Multiple physiological and neuroendocrine changes consistent with stress and pain have been demonstrated in cattle spayed via the Willis dropped ovary technique (WDOT). The procedure is routinely conducted without the use of anaesthetics or analgesics and has major implications for animal welfare. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of a topical anaesthetic (TA), haemostatic wound dressing, and meloxicam on pain behaviour and haemorrhage in the acute period following spaying. Yearling Brahman heifers (n = 75) were randomly allocated to the following treatment groups: (1) rectal palpation/control (CON); (2) WDOT spay (S); (3) WDOT spay with meloxicam (SM); (4) WDOT spay with TA (STA); and (5) WDOT spay with TA and meloxicam (STAM). Individual behavioural responses, body weight, packed cell volume (PCV), and total plasma protein (TPP) were monitored for up to 24 h following treatment. Head tucking behaviour and tail stiffness was increased in all spay groups compared to the CON group (p < 0.001), with the lowest proportional increase in the SM group. Rumination was initially reduced in S, SM, and STA heifers compared to CON heifers (p < 0.001), though SM heifers ruminated more than S heifers (p < 0.001). CON and SM heifers stood with an arched back the least, spent the most time eating, and spent less time lying down and more time standing compared to other treatment groups (p < 0.001). There was no significant effect of treatment on weight change (p = 0.519), PCV (p = 0.125) or TPP (p = 0.799). The administration of meloxicam is suggested as an effective, currently available method for improving the welfare of cattle undergoing WDOT spaying.
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