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Papers of the Week

2019 Apr 29

J Anim Sci



Clinical impacts of administering a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to beef calves after assisted calving on pain and inflammation, passive immunity, health, and growth.


Pearson JM, Pajor EA, Campbell JR, Caulkett NA, Levy M, Dorin C, Windeyer MC
J Anim Sci. 2019 Apr 29; 97(5):1996-2008.
PMID: 30896739.


Assisted calves are often born weak, injured, or oxygen deprived and have a higher risk of morbidity and mortality. The objective was to investigate the impact of using pain mitigation at birth in assisted beef calves on physiological indicators of pain and inflammation, passive immunity, health, and growth. Thirty-three primiparous cows and their calves requiring assistance at birth on 2 ranches located in southern Alberta were enrolled. Data collected at birth included: date and time of calving, calf sex, meconium staining, presentation of calf, and calving difficulty (easy assist: 1 person manually delivered the calf; difficult assist: delivery by 2 or more people, or mechanical assistance). Within 10 minutes of birth, calves were stratified by calving difficulty, randomized to a medication group, and received a subcutaneous dose of meloxicam (0.5 mg/kg body weight) or an equivalent volume of placebo. Cow-calf pairs were then placed in individual box stalls for observation and sampling. At birth, 1 hour, 4 hours, and 24 hours after birth, heart rate, respiratory rate, and rectal temperature were assessed and blood samples collected to measure indicators of pain and inflammation (cortisol, corticosterone, substance P, and haptoglobin). Serum immunoglobulin (IgG) concentration and failed transfer of passive immunity (serum IgG concentration less than 24 g/L) were assessed in the 24-hour blood samples. Preweaning treatment for disease and mortality information was collected and calves were weighed at 7 to 10 days of age and at weaning. Of the 33 calves enrolled, 17 calves received meloxicam and 16 calves received a placebo. Meloxicam-medicated calves had significantly greater average daily gain to 7 to 10 days of age (P = 0.05) (mean = 0.9 kg/d; SE= 0.10) compared to placebo-medicated calves (mean = 0.6 kg/d; SE = 0.12). There was no significant effect of meloxicam on physiological indicators of pain and inflammation, time to stand, time to nurse, passive immunity, health outcomes, or ADG to weaning (P > 0.1). Although this was a small sample population, meloxicam given to assisted calves at birth improved ADG in the first week of life, which may indicate an important production management tool for improving well-being in assisted calves.