per calf.