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Interpretive Summary: The effect of breed, sex, and oral meloxicam administration on pain biomarkers following hot-iron branding in Hereford and Angus calves

By: Miriam S. Martin, Michael D. Kleinhenz, Lily N. Edwards-Callaway, Terry E. Engle, Octavio Guimaraes, David W. Schafer, Shawnee R. Montgomery, Andrew K. Curtis, Mikaela M. Weeder, Devin R. Jacobs, and Johann F. Coetzee

Hot-iron branding uses thermal injury to permanently identify cattle causing painful tissue damage. The primary objective was to examine the effects of oral meloxicam (MEL), compared with a control, administered at the time of hot-iron branding in Angus and Hereford steers and heifers. The secondary objectives were to investigate breed and sex effects on pain biomarkers. A total of 70 yearlings, consisting of 35 heifers and 35 steers (Angus, Hereford, or Angus × Hereford), were enrolled. Animals were assigned to receive MEL or a placebo. Changes from baseline values for infrared thermography (IRT), mechanical nociceptive threshold, lying time, step count, visual analog scale score, and wound scoring all support that hot-iron branding cattle is painful and investigation into analgesic strategies is needed. MEL administration reduced IRT differences from the branding and control site and reduced lying bouts. Breed and sex effects were observed across a wide range of biomarkers and should be considered in future pain studies. The practicality of administering a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug once at the time of branding is attractive. However, a multimodal approach using a combination of analgesics or longer acting analgesic option warrants further investigation to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by hot-iron branding. 

Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.