RESEARCH to identify a ‘gold standard’ for sheep pain relief should be fast-tracked to enable producers to effectively compare the available pain relief products, a Victorian veterinarian said this week.
Dr Andrew Whale, a vet and consultant with Livestock Logic based in Hamilton, Victoria, was a panellist on the producer consultation and adoption forum on Tuesday at the MLA’s Red Meat 2019 event in Tamworth.
He said producers in the sheep industry can now choose from five alternative products for pain relief – Numnuts, Buccalgesic, Metacam, Tri-Solfen, and liquid nitrogen as a replacement for mulesing.
“What we don’t have is really good research that compares them all to each other, so that we can actually tell industry what should be the gold standard,” Dr Whale said.
“It is our best bet at the moment.
“We know some of these products appear to be fantastic and there is some research that shows the benefits,” he said.
“But as an industry we really need to hurry up and get some really good data so we can give good advice, because at the moment we get phone calls from clients and they want to use something, but they ask which one is the best, where is the data, and we say, well there isn’t any.”
Prevailing thinking at the moment was that Numnuts was the best bet where rubber rings are being used. Tri-Solfen was fantastic but short lived, so producers were being advised to follow with an anti-inflammatory as well, such as Buccalgesic or Metacam.
Dr Whale said he understood that a project to undertake this research was included in the annual research call this year which was fantastic, but it needed to be fast-tracked.
“I hope it doesn’t take two years to get that data out there to be relevant, because next lambing season or lamb marking it would be great to be able to say ‘this is what we know works in this situation.”
He said there were some good videos being shared via social media demonstrating how pain relief is working, but said formal research data was needed.
“With adoption the Twittersphere is helping that dramatically, but we do need evidence, not just a video, because you can doctor up a video pretty quickly by waiting four hours after you lamb mark to make those sheep look good.”
Dr Whale said adoption rates of industry research were benefiting from R&D and adoption models that have come out of MLA recently including Producer Demonstration Sites and Profitable Grazing Systems which used group based learning on-farm.
After the forum, Dr Whale told Sheep Central the industry needed to be able to back up its pain relief practices with data showing they are significantly reducing pain.
“What we don’t have is a really good study that compares all the products at once to each other.
“We as vets want to to be able to give people really good scientific advice and we really do need to get some evidence behind us so that we can then tell our consumers that is what we are doing and this is why we are doing it., because we have a significant reduction in pain.”
He said the industry also did not have a pain relief option that acted pre-operatively for mulesing and didn’t think the use of Numnuts would reduce the pain associated with mulesing.