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Animal health collaboration brings Massey disbudding innovation closer to market

6th November 2023

A game-changing technology for the improved welfare of farm animals is one step closer to market. A novel injection has been developed that will be quick and effective in preventing horn growth in calves and other farm animals, making it safer for both humans and animals. Conceived by Massey researchers, the product is being developed and commercialised in collaboration with industry partner Welfare Concepts, who aim to launch in New Zealand in three years.


Above: Months later a cow treated with the disbudding injection shows no growth on the side that was treated.

Over a million calves enter New Zealand cattle herds every year, the majority of which undergo a disbudding procedure that prevents horn growth in order to protect farm staff and other animals. Calves (and other horned animals) between one and six weeks old undergo a procedure which involves cauterising the horn-buds. Though seen as necessary for the long-term welfare of the animal, the procedure can be painful and can cause unintended damage.


Originating from the PhD research of Dr Dinakaran Venkatachalam, researchers at Massey University proposed an alternative approach aimed at preventing horn growth using an injectable product. If successful, the product has the potential to improve farming practices and welfare standards across the globe.


Associate Professor Paul Chambers, Dr Preet Singh and Dr Dinakaran Venkatachalam from Tāwharau Ora School of Veterinary Science partnered with industry to turn the idea into a potential development project.


It’s exciting to see Massey research leading the way for improving animal welfare practices with innovative new technologies like this. We’re looking forward to the ongoing collaboration with Welfare concepts as they bring this technology to market,” Dr Singh says.


Industry partner Welfare Concepts Ltd is a New Zealand animal health company focused on developing innovative products that improve the welfare, health, and productivity of farm animals. Founders and veterinarians Dr Richard Emslie and Dr Richard Olde Riekerink have been involved in the development and commercialisation of the project from its early stages and consider this their flagship product in development.


Welfare Concepts believes that if we have the knowledge and know-how to make animals far more comfortable, it should be our responsibility to do so. There are a lot of processes and procedures like this one that can and should be improved using modern science and technology,” Dr Emslie says.


Massey Ventures Ltd, the commercialisation arm of Massey University, reached an agreement with Welfare Concepts, who will lead the ongoing development and commercialisation of the technology. Massey Ventures CEO Mark Cleaver sees the technology as a great opportunity.


"Not only does this technology represent a huge commercial opportunity as the new gold-standard for disbudding, but it also has a big impact on animal welfare that we are excited to see in action,” he says.

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