Thompson Rivers University

Drones help researchers observe calves, mitigate pain

  Posted on: October 24, 2016

Dr. John Church, BC Regional Innovation Chair in Cattle Industry Sustainability, with Bachelor of Science student Justin Mufford, are using drones to observe calves immediately following castration to identify behaviours that indicate pain. (Photo courtesy CBC/Daybreak)

A research project that uses drones to observe calves immediately following castration may lead to more effective pain management.

The research question was brought to Dr. John Church, BC Innovation Chair in Cattle Industry Sustainability, from BC ranchers, many of whom have already begun using a drug to mitigate the pain from the procedure.

Listen now: Drones being used to assess calves pain, CBC Daybreak, Oct. 24, 2016

During an interview with CBC’s Daybreak, Church said that prior to using the drone to observe the calves, researchers would have to follow them into the field and video tape them. The mere presence of the researcher might skew the findings, creating what he calls the “observer effect.” The drones are an unobtrusive way of measuring behaviour.

“We’re hoping to see the pain control is working. We’re hoping to show that what they’re already doing is making a difference,” he said.

Bachelor of Science student Justin Mufford, is working under Dr. Church’s supervision to complete an Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP) project, “Behavioral Analysis of Pain Mitigation on Castrated Calves Treated With Meloxicam.” The UREAP provides students with a $4,500 scholarship to conduct their own research project.