IN January, when Tyson Foods outlined certain measures it wants its hog suppliers to comply with, Tyson said it supports the use of pain mitigation such as anesthetics or analgesics for tail docking and castration of piglets (Feedstuffs, Jan. 13).
However, no available pain mitigation products are currently approved for use in food animals in the U.S.
In a recent research leaflet published in the Iowa State University "Animal Industry Report," post-doctoral research associate Jessica Bates and colleagues noted that consumers are increasingly concerned with the well-being and quality of life of animals raised for food, and a particular area of growing concern is the management of pain associated with routine animal husbandry practices.
Bates, who works in the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine's Swine Medicine Education Center, said objective, repeatable methods of measuring pain are also needed.
In previous studies, both cortisol and Substance P (a neurotransmitter linked to pain) have been used to assess pain in livestock. Additionally, infrared thermography (IRT), which has shown a decreased temperature in anatomical extremities during pain, has been used to describe these processes in livestock.
Bates and Iowa State colleagues Locke Karriker, Matt Stock, Kelly Pertzborn, Luke Baldwin and Johann Coetzee conducted a study on the effects of translactationally delivered meloxicam analgesia on biomarkers of pain and distress after piglet processing.
In the study, they selected 10 sows to receive either meloxicam (30 mg/kg) or an equivalent volume of whey protein placebo in their daily feedings starting four days post-farrowing and continuing for three consecutive days. Blood and milk samples were collected from the sows at 12-hour intervals for four days beginning immediately prior to the first feeding through the end of the study.
On day 5 post-farrowing, three boars and three gilts from each litter were castrated or sham castrated, tail docked and given an iron injection. Piglet blood samples were collected immediately before processing and then at predetermined times over an 84-hour period until the end of the study.
Additionally, IRT images of the surface of the piglet's cranium, left and right ears and snout were captured at each piglet blood collection point. Eight days post-farrowing, tissue samples were collected at necropsy from sows and piglets to determine any potential toxic effects from the prolonged high dosage of meloxicam.
Results and discussion. Piglet plasma from each litter was tested to confirm the presence of meloxicam using a validated technique, Bates et al. said, and meloxicam was found in all of the litters in the treatment group. Levels reached concentrations known to be effective in equine in four of the five treatment litters. This value was extrapolated because the effective concentration in swine is currently unknown, Bates et al. said.
No adverse clinical effects were noted in meloxicam-treated sows and piglets. However, upon histopathology exam, subacute gastritis was noted in two of five meloxicam-treated sows. Similar lesions and gross button ulcers were seen in 10 out of 11 of piglets born to these sows.
IRT demonstrated a significantly lower (P < 0.0001) cranial skin temperature in the placebo group versus meloxicam-treated piglets. Temperature decreases are seen when pain and stress cause sympathetic nervous system activation, Bates et al. explained. This leads to vasoconstriction and, thereby, temperature decreases in the periphery of the body. However, there was no significant difference between snout and both ear temperatures, the researchers said.
Meloxicam-treated piglets had a significantly lower percentage change from baseline levels of cortisol than placebo-treated piglets (P < 0.0001) at one hour post-castration, Bates et al. reported. However, differences became insignificant at subsequent time points.
Measurement of Substance P indicated no difference between the placebo and meloxicam groups (P = 0.8685).
According to Bates et al., this study demonstrates the successful transfer of meloxicam in sow's milk and describes physiologic pain indicators. It also can provide the foundation for future research into refining a novel, efficacious and practically administered analgesia method.
These research results were also presented as poster 45 at the 2014 American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual conference in Dallas, Texas, and as abstract 73 at the recent midwestern section meetings of the American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Assn. in Des Moines, Iowa.
Pain mitigation isn't just an issue for swine production, and in feedlot cattle, lameness is gaining increased attention.
There are a number of factors driving this shift in awareness, but among the top reasons are animal performance, health and well-being, according to beef specialists with universities in Nebraska and Kansas.
"I don't know that lameness, in general, has increased, but there definitely is an increased emphasis," said Dr. Dan Thomson, director of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. "It's one of those things we can grab a hold on, prevent through nutrition, prevent through proper cattle handling and proper facility design and treat once it happens to do some good for the animals and the industry."
Dr. Dee Griffin with the University of Nebraska's Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center added that lameness has "moved up in relevance not because there's more of it but because we are better understanding how to deal with it."
Addressing lameness in the beef cattle industry will take a deeper understanding of the issue at the producer level so prevention programs can be established.
Zinpro Corp. recently released its Step-Up Management Program that was developed in conjunction with the Beef Cattle Institute and Kansas State University to provide a systematic approach to identifying and managing beef cattle lameness.
Connie Larson, ruminant research and nutritional services manager for Zinpro, explained that the program begins with locomotion scoring and is designed to be used in multiple segments within the beef industry.
"One of the goals of the Step-Up program is to not only diagnose and treat lameness but to prevent lameness from happening from the beginning," she said. "If we can visually assess locomotion in order to detect lameness in cattle, that provides the avenue to measure, manage and address the issue."
While lameness is viewed as a nuisance issue, Griffin said lameness can drive profitability much more than producers realize.
"If an animal has a sore foot, the data say its gain may drop as much as one-third during that time period. It may be a nuisance, but it darn well hurts, and it affects the way the animal behaves all day. It affects the ability to get the best genetic potential out of that animal, and that costs money," Griffin said.
Thomson added that addressing lameness is doing the right thing for the animals, "and doing the right thing for the animals generally correlates well with performance and profitability. Whether it's nutrition, vaccination, pen conditions — all those different types of things — I think we have to be able to communicate — educate — not only the producer but ... the consumer too."
Thomson believes the development and use of the Step-Up system will serve the industry well.
"I think that over the next five years, we'll see a decrease in lameness because of (this program), and we see that as money coming back into the pocketbook of the ranchers and farmers," he concluded.