Does local anaesthetic reduce pain in rubber ring castration of neonatal lambs?



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PICO Question

In lambs less than 7 days old undergoing castration with rubber rings does administration of local anaesthetic compared to no local anaesthetic result in a reduction of pain-related behaviours?


Clinical bottom line

Category of research


Number and type of study designs reviewed

Six studies were appraised; all were controlled clinical or field trials.

Strength of evidence


Outcomes reported

Local anaesthetic administered to lambs castrated with rubber rings resulted in the demonstration of fewer pain related behaviours and also diminished the increases in plasma cortisol in the immediate post-castration period when compared to lambs castrated without local anaesthetic. Local anaesthetic administered at least 15 minutes before rubber ring castration may significantly reduce behavioural signs of pain and plasma cortisol changes.


In lambs less than 7 days old undergoing castration with rubber rings, local anaesthetic reduces markers of pain when compared to lambs castrated without local anaesthetic.


How to apply this evidence in practice

The application of evidence into practice should take into account multiple factors, not limited to: individual clinical expertise, patient’s circumstances and owners’ values, country, location or clinic where you work, the individual case in front of you, the availability of therapies and resources.

Knowledge Summaries are a resource to help reinforce or inform decision making. They do not override the responsibility or judgement of the practitioner to do what is best for the animal in their care.


Jongman, E., Hemsworth, P. & Campbell, A. (2016). Assessment of pain responses following castration of lambs using the Elastrator ring with and without midline injections of lignocaine. Sydney, Australia: Meat & Livestock Australia Limited. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 28th June 2021].

Kent, J.E., Molony, V. & Graham, M.J. (1998). Comparison of methods for the reduction of acute pain produced by rubber ring castration or tail docking of week-old lambs. The Veterinary Journal. 155(1), 39–51. DOI:

Kent, J.E., Thrusfield, M.V., Molony, V., Hosie, B.D. & Sheppard, B.W. (2004). Randomised, controlled field trial of two new techniques for the castration and tail docking of lambs less than two days of age. Veterinary Record. 154(7), 193–200. DOI:

Mellema, S.C., Doherr, M.G., Wechsler, B., Thueer, S. & Steiner, A. (2006). Influence of local anaesthesia on pain and distress induced by two bloodless castration methods in young lambs. The Veterinary Journal. 172(2), 274–283. DOI:

Mellor, D.J. & Murray, L. (1989). Effects of tail docking and castration on behaviour and plasma cortisol concentrations in young lambs. Research in Veterinary Science. 46(3), 387–391. DOI:

Molony, V., Kent, J.E. & Robertson, I.S. (1993). Behavioural responses of lambs of three ages in the first three hours after three methods of castration and tail docking. Research in Veterinary Science. 55(2), 236–245. DOI:

Molony, V., Kent, J.E., Viñuela-Fernández, I., Anderson, C. & Dwyer, C.M. (2012). Pain in lambs castrated at 2 days using novel smaller and tighter rubber rings without and with local anaesthetic. The Veterinary Journal. 193(1), 81–86. DOI:

Molony, V., Kent, J. & McKendrick, I. (2002). Validation of a method for assessment of an acute pain in lambs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 76(3), 215–238. DOI:

Small, A.H., Jongman, E.C., Niemeyer, D., Lee, C. & Colditz, I.G. (2020). Efficacy of precisely injected single local bolus of lignocaine for alleviation of behavioural responses to pain during tail docking and castration of lambs with rubber rings. Research in Veterinary Science. 133, 210–218. DOI:

Small, A., Fetiveau, M., Smith, R. & Colditz, I. (2021). Three studies Evaluating the Potential for Lidocaine, Bupivacaine or Procaine to Reduce Pain-Related Behaviors following Ring Castration and/or Tail Docking in Lambs. Animals. 11(12), 3583. DOI:

Stewart, M., Beausoleil, N.J., Johnson, C.B., Webster, J.R., Schütz, K.E., Cox, N. & Stafford, K.J. (2014). Do rubber rings coated with lignocaine reduce the pain associated with ring castration of lambs? Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 160, 56–63. DOI:

Thornton, P.D. & Waterman-Pearson, A. (1999). Quantification of the pain and distress responses to castration in young lambs. Research in Veterinary Science. 66(2), 107–118. DOI:

Wood, G.N., Molony, V., Fleetwood-Walker, S., Hodgson, J.C. and Mellor, D.J. (1991). Effects of local anaesthesia and intravenous naloxone on the changes in behaviour and plasma concentrations of cortisol produced by castration and tail docking with tight rubber rings in young lambs. Research in Veterinary Science. 51(2), 193–199. DOI:

Vol. 9 No. 1 (2024): The first issue of 2024

Section: Knowledge Summaries

Categories :  Small Animal  /  Dogs  /  Cats  /  Rabbits  /  Production Animal  /  Cattle  /  Sheep  /  Pig  /  Equine  /  Exotics  /