Home > The issues > Pain relief for Mulesing

The primary methods of pain relief used for Mulesing are Buccalgesic and Tri Solfen. 

 Ilium  Buccalgesic®  OTM, a buccal  formulation containing  the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory  drug (NSAID) meloxicam, was registered  in 2016 for the alleviation of pain associated  with castration and tail docking in sheep and in  October 2017 the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary  Medicines Authority (APVMA) approved Buccalgesic for the  alleviation of pain associated with mulesing [3]. The active ingredient is effectively absorbed through the buccal mucosa and delivers pain relief within 15-30 minutes, with efficacy lasting 24 hours or longer [1]. 

Tri Solfen is a topical anaesthetic and antiseptic solution for pain relief in lambs and calves [2] . It provides immediate (within 1 min) and prolonged pain relief for at least 24 hours post-procedure [3]

Research has indicated that pain is apparent immediately following the [mulesing] procedure and persists for at least 2-3 days, and possibly up to 2 weeks, as reflected by changes in behaviour. A substantial stress response occurs for 1-2 days following mulesing, and an acute phase response occurs for up to 7 days. Lambs consistently lose weight in the week after mulesing, and this has been associated with increased mortality rates under field conditions [4]. 

The mulesed lambs also showed strong avoidance of the person who mulesed them for 37 days. The work done by these researchers shows that lambs are in pain for at least 3 days following mulesing.  The large scars left after mulesing take several weeks to heal and are susceptible to infection and flystrike [5].

The Australian Wool Innovation states that ‘It is important to ensure that your lambs are not disturbed, handled or mustered for at least four weeks after mulesing and or castration and tail docking to allow the wounds to heal’ [6]

Taking into consideration the amount of time these methods of pain relief last and that multiple applications are not recommended due to the stress caused to the animals by being handled, currently even farmers who are providing pain relief to sheep following the procedure are not able to provide adequate relief from the pain caused by mulesing. 

References:

1 https://www.sheepcentral.com/new-sheep-pain-relief-product-approved-for-castration-and-tail-docking/

2 https://www.bayeranimal.co.nz/en/products/products-details.php?

3 id=1014https://www.bayer.com.au/products/product-details.php?id=427

4 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270756207_Lamb_mulesing_Impact_on_welfare_and_alternatives

5 https://www.animalsaustralia.org/issues/mulesing.php

6 https://www.wool.com/globalassets/start/on-farm-research-and-development/sheep-health-welfare-and-productivity/sheep-health/breech-flystrike/latest-publications/gd2428-2017-managing-flystrike-manual_8_web.pdf