Evaluation of an herbal therapy to alleviate acute pain and stress of disbudded dairy calves under organic management

Hannah N. Phillips, Bradley J. Heins

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3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The objective of this experiment was to evaluate a herbal therapy used in place of standard synthetic analgesia to mitigate disbudding pain of dairy calves. For this experiment, 54 calves were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: 1) local anesthetic lidocaine given as a cornual nerve block before cautery disbudding (AD); 2) sham disbudding (SD); or 3) herbal tincture (Dull It, Dr. Paul's Lab, Mazomanie, WI) composed of white willow (Salix alba L.) bark, St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.), chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.), arnica (Arnica montana L.), and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) administered orally before and after cautery disbudding (TD). Behaviors were assessed during disbudding, and behaviors and blood plasma cortisol concentrations were assessed following disbudding. Tail wag, head movement, forcing ahead, and kick rates recorded during disbudding were similar among treatments. When averaged across the 360-min observation period following disbudding, injury-directed behavioral rates of head jerks, head shakes, horn bud scratches, and head rubs were greater (P ≤ 0.03) for calves in the AD group than calves in the SD group, calves in the TD group had greater (P < 0.01) horn bud scratch and head rub rates compared to calves in the SD group, and calves in the AD group had a greater (P < 0.01) horn bud scratch rate than calves in the TD group. Calves in the AD group took 1.6 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.0 to 2.4, P = 0.03] times longer to lie down after disbudding compared to calves in the TD group. Serum cortisol concentrations were greater (P ≤ 0.01) for calves in the TD group compared to calves in the SD group at 10, 30, and 90 min after disbudding. At 30 min after disbudding, calves in the AD group had 5.8 ng/mL (95% CI = -1.1 to 12.7 ng/mL, P = 0.02) greater serum cortisol compared to calves in the SD group, while calves in the TD group had 14.3 ng/mL (95% CI = 1.5 to 27.1 ng/mL, P < 0.01) greater serum cortisol than calves in the AD group. In conclusion, neither the local anesthetic lidocaine nor the orally administered herbal tincture attenuated both acute injury-directed behaviors and blood plasma cortisol concentrations in disbudded calves, and the tincture was clearly less effective at mitigating cortisol; therefore, additional analgesic may be required to properly manage disbudding pain effectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbertxab044
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Volume5
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Animal Science.

Keywords

  • behavior
  • calf
  • cortisol
  • disbud
  • herbal medicine
  • pain

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