Hempstead, M. N., Lindquist, T. M., Shearer, J. K. et al. 2020. Acute cortisol and behavior of dairy goat kids administered local anesthesia, topical anesthesia or systemic analgesia prior to cautery disbudding. Physiology & Behavior 222, 112942.

Cautery disbudding of goat kids causes thermal burns and tissue destruction, which results in acute and post-operative pain and negatively affects animal welfare. The objectives of this study were to evaluate acute cortisol concentrations and behavioral responses associated with (1) injecting a lidocaine ring block prior to cautery disbudding and comparing this to saline injections and (2) pain mitigation strategies (lidocaine ring block, topical eutectic mixture of local anesthetics (EMLA) cream, oral meloxicam) on cautery disbudded dairy goat kids. Sixty doe kids were allocated to one of six treatments: (1) disbudding without pain relief (DB), (2) a ring block using 1% lidocaine (DBLA) 20 min before disbudding, (3) saline injection (DBSA) 20 min before disbudding, (4) oral meloxicam 60 min before disbudding (DBMEL), (5) EMLA cream rubbed into the buds 60 min before disbudding (DBEM) and (6) handled but not disbudded (HAND). Blood was sampled pre- (-20 and -5 min) and post-treatment (15 and 30 min) to assess plasma cortisol concentrations and behavior during treatment was recorded using video cameras to assess rump movements, tail shakes and vocalizations (values presented as number/treatment). DBLA and DBSA kids showed elevated cortisol above baseline 5 min pre-disbudding (after injections) ( P ≤ 0.01), which was no different to cortisol 15 min post-disbudding ( P > 0.05). Rump movements and tail shakes of DBLA (5.5 ± 0.8 and 6.9 ± 1.2) and DBSA kids (5.6 ± 0.8 and 7.2 ± 1.2) were no different to those of DB kids ( P > 0.10). Cortisol was elevated from baseline for 30 min post-disbudding for DBEM kids and DBMEL kids ( P ≤ 0.05). Rump movements, tail shakes and vocalizations of DBEM (5.7 ± 0.8, 6.3 ± 1.2 and 11.1 ± 1.6) and DBMEL kids (5.3 ± 0.8, 8.0 ± 1.2 and 9.1 ± 1.6) were no different to those of DB kids ( P > 0.05). HAND kids showed no change in cortisol over time ( P > 0.10) and performed fewer rump movements, tail shakes and vocalizations than all treatments ( P ≤ 0.01). In conclusion, lidocaine injection using a ring block appears to cause more pain than handling alone and may not reduce pain associated with cautery disbudding; therefore, a lidocaine ring block may not be a useful pain mitigation strategy for disbudding dairy goat kids. There was no evidence that meloxicam reduced acute pain and EMLA cream may have intensified the pain associated with disbudding. Further research on efficacious pain mitigation strategies for cautery disbudding of dairy goat kids is required.

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