Sedation of cattle

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The text on this page is taken from an informal compilation of opinions of contributors to the online VOLE List. As such, they are not peer reviewed and may contain differences of opinion. Those wishing to contact the list may contact Adrian Smith.

Does anyone have any experience in  sedating cattle pre - euthanasia that they would be willing to share? What sedation/anaesthesia protocols do people find most suitable?

I would use xylazine 2% intravenously, or intramuscularly if the cow was fractious or the handling facilities poor. 2ml i.v. for an adult (800kg) Friesian dairy cow will give good sedation, but beware them going down in the crush as the effect i.v. is very quick. If you inject i.m., then I would use the same dose but it will take 10 minutes or so to take effect. For younger cattle, dose pro-rata or as recommended in the data sheet.

I followed a similar protocol (2% xylazine) with cattle whilst in clinical practice, favouring the i.m. route. Although it takes longer, I was in and out quicker. If I could safely get a vein then I would not routinely have sedated cattle prior to euthanasia. The datasheet of Rompon 2% is very detailed and a useful resource.

I would suggest 1ml xylazine + 2ml ketamine per 100kg i.v. (can be used in the tail vein). This will lead to a near-surgical plane of anaesthesia. We would use it in the field for calf hernia repairs or fractious caesarians in combination with regional anaesthesia, with an onset of minutes (if given by the right route at the right dose).