Prior, S., Blackie, N., Fishwick, J. et al. 2023. Randomised control trial investigating the efficacy of meloxicam and sodium salicylate non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for calf cautery disbudding. Animals 13(11), 1768.

Disbudding calves using hot iron cautery is a routine management procedure to destroy the germinal cells around the horn bud in calves. It is recommended that NSAIDs are used in conjunction with local anaesthesia to reduce pain in calves during and after the procedure. In this study, two treatment groups were examined; calves in the positive control MEL group received subcutaneous meloxicam, and SAL calves received sodium salicylate orally for three days, both in addition to a local anaesthesia. Tri-axis accelerometers were attached to the calves, and DLWG (Daily Live Weight Gain) was measured. There was no significant difference between the treatment groups with regard to DLWG (p = 0.52), MI (motion index (p = 0.66)), lying bouts (p = 0.96) or lying times (p = 0.54). Given these findings, sodium salicylate may offer a lower-cost option for farmers when given at licensed doses compared to meloxicam, as well as providing a reduced-stress method of NSAID administration via an oral route. In addition, this study identified significant differences in activity in the time periods before and after disbudding, with MI (p < 0.01), lying bouts (p = 0.002) and lying times (p < 0.001) indicating changes in behaviour which extended to five days post disbudding.

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