BRISBANE Valley beef producer Ben Drynan says there is no going back.
The inclusion of pain relief as a routine part of animal husbandry practices including dehorning and castration is here to stay.
Not only had the use of Trisolfen resulted in better production outcomes, but he and his family simply “felt better” about how their animals were being treated, he said.
“Pain relief has become an essential part of how we process our calves because we want to do everything we can in terms of animal welfare,” Mr Drynan said.
“The big advantage we see, apart from the immediate pain relief, is the calves mother up much faster and are drinking again if they have been treated with Trisolfen.
Pain relief has become an essential part of how we process our calves because we want to do everything we can for our animals. – Ben Drynan, Gallinani, Esk
“The value of preventing mis-mothering and saving even just one calf is a huge gain.
“The cost benefit really stacks up.”
Initially developed to treat lambs after mulesing, Trisolfen is a pain relieving and wound healing formulation that has short term and long term analgesia, antiseptics, reduces blood loss and coats the wound.
The off-the-shelf product was quickly adopted by the cattle industry when its benefits in promoting calf health were recognised.
The Drynans run about 550 Charolais type breeders on their 3650 hectare property Gallinani at Esk. The business focuses on producing export weight steers as well as feeder steers.
Mr Drynan was first exposed to Trisolfen when local rural supply company Northern AgriServices in Toogoolawah asked him to host a field day showcasing the Bayer product.
“Seeing how the product was applied particularly for the castration gave me a lot of confidence,” Mr Drynan said.
“There is some technique required but nothing too complicated.”
In addition to pain relief, the Drynans treat their calves with the long acting parasiticideCydectin LA and the trace mineral booster Multimin.
AgForce cattle president Will Wilson said a barrier to the use of Trisolfen had been reduced with the recent announcement of an 90 day export slaughter interval by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
“I don’t know of anyone who has used Trisolfen and not continued to use it,” Mr Wilson said.
“And often they become pretty vocal advocates.
“When consumers start asking questions about animal welfare we need to listen.
“We need to understand ways we can use pain relief and how to implement into our programs on the basis it is of value to consumers and of value to producers.”
Bayer northern Australia area manager Mick O’Grady said the response to Trisolfen had been overwhelming.
“It’s pretty obvious that beef producers are at the forefront of doing what needs to be done for the future of the industry,” Mr O’Grady said.
Bayer manufactures Trisulfen under license from Australian company Animal Ethics.
“The (Australian Beef) sustainability framework is in place and includes a strong endorsement of pain relief, which has received a very positive reception.
“From a producer perspective we now have a product in Trisolfen that provides immediate pain relief, minimises bleeding, reduces infection, and promotes faster wound healing.”
Bayer, which manufactures Trisolfen under license from Australian company Animal Ethics, has formulated a distinctive blue gel, which has an 18 month shelf life.
It is described as best suited to calves aged six to eight weeks and is designed to provide pain relief for 24 to 36 hours. It costs between about a $1 and $1.50 to treat each animal.
The McDonald family at Cloncurry has been using Trisolfen in its 175,000 head cattle herd since trials began in 2012, initiated by beef industry leader, the late Zanda McDonald.
MDH chief financial officer Julie McDonald said during that time Trisolfen had been adapted to improve its application and to suit the often harsh environment found inside cattle yards.
“For the past couple of years, we have used it across the herd on all calves and weaners – about 25,000 animals a year, and this year will be no exception,” Ms McDonald said.
“Good animal welfare practices have always been, and continue to be, central to our operation.
“The use of pain relief in this way benefits the animals by reducing pain, stress, and the calves go back onto their mothers more quickly.”
Ms McDonald said staff performing the procedures also found it less stressful.
“The industry as a whole benefits from the use of pain relief as these practices are not always palatable to people who were not familiar with the need to perform some of these procedures,” she said.
“As a company with a branded product, we talk to our customers about our supply chain management including our animal welfare husbandry credentials.
“Pain relief is a big part of that.
“Consumers expect their food to have a good story, and we are aware that it doesn’t take much to damage a brand and a reputation.”
Ms McDonald said there were commercial benefits from pain free animals.
“They are performing better in all aspects of their production,” she said.
“This begins from when they are born, so any day when they are not performing and gaining, this is a backward step that can effect the management of the supply chain.”
Australian Agricultural Company said it had a policy of providing mandatory pain relief for any surgical procedure.
“Trisolfen was chosen to provide pain relief following extensive and robust testing and we are happy with the results so far,” a spokesperson for AACo said.
“The welfare of our animals is a key part of our sustainability program.
“Our customers want to know that our animals live good lives, free of unnecessary pain, which is why we are also pursuing our poll program, with the aim of removing practices such as dehorning.”
Literature suggests calves undergoing typical animal husbandry procedures can lose up to 650 grams a day for 10 days in body weight, compared to calves that receive pain relief.
The product is also being used to treat foot and mouth disease in South East Asia, following trial work by Emeritus Professor Peter Windsor from The University of Sydney.
That trial work shows cattle and buffalo suffering from painful foot and mouth lesions caused by FMD were able to return to eating after two to three days and were cured in five to six days.
In addition to sheep and cattle, Trisolfen is also being prescribed by vets for horses. Gin Gin vet Andrew Marland, Vet Cross, said Trisolfen had proven an effective treatment under some circumstances.
“The wounds I have selected are those in areas that are difficult to bandage or on horses that are fractious or aren’t really amenable to bandaging,” Dr Marland said.