PhD: Perception of disbudding pain in calves and options to increase pain alleviation

10.4.2015
Disbudding entails destroying calves horn buds, and in dairy farming is most often done with a hot-iron. Disbudding is routinely carried out because hornless cattle are considered to be safer for themselves and for humans. Hot-iron disbudding is very painful and causes severe pain-related distress and behavioural changes in calves. PhD study shows that dairy producers who have knowledge of pain and who think pain alleviation is beneficial and important are also more prone to administer pain alleviation for disbudded calves. It could also increase pain alleviation for other cattle diseases because producer perceptions on disbudding-related pain are likely to be connected with pain in cattle in general.
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Options for treating disbudding-related pain during the procedure, and for 24 hours subsequently, are well known, but continued pain and its management are not much studied in calves after disbudding. Pain can cause restlessness and thus affect calves lying time. Pain in humans and rats also changes sleeping behaviour. Pain connected with disbudding often remains untreated. Reasons for this are unclear. Therefore, more knowledge and research are needed on the recognition of calves pain after hot-iron disbudding, on the duration of pain and on options to treat it in an effective, safe and practical way. Research is also needed on producer knowledge and attitudes towards pain in calves and their decision-making in connection with pain alleviation.

Finnish dairy producers estimated disbudding pain to be severe and producer estimation of pain severity caused by disbudding was correlated with their sensitivity to pain caused by different cattle diseases in general.  Finnish dairy producers who estimated the disbudding-related pain and need for pain alleviation to be high had a veterinarian medicate calves before disbudding more often than producers who ranked disbudding pain and need for pain alleviation lower. Because more studies on duration and alleviation of disbudding pain are needed, our new device for measuring lying and sleeping time in calves was developed to easier further studies.  A non-invasive and user-friendly oromucosal sedation method for calves could enhance the use of local anaesthetics before disbudding by making sedation easier.

"Hot-iron disbudding pain in calves – Studies on perception of pain and options to increase pain alleviation"

electronic version available here: https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/153841