Assessment of Behavioural Changes Associated with Oral Meloxicam Administration at Dehorning in Calves

Using accelerometers and a remote triangulation device, a team of researchers in the US studied the behaviour of calves for seven days after dehorning. The animals that had received the anti–inflammatory drug generally spent more time at the grain feeder, lying down and walking, and less time at the hay feeder than the untreated control group.
calendar icon 19 May 2012
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Dehorning is common in the cattle industry, and there is a need for research evaluating pain mitigation techniques. according to Miles E. Theurer of Kansas State University.

In a paper soon to be published in BMC Veterinary Research, he and co–authors at KSU, Iowa State University and JBS USA explain that the objective of their study was to determine the effects of oral meloxicam, a non–steroidal anti–inflammatory, on cattle behaviour post–dehorning by monitoring the percentage of time spent standing, walking and lying in specific locations within the pen using accelerometers and a remote triangulation device.

Twelve calves approximately 10 weeks of age were randomised into two treatment groups (meloxicam or control) in a complete block design by body weight. Six calves were orally administered 0.5mg per kg meloxicam at the time of dehorning and six calves served as negative controls.

All calves were dehorned using thermocautery and behaviour of each calf was continuously monitored for seven days after dehorning using accelerometers and a remote triangulation device. Accelerometers monitored lying behaviour and the remote triangulation device was used to monitor each calf’s movement within the pen.

Analysis of behavioural data revealed significant interactions between treatment (meloxicam versus control) and the number of days post dehorning. Calves that received meloxicam spent more time at the grain bunk on trial days 2 and 6 post–dehorning. They also spent more time lying down on days 1, 2, 3, and 4; and less time at the hay feeder on days 0 and 1 than the control group. Meloxicam calves tended to walk more at the beginning and end of the trial compared to the control group.

By day 5, the meloxicam and control groups exhibited similar behaviours.

The noted behavioural changes provide evidence of differences associated with meloxicam administration, concluded Theurer and co–authors. They suggest that more studies are needed to evaluate the relationship between behaviour monitoring and post–operative pain.

The researchers added that, to their knowledge, this is the first published report demonstrating behavioural changes following dehorning using a remote triangulation device in conjunction with accelerometers.


Theurer M.E., B.J. White, J.F. Coetzee, L.N. Edwards, R.A. Mosher and C.A. Cull. 2012. Assessment of behavioral changes associated with oral meloxicam administration at time of dehorning in calves using a remote triangulation device and accelerometers. BMC Veterinary Research, 8:48. doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-48

Further Reading

- You can view the full report (as a provisional PDF) by clicking here.

May 2012
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