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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Short Communications: Behavioral and Physiological Indicators of Sensitivity Or Chronic Pain Following Tail-Docking in Dairy Cattle

Authors
item Eicher, Susan
item Cheng, Heng Wei
item Sorrells, A - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Schutz, M - PURDUE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 2, 2006
Publication Date: July 17, 2006
Citation: Eicher, S.D., Cheng, H., Sorrells, A.D., Schutz, M.M. 2006. Short communications: behavioral and physiological indicators of sensitivity or chronic pain following tail-docking in dairy cattle. Journal of Dairy Science. 89:3047-3051.

Interpretive Summary: Tail-docking of dairy cattle causes mild to moderate behavior changes and physiological indicators of acute pain, but no studies have investigated the possibility of tail-docking leading to chronic pain. In human amputees, incidence of increased limb surface temperature is associated with phantom limb pain, a central nervous system representation that survives peripheral loss. Objectives of this study were to assess indicators of sensitivity or chronic pain in heifers using behavioral indicators and thermography. Holstein heifers, 7 docked and 7 intact, from a previous neonatal tail-docking experiment were tested. All fourteen animals were video taped during a test sequence of alternating cold (-9 degrees C), hot (54 degrees C), and neutral packs applied to the underside of the tail. Packs were placed approximately 30.5 cm from the tail head on all animals. A thermal image of the tail was taken using infrared imagery prior to and after temperature sensitivity testing. Docked heifers tended to have higher changes in surface temperature following the test sequence than did non-docked heifers. In docked heifers, the underside of the tail had higher temperatures than did the tip of the tail prior to and following the test sequence. Docked heifers also showed substantially higher stomping activity and less tail curving following the cold pack application. Tail docked heifers decreased shifting and tail curve after the application of a hot pack. Evidence of higher surface temperature following manipulation was observed in tail-docked cows, similar to human amputees experiencing phantom limb pain, indicating that similar mechanisms are present in the stump of the docked cow. Behaviors indicated increased sensitivity to heat and cold in docked heifers. These data are useful for producers and policy makers to decide whether cows should have their tails docked.

Technical Abstract: Tail-docking of dairy cattle causes mild to moderate behavior changes and physiological indicators of acute pain, but no studies have investigated the possibility of tail-docking leading to chronic pain. In human amputees, incidence of increased limb surface temperature is associated with phantom limb pain, a central nervous system representation that survives peripheral loss. Objectives of this study were to assess indicators of sensitivity or chronic pain in heifers using behavioral indicators and thermography. Holstein heifers, 7 docked and 7 intact, from a previous neonatal tail-docking experiment were tested. All fourteen animals were video taped during a test sequence of alternating cold (-9 degrees C), hot (54 degrees C), and neutral packs applied to the underside of the tail. Packs were placed approximately 30.5 cm from the tail head on all animals. A thermal image of the tail was taken using infrared imagery prior to and after temperature change sensitivity testing. Docked heifers tended (P < 0.10) to have higher surface temperature following the test sequence than did non-docked heifers. In docked heifers, the underside of the tail had higher temperatures than did the tip of the tail prior to and following the test sequence (P < 0.05). Docked heifers also showed substantially higher stomping activity (P < 0.05) and less tail curving (P < 0.05) following the cold pack application. Tail docked heifers decreased shifting and tail curve (P < 0.05) after the application of a hot pack. Evidence of higher surface temperatures following manipulation was observed in tail-docked cows, similar to human amputees experiencing phantom limb pain, indicating that similar mechanisms are present in the stump of the docked cow. Behaviors indicated increased sensitivity to heat and cold in docked heifers. These data are useful for producers and policy makers to decide whether cows should have their tails docked.

Last Modified: 7/23/2014
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