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Amelioration of pain and distress in tail-ringed lambs using homeopathy
24 January 2018 (online)
Introduction: To reduce the incidence of blowfly strike in dirty fleece, lowland lambs in England usually have their tails docked at between 1 and 7 days old. A small and very tight rubber ring is applied to the tail 35 to 50 mm from the base of the tail, thereby constricting the blood supply. The distal part of the tail falls off 2 or 3 weeks afterwards. Whilst it is in the long term welfare interests of the sheep, this routine operation results in short term pain and discomfort for between 15 and 30 minutes. This experiment was conducted to see if homeopathy could be used to ameliorate the discomfort.
Methods: This triple blind controlled trial randomised 54 Dorset Down lambs into equal groups of both sexes. The verum group received a homeopathic complex of Aconite, Arnica and Hypericum, all at 200c, administered by mouth from a further diluted preparation in a spray bottle. The placebo group received an apparently similar preparation.
The behaviour of each lamb was recorded on a standardised form, every minute for 20 minutes. Every movement was categorised and counted using check marks, each time that type of movement occurred in each minute.
At the end of the study, the recording sheets were transferred onto a spreadsheet via a scoring system of 0 to 3, where 0 is “no stress” and 3 is “maximum stress”. For example, standing, or lying down with head up would score 0 for “no stress”; whilst lying down on its side and thrashing all four legs would score 3 for “maximum stress”. Other categories of movement scored intermediate values.
Results: The spreadsheet for each lamb was scored for each movement and each minute. The scores for each minute were then totalled to give a score for the whole 20 minutes of study, to give the Area Under the Curve. This is an assessment of the total distress experienced by each of the lambs under study.
Frequency histograms were plotted for both groups; mean AUC scores for the verum group were 228.3 and for the placebo group were 320.7; giving an effect size score of 92.4 (c.i. 66.15 to 118.65; P<0.001). This amounts to a reduction in distress (reduced score) of 29% for the verum group.
Mean Distress Scores for each minute were also plotted for both groups. The peak distress for the verum lambs occurred about 3 minutes earlier than the placebo lambs and was 28% lower than the peak score for the placebo group. At the end of the 20 minute recording period, the final distress scores for the verum group were about 35% lower than the placebo group.
Conclusions: A reduction of approximately one third in total distress was achieved using homeopathic Aconite, Arnica and Hypericum 200c and is a practical and cost effective means of improving animal welfare on the farm.