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Data from: Behavioral changes in calves 11 days after cautery disbudding: effect of local anesthesia

Cite this dataset

Tucker, Cassandra; Adcock, Sarah; Cruz, Danielle (2020). Data from: Behavioral changes in calves 11 days after cautery disbudding: effect of local anesthesia [Dataset]. Dryad.


Hot-iron disbudding results in painful burn wounds that take weeks to heal. Spontaneous behaviors indicative of pain are apparent in the immediate hours after disbudding, but whether they occur later in the healing process is unknown. To evaluate whether ongoing pain was present around the time the necrotic tissue loosens from the scalp, we tested the effect of administration of local anesthetic 11 d after the procedure. Disbudded female Holstein and Jersey calves (n=24) were randomly assigned to receive an injection of local anesthetic (lidocaine) or saline at the cornual nerve on both sides of the head. We recorded the frequency of 8 behaviors over a 75-min period following the injections: head shakes, head rubs, head scratches, ear flicks, tail flicks, bucks/jumps/kicks, grooming, and transitions between standing and lying. Calves treated with lidocaine shook their head less and tended to flick their ears less than calves administered saline, consistent with the effects of pain relief previously reported in the immediate hours after disbudding. These calves also rubbed their head against the sides of the pen more often, suggesting lidocaine suppressed wound protective behavior. Head shaking and head scratching became more common in the last 25 min compared to the first 50 min in calves treated with lidocaine, consistent with the return of sensation to the disbudding wounds. No treatment differences in the other behaviors were observed. These results suggest that calves experience ongoing pain 11 d after hot-iron disbudding, adding to a growing body of evidence that pain persists for weeks after the procedure.

Usage notes

Data were collected from the University of California Davis Dairy Facility on 24 calves in 2018. Variables are defined in Sheet 2 of the Excel files. The R scripts used to analyze each dataset are provided.