Crawford, P. E., Hamer, K., Lovatt, F. et al. 2023. Improving analgesia provision for sheep: An analysis of farm medicine records and attitudes towards pain relief on sheep farms in Northern Ireland. Veterinary Record Open 10(2), e75.

Background Management of pain is critical to improve the welfare of farmed livestock and meet consumer expectations. There is limited published information about the use of analgesic drugs in the sheep sector. Methods A mixed-method approach was followed. The range of analgesic drugs used on 52 Northern Irish sheep farms was determined through analysis of medicine purchase records. Through interview and discussion groups, with both farmer and veterinarian participants, attitudes towards the use and adoption of such medicines were explored. Results The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) was widespread and highly variable. One-third of farmers in the sample did not purchase any NSAID. Meloxicam was the most commonly purchased NSAID by mass (72%) and standardised dose (73%). During interviews and discussions, farmers outlined the benefits they saw in using NSAIDs and how veterinarians influenced their uptake of these medicines. Use of corticosteroid was evidenced on 50% of the farms that supplied medicine records for analysis. Conclusions Veterinarians can influence farmers to adopt NSAIDs for the provision of analgesia in their sheep and farmers observed the benefits they delivered. However, many farmers are still to be reached with this message, perhaps due to being largely self-sufficient and rarely engaging with veterinarians. Veterinarians have the opportunity to challenge farmers about the provision of analgesia, especially when farmers seek antibiotics for painful conditions such as lameness. Currently, the lack of an authorised product in the UK, with associated treatment guidance and industry promotion, may limit veterinarians’ confidence in prescribing drugs for pain control in sheep.

Animal Type