October 07, 2018

Interpretive Summary: Effect of single dose of meloxicam prior to band or knife castration in 1-wk-old beef calves: II. Inflammatory response and healing

Interpretive Summary: Effect of single dose of meloxicam prior to band or knife castration in 1-wk-old beef calves: II. Inflammatory response and healing

By: Megan LaFollette

In August 2018, Journal of Animal Science accepted an article that investigated the effect of a single dose of meloxicam prior to castration on inflammatory response and healing in 1-week old beef calves. In North America, calves are castrated to prevent reproduction, reduce aggression and improve meat quality. Unfortunately, although castration is known to be painful, analgesics are not routinely administered in practice. One promising analgesic is injectable meloxicam that has been reported to have some beneficial effects after castration. However, it is unknown if this method will improve long-term inflammatory response and wound healing. This study’s objective was to assess the effect of a single dose of subcutaneous meloxicam on inflammatory responses, wound healing, and long-term stress after castration.

In this study, the effects of 6 different combinations of castration method and medication protocols were tested in 72 one-week old Angus crossbred calves. The castration methods were knife castration, band castration, or a control group of a sham castration. The medication protocols were either a subcutaneous injection of meloxicam (dosage of 0.5 mg/kg bodyweight) or a control of lactated ringers. Each pen of 12 calves had an equal distribution of treatments. Calves were assessed just before castration and weekly for 56 days for temperature, swelling, healing, scrotal scores, physiology, and behavior.

Both the specific castration method (knife, band, or sham) and medication protocol (meloxicam or ringers) impacted some outcomes measures. Calves that did not receive meloxicam and were band castrated had higher hair cortisol concentrations than other treatments. Additionally, all calves that did not receive meloxicam tended to have more pain behaviors such as greater tail flicks, less lying behavior and greater suckling. Those calves that received knife castration –regardless of analgesic application – had higher swelling scores sooner, for less long, and healed faster than band castration. Conversely, calves that were band castrated had higher physiological signs of inflammation and stress, as indicated by higher serum amyloid-A levels. Performance metrics were not different between castration methods or medication protocol.

Overall, this study suggests that a single subcutaneous injection of meloxicam may be beneficial for band castrated calves by decreasing pain and stress (based on reduced hair cortisol concentrations and tail flicks). However, there was not evidence that this single injection was beneficial for either wound healing or inflammatory responses from days 7 to 56 after castration; there was some evidence for improved behavior in terms of decreased lying duration and increased suckling. Additionally, although results from the acute part of this study showed that knife castration was more painful in the first 7 days, this study showed that band castration is more painful from days 7 to 56 (based on greater inflammatory response and slower lesion healing).

To view the full article, visit the Journal of Animal Science.