The RSPCA has backed the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority’s approval of pain relief gel Tri-Solfen for cutting the horns of young cattle.
The topical anaesthetic was originally brought into the country to assist sheep producers with the controversial practice of mulesing, and its use has spread into the cattle industry for dehorning calves.
RSPCA senior scientific officer Melina Tensen said livestock pain relief needed to be practical for graziers to do on farm.
“In this context of dehorning, using both that topical anaesthetic, in other words Tri-Solfen, in combination with an oral pain relief or an injectable is probably the best way to go from an animal welfare perspective.”
However, Ms Tensen said in the long term the cattle industry needed to look at other options to dehorning.
“In the case of dehorning it’s already possible to breed for polled animals,” she said.
“What we’re aiming for in the long run is not to cut bits off animals at all and if we can start by introducing polled animals that would be great.”
One of Australia’s largest family-owned cattle companies, McDonald Holdings, originally trialled the pain relief gel about six years ago.
The project was kicked off by the late Zanda McDonald as a trial, and now the company has started using it for all its dehorning.
“They go straight back to their mothers. They’re not shaking their head or in any discomfort, they recover a lot quicker.”
Mr McDonald said the company’s cattle in the south, which was mainly Angus, had small horns.
However, the company also has large breeding herd in the Cape York Peninsula and Mr McDonald said breeds of cattle with horns were not suited to the harsh environment of the north.
“I can’t think of anyone who would want to have horns on as a choice,” he said.
“But when trying to breed one trait out, it’s often at the detriment of some of the other traits you’re trying to get. FULL ARTICLE