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Article

Preliminary Findings on a Novel Behavioural Approach for the Assessment of Pain and Analgesia in Lambs Subject to Routine Husbandry Procedures

1
Agricultural Sciences, College of Science, Health, Engineering & Education, Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150, Australia
2
Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), Armidale NSW 2350, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1148; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071148
Received: 3 June 2020 / Revised: 3 July 2020 / Accepted: 3 July 2020 / Published: 7 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
The identification and assessment of pain in sheep are important but, due to their stoic nature, are difficult. In the present study, we evaluated the use of qualitative behavioural assessment to assess pain in lambs caused by routine husbandry procedures performed at lamb marking (ear tagging, castration, mulesing, and tail docking). To do this, video footage of control lambs and of lambs subject to these procedures that were either administered analgesics (Tri-Solfen and meloxicam) or a placebo, was captured 1.5 h post-procedure and assessed by 19 observers. Results showed that the observers agreed in their assessment of the lambs and, as expected, the pain caused by the husbandry procedures altered the behavioural patterns and demeanour of the lambs in a way that was captured by observers using this approach. At the time of assessment, it also appears that the analgesics administered did not reduce the pain experienced by those lambs that received them. These results suggest that qualitative behavioural assessment may be useful in identifying pain in lambs; however further work is needed to test this methodology with lambs given effective analgesic pain relief.
The identification and assessment of pain in sheep under field conditions are important, but, due to their stoic nature, are fraught with many challenges. In Australia, various husbandry procedures that are documented to cause pain are routinely performed at lamb marking, including ear tagging, castration, mulesing, and tail docking. This study evaluated the validity of a novel methodology to assess pain in lambs: qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA) was used to compare the behavioural expression of control lambs (CONTROL) with that of lambs subject to these procedures that received either a saline placebo 15 min before procedures (PLACEBO), or were administered meloxicam 15 min before procedures in addition to the standard analgesic Tri-Solfen at the time of procedures, as per the manufacturer’s recommendations (ANALGESIC TREATMENT; AT). In terms of behavioural expression, it was expected that: CONTROL ≠ PLACEBO, AT = CONTROL, and PLACEBO ≠ AT. Video footage of the 6−8-week-old lambs (n = 10 for each treatment) was captured approximately 1.5 h postprocedure and was presented, in a random order, to 19 observers for assessment using the Free-Choice Profiling (FCP) approach to QBA. There was significant consensus (p < 0.001) among the observers in their assessment of the lambs, with two main dimensions of behavioural expression explaining 69.2% of the variation. As expected, observers perceived differences in the demeanour of lambs in the first dimension, scoring all lambs subject to the routine husbandry procedures as significantly more ‘dull’ and ‘uneasy’ compared to the control lambs (p < 0.05). Contrary to expectations, the results also suggested that analgesic treatment did not provide relief at the time of observation. Further investigations to validate the relationship between behavioural expression scores and pain are necessary, but these results suggest that painful husbandry procedures alter the behavioural expression of lambs and these differences can be captured using QBA methodology. View Full-Text
Keywords: qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA); mulesing; analgesia; pain; sheep; animal welfare qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA); mulesing; analgesia; pain; sheep; animal welfare
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MDPI and ACS Style

Grant, E.P.; Wickham, S.L.; Anderson, F.; Barnes, A.L.; Fleming, P.A.; Miller, D.W. Preliminary Findings on a Novel Behavioural Approach for the Assessment of Pain and Analgesia in Lambs Subject to Routine Husbandry Procedures. Animals 2020, 10, 1148. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071148

AMA Style

Grant EP, Wickham SL, Anderson F, Barnes AL, Fleming PA, Miller DW. Preliminary Findings on a Novel Behavioural Approach for the Assessment of Pain and Analgesia in Lambs Subject to Routine Husbandry Procedures. Animals. 2020; 10(7):1148. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071148

Chicago/Turabian Style

Grant, Emily P.; Wickham, Sarah L.; Anderson, Fiona; Barnes, Anne L.; Fleming, Patricia A.; Miller, David W. 2020. "Preliminary Findings on a Novel Behavioural Approach for the Assessment of Pain and Analgesia in Lambs Subject to Routine Husbandry Procedures" Animals 10, no. 7: 1148. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071148

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