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18 January 2024

Market Research Unveils Nuances in Livestock Pain Relief Adoption and Animal Welfare Platforms

In 2022 as part of the Better Choices® relaunch, the team conducted a market research initiative with Australian livestock producers. As animal welfare becomes the market expectation, our survey aimed to comprehend the prevalent practices employed by producers, the landscape of pain relief adoption, and the root causes for non-adoption. The findings from this research are being employed to inform the re-development of the Better Choices® program, designed to implement strategies and infrastructure and serve as a fundamental element in advancing livestock welfare, through pain mitigation.

Numerous investigations have delved into the application of pain relief in Australia, such as the studies conducted by MLA (Meat and Livestock Australia) on the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework and Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework. These studies are incredibly valuable, enabling us to benchmark where we are today and identify where we as an industry want to be tomorrow. The challenge is quite often in the “how.” How will be get there? 

In 2022 as part of the Better Choices® relaunch, the team conducted a market research initiative with Australian livestock producers. As animal welfare becomes the market expectation, our survey aimed to comprehend the prevalent practices employed by producers, the landscape of pain relief adoption, and the root causes for non-adoption. The findings from this research are being employed to inform the re-development of the Better Choices® program, designed to implement strategies and infrastructure and serve as a fundamental element in advancing livestock welfare, through pain mitigation. 

A total of 153 computer assisted telephone interviews (lasting around 20 minutes) were conducted among a sample of sheep (47%), beef (69%) and dairy (23%) producers.  

All producers had to qualify that a) they used pain relief products and b) that they had conducted at least one of the following routine animal husbandry procedures in the last 12 months: 

Castration (82%), dehorning (43%), and tail docking (37%) emerged as the most frequently performed procedures across sheep, beef, and dairy farms, while mulesing, specific to sheep, constituted 25% of procedures.  

Whilst these results are unsurprising given our surveys farm type split, it reaffirms that what we are talking about is relevant to most Australian livestock producers. They perform a painful procedure at some stage during the lifespan of their animals and these are done routinely every year. So, it is worth having a conversation about. 

Various products address pain relief for different indications. Local anaesthetics remove the immediate pain through blocking pain pathways before and after the surgery, in the same way you experience nerve blocks or local anaesthetic sprays at the dentist. Whilst Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) importantly tackle longer-term pain (think of the effect of Panadol on a headache) and inflammation, serving to reduce the inflammatory pain to a tolerable level. The most comprehensive solution combines both, emphasizing the importance of multi-modal pain relief. It is vital that our industry recognizes the differing modes of action and supports our producers in adopting multi-modal pain relief.  

Producer Awareness and Preferences 

In our survey Tri-Solfen® (topical local anaesthetic and antiseptic) achieved the highest unaided awareness with 54% Top of Mind and 86% total awareness, compared to other complimentary NSAID products such as Metacam® or Buccalgesic®.  


1st mention 

Single Response 

Other mentions 

Multiple Response 


Total Awareness 











Num Nuts 















Cannot recall 






The sales funnel for Tri-Solfen showed robustness, with a 73% consideration conversion rate and a 56% preference among aware producers. As a result, Tri-Solfen was by far the most used (65%). This was followed by Metacam (22%) and, to a lesser extent, Buccalgesic and Num-nuts® (8% and 5% respectively). 13% used a different product compared with the top 4 prompted and 12% did not use any.


Other findings of interest were: 

·      Metacam is more likely to be used in dairy (51%) and is less common in sheep (11%). It is also more commonly used in VIC (36%). 

·      Tri-Solfen is less common in dairy (40%) and more common in QLD (88%). 

The survey results highlighted a need to improve awareness of pain relief options and that increased awareness drives adoption. This is supported by the recent survey in 2022 which found 92% of merino sheep producers are now using pain relief for mulesing. This is significant because it shows what the industry is prepared to do to reduce pain in their livestock when they are aware and can readily access products.  

But we should also acknowledge the limitation of ‘awareness’ as a fair measure when comparing prescription to nonprescription products, given the differing regulations surrounding the promotion of medicines, directly to farmers. Which brings us to communication strategies to drive adoption. 


Our survey results emphasized the necessity for diversified communication channels to bridge the gap between awareness and active consideration. Recommendations included a strategic focus on diverse advice sources, involving veterinarians, contractors, brokers, and consultants to enhance information gathering and adoption rates. 

When surveyed about animal welfare platforms, overall unaided awareness of welfare platform brands was very low. Out of the 11 platforms that were identified in previous qualitative research, only MLA Integrity Systems and LPA On-Farm Assurance received high mentions (range 8% - 16%). Also mentioned were SustainaWool, RWS Integrity, Authentico Wool and Welfare Check (Australian Cattle Vets) – all at 5% or less. Better Choices was mentioned spontaneously by only 1% of respondents. 

However, when prompted and all mentions are combined, these figures jump substantially, with MLA Integrity Systems the most well-known brand (82%), followed by LPA On-Farm Assurance (75%) and SustainaWool (30%). Better Choices follow these programs with 19% awareness overall (36% for sheep, 14% for beef and 6% for dairy). 

These insights are enabling the Better Choices Program to refine its value proposition to the market, extending beyond the wool growing market, into the wider sheep, beef and dairy industry, and with a singular focus on pain mitigation. We are actively engaging and seeking collaboration with industry stakeholder groups to improve awareness and fill knowledge gaps through education and extension, supporting the Australian industry to meet its pain reduction targets. But what of these targets?  

Industry Targets 

The Red Meat industry has made a pledge to be pain free by 2030, and this commitment resonates with our belief at Better Choices®, that we can change the way we care for all our livestock. Of the producers we surveyed, whilst there was an overwhelming consensus that these targets are needed, the perceived likelihood of achieving the 2030 Targets scored lower, with an average rating of 6.4/10.

Part of this goal is a practical one, and it should begin with consideration as to how we can avoid the painful procedure in the first place. But where this is not an option, we should consider changing our practices, innovating the way we operate, reviewing workstreams and integrating the right pain relief products at the right time to mitigate pain. But it is also a behavioural mindset shift, and this begins with us all acknowledging that as industry of livestock custodians it is critical for us, individually and collectively, to make a specific decision to mitigate pain in livestock.  



Behaviour change from the whole industry needs to come from producers that believe this is an issue worth supporting, talking openly about the challenges, and actively looking for solutions.  

Barriers To Effective Pain Mitigation 

Producers who performed procedures, but did not use pain relief, were not progressed through the full survey, they were however asked to expand upon their rationale. As a result, the research was also able to share some specific insights into the complex interplay of beliefs, financial considerations, procedural specifics, and concerns about potential side effects.  

Beliefs in Minimal Impact: Some producers expressed a belief that certain procedures, such as castration or dehorning, did not significantly impact the well-being of their livestock. This perspective often stemmed from long-standing farming traditions or anecdotal experiences, leading them to question the necessity of implementing pain relief measures.  

Financial Considerations: Cost considerations emerged as a significant deterrent to the widespread adoption of pain relief products. The perception that incorporating pain relief measures, such as Tri-Solfen or Metacam, could be financially burdensome led some producers to opt for more traditional, cost-effective methods, such as using rings for castration or tail docking.  

Procedural Specifics: Certain livestock management practices, such as using rings for castration or cauterizing tails during tail docking, were cited as alternative methods that did not align with the application of pain relief products. Producers often expressed a preference for familiar, established procedures and were hesitant to introduce new methods that might disrupt their existing workflows.  

Concerns About Side Effects: A notable barrier to pain relief adoption revolved around concerns regarding potential side effects on livestock. Some producers were cautious about using drugs or pharmaceuticals on their animals, fearing adverse reactions or unintended consequences. This cautious approach reflected a desire to prioritize the overall health and well-being of their livestock.  

Perceived Ineffectiveness or Unnecessary for Certain Procedures: A subset of producers believed that certain routine procedures, such as dehorning or tail docking, were inherently minor and, therefore, did not necessitate the application of pain relief. This perception, combined with a belief that livestock may not feel the pain intensely, contributed to a reluctance to incorporate pain relief products into these specific practices.  

Limited Accessibility and Awareness: Some producers cited challenges in accessing pain relief products or a lack of awareness about their availability. This barrier was particularly pronounced in smaller or organic farms, where limited livestock numbers and organic certifications created unique operational challenges, often resulting in a lack of exposure to new products in the market.  

Focus on Stress Reduction: A notable barrier stemmed from producers who emphasized stress reduction strategies rather than pain relief measures. This perspective reflected a broader approach to livestock well-being, where stress reduction practices were considered sufficient to ensure the overall health and comfort of the animals.  

Understanding these barriers provides valuable insights for industry stakeholders aiming to promote the adoption of pain relief in livestock procedures. Crafting targeted strategies that address these nuanced concerns is essential for fostering a shift towards more humane and progressive practices in livestock management.  

The market research presents a detailed and intricate picture of the current landscape, emphasizing both opportunities and challenges in the adoption of pain relief in livestock procedures. Stakeholders are urged to engage in thoughtful discussions, leveraging these findings to drive industry-wide improvements in animal welfare practices. The journey towards achieving pain-free livestock necessitates collaborative efforts and a nuanced understanding of producer perspectives.  

At Better Choices, our commitment is to support the entire industry throughout this journey. To actively participate, we invite you to become an industry member by joining today and demonstrating your support. For potential organisational partnership opportunities, please explore the Industry section on our website. Let's collaborate to pave the way for a sustainable future in our industry.