There is room for wider use of painkillers on NI sheep farms, a new study has concluded.

The research by Co Antrim vet, Paul Crawford, involved a review of medicine records from 52 sheep farms in NI.

The study, which has been published in the scientific journal Vet Record, found that one-third of the farms did not use pain relief on sheep during the previous 12 months.

Of the painkillers that were used, the most common active component was Meloxicam. This accounted for 72% of products in the review, and includes the likes of Metacam, Animeloxan, Loxicom and Recocam.

Flunixin-based painkillers, which include Finadyne, Flunixin and Pyroflam, made up 14% of the products used in the review.

Drugs where the active component is Ketoprofen (eg, Kelaprofen and Ketink 100) was responsible for 12% of product use, and the steroid Dexamethasone (eg, Colvasone) made up just 2% of products in the survey.

The research paper states that there are no painkillers specifically authorised for sheep in the UK, although vets can still prescribe products that are licensed for use in other food producing animals.

The study suggests that local vets could have scope to prescribe more painkillers when farmers are buying antibiotics to treat sheep for painful conditions, such as lameness.

“The lack of an authorised product in the UK, with associated treatment guidance and industry promotion, may limit veterinarians’ confidence in prescribing drugs for pain control in sheep,” the paper reads.