6 November 2008

Pain relief and faster healing for beef cattle that have been dehorned is the aim of a UQ PhD student’s award-winning project.

Stephanie Sinclair has been awarded the Australian Agricultural Industries Young Innovators and Scientists Award in Animal Welfare from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Ms Sinclair received a grant for $20,000 at a gala presentation dinner at Parliament House on October 14.

The grant money will be used to investigate the application of a topical anaesthetic and antiseptic for pain relief in northern beef cattle during dehorning.

Ms Sinclair, with CSIRO and Beef Genetic Technologies CRC, said that it would probably be some time before cattle could be bred without horns and that, in the interim, dehorning would remain necessary.

“Topical anaesthetic, for example, has been successfully trialed in sheep, reducing pain-related behaviour and improved wound healing after procedures such as mulesing, tail-docking and castration,” she said.

“I aim to determine if topical anaesthetic alone, or in combination with other pain relief methods, can reduce pain and blood loss after dehorning.

“The fact that this product can be applied at the time of surgery makes it a practical option that is more likely to be accepted and embraced by the industry.”

Ms Sinclair said it was important the impacts of dehorning were well understood to ensure industry could not only satisfy concerns from animal welfare groups and the wider community, but also get on with the demanding job of raising beef cattle.

“Meeting concerns about animal welfare is not only the right thing to do, it will also enhance consumer confidence here and overseas.”

Ms Sinclair is completing her PhD through UQ’s School of Veterinary Science under the supervision of Professor Michael McGowan and Professor Clive Phillips.

The Australian Agricultural Industries Young Innovators and Scientists Awards support young people to pursue their innovative scientific ideas that will develop long term benefits to Australia's rural industries.

Media: Erin Pearl at the Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science (07 5460 1229)