The pain caused by husbandry procedures such as dehorning or castration is of concern to those with an interest in animal welfare. In the future farmers will be encouraged and perhaps obliged to provide analgesia for animals subjected to these procedures. In New Zealand in the last decade veterinarians have developed a service for disbudding dairy calves using the sedative xylazine and local anaesthesia and this has become popular with some dairy farmers. This paper reports a financial analysis of the impact to the individual farmer and nationally of using different forms of analgesia when castrating calves. Four scenarios and their costs were analysed: (1) the status quo ($0.28/calf); (2) the use of local anaesthesia with increased labour costs ($1.56/calf); (3) the use of local anaesthesia plus systemic analgesia with increased labour costs ($5.45/calf); and (4) the employment of a veterinarian to do the castration ($9.39/calf). National costs ranged from $160,000 to $5,368,700 ($10 to $351 per farm) for the four scenarios. The proposed scenarios were more expensive than the status quo but were still small relative to average total farm costs, i.e. $170,974 on New Zealand sheep and beef farms in 2001-02. These figures do not include any allowance for the cost of the inconvenience of having to organise husbandry activities around veterinary visits. Farmers may resist the imposition any of these 3 scenarios. In future the use of analgesics may become standard farm practice.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 65, Christchurch, 123-126, 2005
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