Considerable progress has been made in the decade since the first publications appeared exploring the attitudes of farmers and veterinary surgeons towards the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain in cattle. This has been made possible by creating a regular dialogue involving all the main stakeholders in the industry – producers, the supply chain, pharmaceutical industry and veterinary surgeons – and a collaborative approach to improving the welfare of cattle. Improvements in the recognition and measurements of pain in livestock have helped drive changes in husbandry practice. In the UK, for example, the use of analgesic treatment has more than doubled over those 10 years and similar trends have been reported in other European states.
Nonetheless, there is still some way to go over the next 10 years in achieving the goal of effective pain control in all livestock. Pain scoring methods are an important tool in achieving better welfare but there is a need for greater consistency in their use. Young female vets are generally more receptive to the possibility that an animal may be suffering discomfort than older male practitioners. Changing long-established practice protocols in dealing with particular situations on the farm will be one of the biggest challenges over the next few years. Another key goal will be to ensure that calves are as likely as adult cattle to receive treatment for potentially painful conditions and surgical procedures. It is no longer acceptable, for example, for young animals to undergo procedures like castration or disbudding without pre-emptive analgesia.