Use of analgesia for routine husbandry procedures


Ratification Date: 02 Feb 2017


Appropriate and effective analgesia during potentially painful livestock husbandry procedures must be used and promoted.

Protocols should be available for operators to appropriately and safely use analgesics during painful husbandry procedures.

Veterinarians should be consulted regarding the use of analgesics, including for routine husbandry purposes. When prescribing an analgesic for animals under his or her care, a veterinarian must provide adequate directions for use which should be available to all those administering the analgesics.


Veterinarians may prescribe or supply registered prescription animal remedies as well as veterinary medicines off-label where permitted, to producers with whom they have a bona-fide relationship and where they are familiar with the management practices on the farm.

Perioperative analgesia refers to use of drugs pre-operatively, intra-operatively and postoperatively to alleviate pain associated with surgical procedures. Analgesics are usually restricted as Schedule 4 (S4) drugs in Poisons legislation. However, certain registered veterinary preparations may be exempt from this restriction in some jurisdictions.


An S5 registered topical preparation containing local anaesthetics and adrenaline is available to provide pain relief following mulesing, castration, and tail docking in sheep, as well as castration and disbudding/dehorning in calves1.

Appropriate use of topical local anaesthetics by operators, under veterinary direction, for other potentially painful procedures such as dehorning offers great potential to relieve pain, and further development of appropriate mechanisms for effective delivery of local anaesthetic is encouraged. Extension of registration of the available product to include additional species such as pigs, is similarly encouraged, once work to determine safe residue limits and withholding periods is complete.

Injectable local anaesthetics have the potential to reduce the acute pain associated with a procedure, but the safety implications, the skill and anatomical knowledge required to administer the anaesthetic, and the pain associated with administration also need to be considered. Veterinarians are best placed to determine the circumstances where injectable local anaesthetics are appropriate.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are registered for food-producing animals and may be used to minimise perioperative pain either alone or with a local anaesthetic product. Their benefits in reducing discomfort have been scientifically proven2,3,4 and their use should be supported and encouraged, particularly as they have the potential to provide longer lasting analgesia than local anaesthesia alone.

There is a need for further applied research into applications and on-farm use of sedatives, analgesics and anaesthetics, as well as audits to determine current uptake of available products.

Research is needed to identify alternatives to painful animal husbandry procedures; and management changes that minimise the necessity to perform painful procedures are encouraged.


  1. http://animalethics.com.au/2016/12/19/animal-ethics-pain-product-extended-for-use-in-australian-calves/
  2. Fisher A.D, Paull D.R, Lee C, Atkinson SJ, Colditz IG. New Research on Methods for Alleviating Pain in Farm Animals. CSIRO Livestock Industries. Australian Animal Welfare Strategy Science Summit on Pain and Pain Management, May 2007 – Proceedings
  3. Mellor DJ and Stafford Acute castration and/or tailing distress and its alleviation in lambs. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 2000; 48(2):33-43
  4. McMeekan C, Stafford KJ, Mellor DJ et al (1999) Effects of a local anaesthetic and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic on the behavioural responses of calves to dehorning. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 47(3): 92-96