Objective To investigate whether events that may be stressful to young lambs, including simulated infection or social isolation, modulate pain experienced by lambs following castration and tail docking (C/D).
Study design Randomised, controlled, prospective study.
Animals Fifty male lambs born to 46 second-parity Mule ewes.
Methods Lambs were allocated randomly to one of four groups, experiencing either a potential stressor or handling on day 2 after birth, followed by C/D or handling only on day 3. Quantitative sensory testing (QST) data [mechanical nociceptive thresholds (MNT), Semmes Weinstein filaments (SW), response to cold] and serum cortisol concentration were measured at time points after application of treatments to lambs on days 2 and 3 after birth. The treatment groups were LPS, injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide IV on day 2, C/D on day 3; ISOL, isolation from the dam for 10 minutes on day 2, C/D on day 3; CAST, handling only on day 2, C/D on day 3; CONT, handled only on days 2 and 3.
Results Castration and tail docking caused transient hypoalgesia as measured by MNT and SW. Simulated infection and isolation caused hyperalgesia 3 hours after application, indicated by a reduction in MNT, however they did not alter the pain response to C/D compared to lambs in the CAST group. Injection of LPS and C/D caused increased serum cortisol concentration. The magnitude of the cortisol response to C/D was not altered by prior exposure to either LPS or isolation.
Conclusions and clinical relevance LPS and isolation did not modulate the response to C/D but did cause hyperalgesia. This highlights the importance of flock health management and husbandry techniques to reduce the incidence of either systemic infection or psychological stressors in young lambs.