An analgesic spray that removes most of the pain that follows mulesing will be on the market within a month.
This statement was made by Dr Meredith Sheil at the Merryville Annual Ram Inspection and Field Day organised by Wal and George Merriman at Beverly, Boorowa, last Friday.
A graduate of medicine from Sydney University and paediatric research scientist, Dr Sheil developed the spray in conjunction with veterinarian, Dr Sarah Thompson, following her exposure to the trauma of sheep being eaten alive by maggots as a result of blowfly strike and the pain involved in the mulesing operation.
“It was on our property out of Bathurst where my husband runs fine wool Merinos that I witnessed both fly strike and mulesing and thought there had to be a better way,” Meredith Sheil said.
“At both Royal Alexandra Hospital and Westmead Hospital for Children I had had a lot of experience treating infants with severe lacerations to their arms and legs and figured that the procedures we adopted to aid their recovery could be applied to mulesed lambs.”
Dr Sheil explained that in the last 15 to 20 years there has been an exponential increase in research related to controlling pain in the newly born as well as young children and, as animals must suffer similar emotion, she and her colleague adapted the research findings for use on lambs.
“I realised that whatever we came up with had to be practical. Operators still had to be able to mules hundreds of lambs a day, the spray had to stick to the sheep’s skin, it had to numb the cut skin area as quickly as possible, last for as long as possible, control bleeding and infection and be easy to apply,” she said.
“And through trial and error we came up with the product that will be marketed as Tri-Solfen.”
The viscous, blue solution contains both a short and long-term anaesthetic that numbs the cut area in one to three minutes. It lasts for four hours, contains an agent that restricts blood vessels and so controls bleeding. It also contains an antiseptic moisturising emollient that aids healing.
It has been trialled on mulesed, weaned lambs and the results are most encouraging.
“Treated lambs have almost no reaction when their raw skin is touched and maintain their body weight compared with untreated animals that writhe in pain when touched and can lose up to 10 per cent of their body weight during the recovery process,” Dr Sheil reported.
The liquid comes in one, two and five litre plastic containers with applicator as well as drums. Each lamb requires five millilitres, the cost is around 50 cents a head and the spray will be available from veterinarians and Rural Lands Protection Boards.
Wal Merriman is particularly excited about the new product that has persuaded the American organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to accept mulesing until it is phased out by 2010. In fact, a consortium of American businessmen interested in wool and wool products from animals that are ethically treated with Tri-Solfen at mulseing, will shortly arrive in Australia
“The consortium has accepted that the use of the spray constitutes ethical treatment until such time as an alternative to mulseing is found and is prepared to market the wool to retailers,” Mr Merriman said.
Dr Meredith Sheil, who travelled to America to address PETA and gained its approval, demonstrates the application of Tri-Solfen to Wal (left) and George Merriman at their field day last week. Picture: NARELLE MORSE Courtesy of The Rural