Animal welfare tests under trial

Scientists develop tools to quantify pain in livestock

Beef
VITAL SIGNS: CNBP director Mark Hutchinson, based at the University of Adelaide, is working on measurement tools that will be able to quantify pain in livestock.

VITAL SIGNS: CNBP director Mark Hutchinson, based at the University of Adelaide, is working on measurement tools that will be able to quantify pain in livestock.

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Imagine being able to measure if an animal is in pain in much the same way a diabetic checks their insulin levels.

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Imagine being able to measure if an animal is in pain in much the same way a diabetic checks their insulin levels.

It may not be far away, according to the Centre for Nanoscale and BioPhotonics director Mark Hutchinson.

A team of scientists from University of Adelaide, Macquarie University and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have received more than $45 million in federal government funding across seven years, towards developing new measurement tools, including human and animal health.

Prof Hutchinson says the timeline to reach the market in veterinary medicine is much shorter than humans and is progressing well.

“It is not quite Dr Dolittle talking to the animals but we hope to objectively quantify if an animal is in pain or not by developing biomarkers and parameters around pain,” he said.

This could have fantastic implications for addressing livestock productivity and quantifying animal welfare.

“We won’t know where the animal is in pain – whether it is its right foot or its left foot or hindquarter but we should be able to have a chip-based reader and using a small amount of blood or skin and running a laser or other light source through it, get a red or green light,” he said.

The centre has been trialling its technology in the field in pigs and within next six months hopes to extend this to beef cattle. 

“We are also really excited about exploring if we can verify to a consumer that post culling an animal has lived a pain-free life,” Prof Hutchinson said.

“Not only could we say Australian livestock are clean and green but they are also happy and healthy.”

  • *For more stories on the latest ag technology and how it is shaping the future of farming , read the four-page Rural AGenda feature in the October 26 edition of Stock Journal.
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