The pain associated with lameness causes a stress response in the cow, leading to the release of ‘stress hormones’, such as adrenaline, which at high levels inhibit the release of oxytocin, responsible for milk let down*.
Heat stress of dry cows reduces colostrum quality and volume, so during periods of hot weather it may be necessary to feed more colostrum (but always check colostrum quality using a densimeter or refractometer to confirm). In addition, there is evidence to suggest that heat stress actually has an effect on the unborn calf through foetal programming to produce metabolically inefficient heifers.
Heat stress reduces calf birth weights, but also reduces the number of heifers reaching their first lactation and decreases the yield of those heifers that do make it to first lactation.
CEVA, the manufacturer of Ketofen® (ketoprofen), has launched the ‘wave goodbye to pain’ campaign alongside livestock vets
and farmers, to raise awareness of the benefits of early lameness detection in cattle and the more expedient use of NSAIDs. If used early in cases of lameness, NSAIDs can reduce inflammation and structural changes in the foot, decreasing the risk of chronic lesions.
Why Is Pain Relief Not Given Often Enough?
- Worries about cost – although we know that in the last 10 years, the number of farmers who vets perceive are prepared to pay for pain relief has gone up from 36% to 52%**.
- Concerns about milk withdrawal – but highly effective analgesics can be given that have zero milk withdrawal.
- In the past, few NSAIDs were available to farmers for the treatment of lame cattle and the positive benefits of these products had not been fully recognised, so were not always used. Over the last few years, as more options for treatment have become available, farmers have become more aware of the need to recognise and treat pain***.
- Confusion about the difference between analgesics (pain relief) and antibiotics, and concerns about antimicrobial resistance. Analgesics have no impact on the development of antibacterial resistance, and may even contribute to more responsible use of antibiotics by helping to reduce the amounts used.
- The out-dated belief that pain is beneficial because it restricts mobility and therefore speeds healing. In fact, pain can delay healing because of the associated stress response. We know when analgesia is added into a lameness trimming and block protocol, it results in a faster and higher rate of cure****.
There is NO gain with pain in dairy farming!
Recognising & Tackling Pain In Dairy Cows
Cattle are ‘programmed’ to adopt ‘prey behaviour’, which means they try to disguise signs that they are less able to defend themselves or run away in the face of a predator. This makes picking up early cases of lameness difficult, which can lead to low level mobility problems in the herd.
Regular mobility scoring is the best way to detect early cases of lameness and enable rapid and effective treatment.
Talk to us today about how we are helping dairy farms Wave Goodbye to Pain, follow the initiative on social media using #wavegoodbyetopain, and speak to us about our mobility scoring service if you think it’s something you could make use of.
References & Further Reading
* Milk Let-Down – An Efficient Routine
** Remnant, JG., Tremlett, A., Huxley, JN., Hudson, CD. (2017) Clinician attitudes to pain and use of analgesia in cattle: where are we 10 years on? Veterinary Record 181, 400.
*** Leach K.A. et al. 2010. Working towards reduction in cattle lameness: 1. Understanding the barriers to lameness control on dairy farms. Res. Vet. Sci. 89: 311-317
**** Thomas H.J. et al. 2015. Evaluation of treatments for claw horn lesions in dairy cows in a randomized control trial. J. Dairy Sci. 98: 4477-4486.