Analgesia for calves and lambs

Cattle producers in Australia need to have a permanent radio-frequency identification (RFID) attached to each of their animals and many also attach another easy-to-read identification. This is achieved by placing an ear tag in each ear. One ear is tagged with the RFID and the other ear is tagged with an easy-to-read ID for the producer to recognise an animal from a distance.

For the tags to be placed, it involves a very quick but painful insertion through the tissues of the ear flap. Behavioural signs of pain and fear are evident with head tossing, ear flapping, the freeze response, and animals showing fight and flight responses both in the race and when being moved after the procedure.

In recent years, Buccalgesic, an orally absorbed meloxicam pain relief medication has become available to reduce the acute pain experienced by calves and lambs. It is absorbed rapidly and is easy to administer. The medication will reduce pain for 48 hours.

I was able to watch the difference between calves who received the pain relief and those who did not. The behaviours between the different groups were obvious. A short video of each is shown below:


The calf in the video above did not have pain relief and is flapping his ears and tossing his head.


The medication is very easy to give as a drench and works quickly.


The calves in the video above do not flap their ears and stand quite calmly in the race following ear tagging.