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May 01, 2021

Updated Ag Guide expands on pain management

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A recently updated guide on care for agricultural animals in research expands on the calls in previous editions to minimize animal pain and distress.

The American Dairy Science Association, American Society of Animal Science, and Poultry Science Association jointly published late last year the fourth edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching, also known as the Ag Guide. Since the first edition’s publication in 1988, the document has been a primary reference for agricultural animal care at universities and other research institutions.

Black Angus cattle

In an announcement, the organizations said the fourth edition is the product of a multiyear project with rigorous review.

Dr. Hans Coetzee is a professor and head of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and he was part of the team that revised the Ag Guide chapter on agricultural animal health care. He said the latest edition strengthens calls for use of pain management—appropriate for the age and species of animal—during painful husbandry procedures, as well as encourages people to reduce use of procedures that cause pain.

When pain management protocols would affect data collected during research, Dr. Coetzee said, investigators need appropriate methods to assess when animals are experiencing pain and distress. They also need plans for how to mitigate harmful effects on animal welfare.

Researchers can reduce the use of painful procedures by, for example, conducting studies on hornless cattle rather than disbudding horned ones, Dr. Coetzee said. They can use sedation to reduce stress on animals when performing painful procedures.

Dr. Coetzee said making such changes in research draws attention to the need to address pain more broadly in agricultural species, and it’s reasonable to assume changes to the Ag Guide will have broader effects on livestock husbandry. He has seen similar pain management recommendations in industry guidance, and he said consistent messages will help people implement the best practices for animal welfare wherever they work with agricultural animals.

The Ag Guide is available from the three sponsor organizations.