Despite decades of warnings and international climate agreements, global carbon emissions are still rising. Carbon emissions seem like an unstoppable juggernaut as energy-hungry humans keep breeding and pursuing more affluent lifestyles. Reducing emissions won’t be enough to confront the climate crisis; we need additional solutions.
Geoengineering, also called climate engineering, could be the solution we seek. But is it financially feasible?
Geoengineering includes two broad categories of methods to deal with climate change. One is carbon dioxide removal, and the other is managing solar radiation. Carbon capture, direct air capture, and accelerated weathering remove carbon dioxide. Cloud brightening, injecting aerosols into the clouds, and solar shades are methods to manage solar radiation.
Geoengineering is a contentious subject. Many people are frightened of messing with nature in these ways. The potential for unpredictable consequences causes concern in many people’s minds. They seem extreme to many.
But whether they’re potentially extreme or not, there may be no way to avoid them altogether. That’s because even if various solutions come along and we significantly lower our carbon emissions, that doesn’t change the fact that there are teratons of carbon in the atmosphere that will be there long after we reduce our emissions. The Earth will keep heating up. We need a way to deal with the ongoing heating of Earth even after we lower our emissions.
People in Eastern Canada or the Northeastern United States are confronting the reality of the climate crisis right now. Smoke from an intense and early wildfire season in Canada is blanketing some of America’s largest cities in thick, hazardous smoke. Flights have been postponed, sporting events cancelled, schools are struggling, and authorities are urging people to stay indoors to safeguard their health. We’re living through the forecasts scientists made decades ago.
So what can we do?
Casey Handmer is the founder of Terraform Industries, a company that focuses on using solar power to extract carbon from the atmosphere and use it as fuel. They call it ‘Giga scale atmospheric hydrocarbon synthesis.’
“Terraform Industries is scaling technology to produce cheap natural gas with sunlight and air,” their website says by way of introducing themselves. “We are committed to cutting the net CO2 flux from crust to atmosphere as quickly as possible. As solar power gets cheaper, there will come a time when it is cheaper to get carbon from the atmosphere than an oil well. That time is now.”
Handmer has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from CalTech and has published papers and articles on various topics. On his blog, Handmer writes about space exploration and different aspects of technology. Much of his writing centers on technology that affects carbon emissions in one way or another. Recently, he wrote about climate engineering in a post titled “We should not let the Earth overheat!”
Handmer makes a critical distinction between legacy CO2 and new emissions in his article. He’s optimistic that we can reduce emissions by decarbonizing our energy systems. The technology he’s developing at Terraform Industries is one way that we can lower our emissions. His system generates carbon-based fuels from atmospheric CO2, rather than from fossil fuels in the Earth’s crust.
Once we get to a place where our emissions stop rising and begin to drop, we’ll be in a much-improved situation. We can pause for a breath, and recognize our collective ability to deal with climate change. But there’s still the problem of all that legacy carbon in the atmosphere and all the damage it will cause. Plants can absorb some, and weathering can remove some, but those processes take time and have limitations.
In his blog post, Handmer asks the question we should all be asking.
This is where Handmer makes his point about climate engineering. The Earth will continue to heat even after we lower our emissions, and we’ll need to do something. Putting aside, for now, the debate over whether or not we should embrace climate engineering, Handmer digs into the expense of climate engineering.
“Synthetic fuel takes care of new CO2 emission, and two specific kinds of geoengineering can take care of legacy warming in a way that safeguards our planet’s wellbeing for future generations and staunches the bleeding for the next couple of crucial decades while we get the job done,” Handmer writes.
The two types he’s referring to are enhanced weathering and solar radiation management.
Enhanced weathering is taking something that happens naturally and engineering it to be more effective. It’s sometimes called accelerated weathering, but that’s confusing because accelerated weathering is a type of testing associated with engineering and industry.
On Earth, carbonate and silicate minerals combine with rainwater and groundwater to form carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is harmless to plants and animals. But it has a deleterious effect on rocks. The acid contacts minerals and forms carbonate ions in the water. Then the minerals, ions, and water recombine. The end result is altered minerals that now contain more atmospheric carbon. This action is a key part of Earth’s carbon cycle, taking atmospheric carbon out of circulation and sequestering it into rock, which is eventually buried on the ocean floor and subducted into the mantle.
Enhanced weathering increases the surface area between carbonic acid and rock so that the natural chemistry that removes carbon from the atmosphere has a larger area to work in. Certain minerals are more susceptible to this weathering, so they remove more atmospheric carbon more quickly. In enhanced weathering, these minerals are mined, crushed to increase their surface area, then left exposed. Earth’s natural chemical activity takes care of the rest.
The desired rocks are called mafic rocks, which contain significant amounts of magnesium and iron. Basalt is a common and widespread mafic rock.
“There are a bunch of ways of doing this, but the easiest and cheapest seems to be to grind up a couple of tropical volcanic mountains and sluice the resulting rock flour into the warm, shallow oceans,” Handmer writes. “The rock dust floats around for a few weeks absorbing CO2 before sinking, permanently sequestering the CO2.”
Other ways include mining, crushing, and spreading it on farm fields. This has the added benefit of improving the soil. We already mine, crush, and spread things like potash and phosphorous on our farm fields, so this is not a huge leap.
— Benjamin Z Houlton ? (@BenHoulton) October 15, 2019
But a critical piece of combatting climate change is the expense.
In his blog, Handmer refers to work by Campbell Nilsen, an independent researcher in the US. According to Nilsen’s calculations, the cost of implementing enhanced weathering is about $20/T-CO2. If there are two teratons of excess CO2 in our atmosphere, enhanced weathering can remove one teraton for about $400 billion US per year, over the next forty years. The result would be an atmospheric CO2 level of 350 ppm. (We’re currently at 421.) Of course, the value of this calculation relies on us stabilizing and reducing our new emissions.
Handmer also talks about the other category of geoengineering: managing solar radiation. In the scenario where we lower our emissions and implement enhanced weathering, the Earth will still get hotter. That could lead to a lot of problems, and the worst one might be mass starvation. If we allow Earth to become so hot that crops suffer a widespread inability to grow, then things will get ugly for humanity. We all want to avoid that pandora’s box of suffering, with all its unpredictable effects, including warfare.
“How do we keep the world cool for the next few decades while we upgrade our industry to a post-carbon world and scale up CO2 removal?” Handmer asks.
This is where things can get difficult in the civilizational discussion about Earth’s climate and what to do about it. Mining, crushing, and spreading rock on fields is something people can easily grasp. But blocking out the Sun? That sounds like a supervillain trope.
But it might be necessary, and that’s something we all have to contend with if we really want to prevent suffering. If it makes your anger rise, you may have to sort through those emotions. Facts and clarity can help out.
“It does us no good to be stable at 350 ppm by 2060 if we’ve already lost Greenland, the West Antarctic ice sheet, and 7 m + 4 m of coastline, respectively,” Handmer writes. He’s correct, of course, and this is where managing solar radiation comes in. “What we need is a short-term tourniquet to take the edge off global heating while we give the long-term fixes time to work.”
Managing solar radiation is the short-term tourniquet, a kind of first-aid for the climate. There are multiple proposed methods of managing solar radiation. At the top of the list, and the atmosphere, are clouds. “In aggregate, the most reflective feature of the Earth is its clouds, which reflect some of the Sun’s light back into space,” Handmer writes.
The most well-known method of solar engineering is stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI.) This involves introducing aerosols into the stratosphere, probably with tethered balloons, to make the upper atmosphere more reflective.
It doesn’t take a vast quantity of sulphate aerosols to produce the desired effect. A side effect would be more vivid sunsets and sunrises. Instagram would never be the same.
Some people find this idea very upsetting, but usually not because they’ve looked into it. Often people recoil from the idea of “messing with Nature” like this. You can’t really blame them, because some of our other interventions have caused problems.
But this is where we’re at. There’s no going back. We were warned decades ago, and now we’re living through the results of our collective inability to heed those warnings. Sometimes solutions make us uncomfortable, but there’s a precedent for this one.
SAI is exactly what volcanoes do. The Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 injected about 17,000,000 t of aerosols into the atmosphere. It lowered the global temperature by 0.5 C for one year.
Handmer lays out some of the facts about SAI that many might not be aware of.
For one thing, sulphate aerosols don’t stick around long. After one to three years, they rain out of the atmosphere. So they’re easy to implement and monitor. “As a rough rule of thumb, 1 g of stratospheric SO2 offsets the warming of 1 T of CO2 for 1 year,” Handmer explains, which sounds like a good deal.
Handmer mentions the startup Make Sunsets, which is already using weather balloons to inject sulphates into the stratosphere, though the amounts are trivial. Anybody can buy in, and the effort shows how feasible it is.
Like enhanced weathering, SAI is not expensive, considering what’s at stake. In fact, it’s way cheaper.
“1 kg of SO2 offsets 1000 T of CO2 for 1 year. With enhanced weathering, 1000 T of CO2 would cost at least $20k to deal with, and existing DAC+sequestration methods currently cost more like $1m. 35c! Now we’re talking,” writes Handmer. (DAC stands for Direct Air Capture, another method of removing carbon from the atmosphere.)
Handmer does some more calculations showing that if only 10,000 people around the world were willing to spend $2,000 each, SAI with balloons could offset heating by CO2 until we get emissions and sequestration under control.
Going deeper, he calculates what it would cost to use SAI to offset one teraton of excess CO2 in the atmosphere. He says that it would cost $350 million per year. “This costs less than 0.1% on an annual basis of the 40-year program to sequester a trillion tonnes of CO2,” Handmer writes, and would use only 5% of the US’s annual sulphur production.
Keen readers that do some searching will find that sulphate aerosols cause acid rain, which would seem to disqualify it as a solution. “Stupid scientists!” some will think. “How can they be so evil!” As if people trying to come up with solutions to prevent suffering are supervillains.
But the acid rain we’re familiar with came from industrial smokestacks, not from stratospheric aerosols. The difference? Altitude, amount, and concentrations.
There are strict regulations on ground-level sulphate emissions because they create acid rain concentrations in one area. Sulphates from smokestacks quickly fall as acid rain and have no cooling effect. But we don’t need to put much sulphate in the stratosphere for cooling, plus it stays there longer. “SO2 stays in the stratosphere for much longer,” Handmer writes, “so the relatively small quantities needed for cooling don’t cause concentrated acidic fallout as they would near, eg, a factory or refinery.”
Handmer makes a strong case that climate engineering methods are not necessarily that expensive. Of course, there’s lots more detail to it than can be discussed in this article. Some of the people raising objections are very knowledgeable, so there’s an ongoing discussion. There are all types of projects being implemented to test and develop potential climate engineering methods, and we’ll keep learning more about them.
But we need to take action. In the modern world, we rely on inexpensive, mass agriculture and long supply chains to provide populations with food. Climate change threatens to disrupt all that and cause widespread suffering. It has the potential to create failed states where only the strong and ruthless survive. Who knows what type of apocalyptic hell it can unleash? Students of human history can vividly imagine how people might respond, and what depths some might sink to as the idea of collective humanity is left behind.
The solutions might be controversial in some corners, but as Handmer’s analysis shows, they’re not necessarily expensive. Eventually, we’ll have to embrace and implement some of these methods and put aside our fears, at least the unfounded ones.
Then we can move on to the next problem, whatever it may be.
Sea ice around Antarctica recedes to historically low levels: Scientists
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Soyuz docks at International Space Station with two Russians, one American
A Russian spacecraft carrying two Russians and an American docked at the International Space Station on Friday after blasting off from Kazakhstan.
NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub departed from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and docked at the ISS approximately three hours later.
Per NASA, the trio will join the station’s Expedition 69 crew comprising astronauts from the U.S., Russia, Denmark, and Japan. O’Hara will spend six months there while Kononenko and Chub will spend a year.
The trio was supposed to fly to the space station earlier this year, but their original capsule, Soyuz MS-23, was needed as a replacement for another crew. That crew — also two Russians and an American — will ride it home on September 27. Their stay was extended from six months to a year when the capsule developed a coolant leak while parked at the station.
It’s the first spaceflight for O’Hara and Chub, while mission commander Kononenko is on his fifth trip to the orbiting outpost. By the end of his yearlong stay, Kononenko will set a new record for the longest time in space, more than a thousand days.
Original article source: Soyuz docks at International Space Station with two Russians, one American
Exploring the effect of pain on response to reward loss in calves
Negative emotional states are known to interact, potentially aggravating one another. In this study, we used a well validated paradigm (successive negative contrast, SNC) to determine if pain from a common procedure (disbudding) influences responses to a reward downshift. Holstein calves (n = 30) were trained to approach a 0.5 L milk reward. Latency to approach, number of vocalisations and pressure applied on the bottle were recorded during training. To assess how pain affected responses to reward downshift, calves were randomly assigned to one of three treatments before the downshift. Two groups were disbudded and provided the ‘gold standard’ of pain mitigation: intraoperative local anesthesia and analgesia. One of these disbudded groups was then provided supplemental analgesic before testing. The third group was sham disbudded. All calves were then subjected to the reward downshift by reducing the milk reward to just 0.1 L. Interactions were detected between test session and daily trials on pressure applied for the Disbudded group (estimate ± SEM: 0.08 ± 0.05), and on vocalisations for the Sham (0.3 ± 0.1) and Disbudding + Analgesia (0.4 ± 0.1) groups. Our results indicate that SNC is a promising paradigm for measuring negative affect in calves and suggests that pain potentially affects the response to a reward downshift.
A large body of research, primarily on rodents, has shown that sudden declines in reward levels are highly salient and provoke a negative affective response consistent with feelings of frustration or disappointment1,2. A well-developed paradigm for provoking this response is the successive negative contrast (SNC) test, where animals learn to obtain feed rewards which are then reduced in quantity or quality. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that this experience is distressing for animals, including increased levels of physiological markers of stress in rats and pigs3,4,5, and development of a preference for anxiolytic medication in rats6. In addition, responses to SNC are aggravated when an animal is in a pre-existing negative emotional state at the time of the test. For example, rats bred to be more anxious had higher latencies to approach a reward after a downshift7, and rats in amphetamine withdrawal displayed greater and longer reductions in reward consumption following a downshift8.
The influence of current affective state on SNC responses provides a compelling opportunity for the assessment of animal welfare, although only a handful of studies have employed this approach. In one study, rats housed in barren environments showed an extended increase in latency to approach the downshifted reward in comparison to rats housed in enriched environments, suggesting that these animals were more sensitive to reward loss than were rats in enriched housing9. Housing conditions (barren vs. enriched) also affected pigs’ sensitivity to reward loss10. To our knowledge, SNC has not been used to assess the emotional impact of pain in any species.
In this study we tested if pain aggravates responses to SNC testing. Young cattle experience pain associated with routine farm procedures including hot-iron disbudding, indicated by physiological, behavioral and emotional responses to the procedure14,15,16,17,18. In this study we assessed the responses to SNC (in this case reducing the amount of milk available) in calves for three days following disbudding. Although providing a combination of local anesthesia and analgesia is considered a gold-standard in pain mitigation following disbudding, the duration of pain control has been challenging to estimate18, and disbudding pain has been suggested to last for several days19,20,21. For ethical reasons, all disbudded calves were provided local anesthesia and analgesia at the time of the procedure. To explore the potential longer-term pain caused by disbudding, a group of calves were provided additional fast-acting analgesia before tests. We predicted that calves in pain would respond to the downshift by increased pressure applied on the bottle containing the milk, number of vocalisations and latency to approach the reward. By exploring a novel approach to assessing the affective component of pain in animals, we hope to further the understanding of the emotional impact of a common farm procedure and, more generally, how negative states can interact to influence animal welfare.
Maximum pressure applied to the reward bottle decreased across test days (− 0.4, t = − 3.5, P = 0.005) and daily trials (− 0.3, t = − 2.6, P = 0.01) (Fig. 1A). We also noted an interaction between test day and daily trial for the Disbudded group (0.1, t = 2.0, P = 0.05), and a tendency for the Sham group (0.08, t = 1.7, P = 0.09). There was no evidence of an interaction for pressure in the Disbudding + Analgesia group (0.07, t = 1.4, P = 0.2). Calves produced fewer vocalisations across days (− 1.5, t = − 4.6, P < 0.001) and daily trials (− 0.8, t = − 3.6, P < 0.001) (Fig. 1B). However, there were positive interactions between test day and trials for the Sham and Disbudding + Analgesia groups (0.3, t = 2.0, P = 0.05; 0.4, t = 2.7, P < 0.001 respectively). No interaction was found for the Disbudding group (0.05, t = 0.3, P = 0.7). Calves took longer to approach the reward across daily trials (0.4, t = 3.1, P = 0.002), with no effect of the test day (0.12, t = 0.9, P = 0.4) (Fig. 1C). Calves from the Sham group tended to decrease their latency across test day and daily trial (− 0.11, t = − 1.7, P = 0.09), whereas no interaction was found for the Disbudding (− 0.02, t = − 0.3, P = 0.8) and Disbudding + Analgesia groups (− 0.06, t = − 0.9, P = 0.3).
After the reward downshift, calves responded by high pressure applied to the bottle and vocalisations. As calves went through more test sessions (with the lower reward), vocalisations and pressure both decreased, suggesting calves updated their expectations over time. Following the downshift, calves also increased their approach latency across trials within daily test sessions. This result is consistent with previous reports noting that approach latency increased after reward downshift 9,22.
We found some indication of a treatment effect on responses to the downshift over test days and daily trials. The significant positive interaction in pressure applied on the bottle over days and trials for the Disbudding group suggests some level of maintained frustration over tests. Similarly, only calves who had not been disbudded tended to decrease their approach latency across trials whereas calves from the Disbudding and Disbudding + Analgesia groups maintained their latency increase. This result is consistent with results from Burman and colleagues9 who reported a more prolonged response to reward downshift (i.e. higher latency) from rats assumed to be in a more negative affective state. This result is also consistent with work on calves showing increased anticipatory behavior in response to a reward downshift for animals housed in a more barren environment23. We had expected that calves receiving supplemental ketoprofen before the daily test sessions would have responded similarly to the sham calves. That these animals appeared to have some similar responses to the other disbudded calves suggests that our ketoprofen treatment protocol might not have mitigated the pain associated with disbudding during tests. Ketoprofen has been noted as appropriate pain control for disbudding24,25,26,27, but conflicting results have also been reported28,29.
In a study on SNC in chickens, Davies and colleagues30 found a gradual increase in approach latency and an immediate response in consummatory behaviours. They noted the gradual increase to be consistent with Thorndike’s law of effect31, analogous to an extinction mechanism where a less valuable reward induces a less ‘enthusiastic’ response over time. The disparity with consummatory responses was suggested to relate to the different timeframes of the measures: anticipatory responses such as approach latency might require conditioned learning, and therefore change more slowly. However, consummatory responses such as pressure applied are immediate indicators of reward evaluation, and therefore do not require an adjustment delay.
Contrary to our predictions, calves from the Disbudding group did not vocalize more than the other treatment groups after the downshift. These results remain unclear to us, but the very low number of vocalisations past the first test day questions the sensitivity of calves vocalisations counts when used in SNC paradigms.
The high variability among calves in their response to the downshift could be associated to intrinsic individual differences. Individual differences in traits such as fearfulness have been linked to pessimistic responses to a judgment bias test32. Moreover, such pessimism was also linked to the anhedonic response (i.e. a decrease in interest in a consummatory reward) following hot-iron disbudding33. Calves’ individual differences could also be dependent on the severity of the sensitization of their head caused by the procedure34,35, causing increased pain when coming into contact with the bottle. Alternatively, sucking on the nipple (even without milk) may be positive for calves36 and may also provide pain relief in the hours after disbudding37.
Following a reduction in a milk reward, calves who experienced a painful procedure appeared to potentially display an extended response to the downshift. Although SNC seems a promising avenue, our results remain tentative and further development of the paradigm and its applications must be investigated to identify its relevance to animal welfare assessment.
Procedures were approved by The University of British Columbia Animal Care Committee under application A21-0111 and conducted in accordance with guidelines form the Canadian Council of Animal Care38. Reporting followed ARRIVE guidelines.
Animals and housing
The study was conducted at The University of British Columbia’s Dairy Education and Research Centre. To our knowledge, no study has used a similar paradigm in calves. To establish a sample size estimate, we relied on welfare studies using analogous SNC paradigms but applied to other species: rats (six subject per treatment9) and pigs (sixteen subjects per treatment group10). Considering this range and our own practical limitations, we settled on a sample size of ten subjects per treatment group. Thirty-five Holstein calves (all females) were initially enrolled in the study. Five calves were removed from the trial: three fell ill (scours and fever), one showed an extreme stress response when moved outside of her home pen, and one was not feed-restricted before a test. The thirty remaining had an average (± SD) birth weight of 38.3 ± 4.1 kg and were enrolled at 39.9 ± 4.1 d of age.
As routine farm practice, calves from all three treatments were intermingled in indoor pens (4.9 × 7.3 m, bedded with sawdust, and each containing eight to ten calves). Calves were provided ad libitum access to water and hay (RIC; Insentec B.V., Netherlands), and time-restricted access to 12 L of whole milk through a nipple feeder (CF 1000 CS Combi; DeLaval Inc., Sweden). To avoid long delay during trials, small replicates (average number of subjects per replicate = 3.5) were conducted.
The experimental apparatus was located in the same barn as the calves’ home pen, approximately 10–30 m away. The apparatus was a 1.8 × 1.2 m start-box leading to a 3.6 × 2.4 m pen through a vertical gate (Fig. 2A). Directly across from the start-box was a bottle and rubber teat mounted on rails, with an algometer (FPX 25, Wagner, Greenwich, USA) installed behind the bottle allowing measures of the maximum pressure applied to the bottle (Fig. 2B).
The trial was divided in three phases over seven days: training (three days), treatment (one day) and testing (three days). During training, calves were feed-restricted overnight (from 22:00 h) to ensure a high motivation for milk rewards over repeated trials. At approximately 10:00 h calves were individually brought into the apparatus, with no set order, and then placed in the start-box. The vertical gate was lifted and calves could approach and drink a 0.5 L milk reward from the bottle (this amount was based on previous studies on motivation trade-offs studies in calves37,39). Latency to contact the bottle (with mouth or tongue), latency to finish the reward, number of vocalisations and maximum pressure applied to the bottle were recorded live. The calf was then brought back to the start-box, the bottle refilled, and two more trials were conducted (i.e., for a total of three trials/d). After these trials were completed, the calf was returned to her home pen with full access to her daily milk allowance of (12 L/d). Training took place over three consecutive days, for a total of nine training trials. During the first day of training (for all three trials), no cues were given to the calf for the first minute after opening the start-box gate. After one minute, auditory (calls/whistle) and tactile (finger suckling) cues were given from the experimenter from outside the test-pen to get the calf’s attention towards the bottle. If these cues had failed after an additional minute, the experimenter would go inside the test pen and lead the calf to the bottle.
During the second and third day of training, no cues were given. If the calf had not approached the bottle within two minutes, the trial was recorded as a no-approach (and a pressure of zero applied to the bottle). Once a calf had approached the bottle, she had three additional minutes to finish the reward.
Calves were pseudo-randomly assigned to one of three treatments (Disbudding, Disbudding + Analgesia, or Sham; ten calves each). Treatment assignment was balanced for age and birthweight (Disbudding: 40.7 ± 4.3 d, 38.7 ± 3.9 kg; Disbudding + Analgesia: 39.2 ± 7.0 d, 38.0 ± 5.6 kg; Sham: 39.7 ± 6.0 d, 38.3 ± 2.4 kg). On treatment day, calves were not feed-restricted and went through their treatment in their group pen at approximately 10:00 h. Regardless of treatment, calves were weighted and administered a multimodal pain mitigation strategy of sedative, local anesthesia and analgesia. The sedative was used to facilitate following injections and disbudding (xylazine 0.2 mg/kg Subcutaneous, Rompun 20 mg/mL, Bayer, Leverkusen, Germany). After sedation was reached (recumbency and eye rotation, approximately 10 min), a local anesthetic was injected as a cornual nerve block to mitigate the acute pain of the procedure (5 mL per side, lidocaine 2%, epinephrine 1:100,000, Lido-2, Rafter8, Calgary, AB, Canada), an NSAID was provided to minimize inflammation (meloxicam 0.5 mg/kg Subcutaneous, Metacam 20 mg/mL, Boehringer Ingelheim, Burlington, ON, Canada), and the horn bud area was shaved with an electric trimmer. Ten minutes after lidocaine injection, a pinprick test was done on the horn buds to test for pain reflex. For calves in the Disbudding and Disbudding + Analgesia treatments, a pre-heated electric dehorner (X30, 1.3 cm tip, Rhinehart, Spencerville, IN, USA) was applied to both horn buds until a consistent dark ring formed around each bud (requiring approximately 10 to 15 s). Calves from the Sham group were treated identically but instead of being disbudded, only pressure on the horn buds was applied with the plastic handle of the dehorner. After the procedure was completed, calves were positioned in sternal recumbency and left to recover in the pen. As the magnitude and duration of NSAID effects following disbudding remain unclear 18, calves from the Disbudding + Analgesia group received an additional NSAID injection (ketoprofen, 3 mg/kg, Subcutaneous, Anafen, 100 mg/mL, Boehringer Ingelheim, Ontario, Canada) 1 h before each of the three test sessions to provide supplemental pain control at the time of testing. Based on a previous study on the efficacy of ketoprofen after disbudding29, we expected ketoprofen to provide analgesic effects for up to 2 h following treatment.
In the three days following treatment, calves were tested for sensitivity to reward loss. Tests were similar to training: calves were brought individually to the apparatus after overnight feed restriction, and allowed access to a milk reward three times in a row (for a total of nine trials), but during testing the reward was reduced to 0.1 L. The time allowed for calves to approach and drink the reward was matched with their performance during training. Maximum pressure applied to the bottle, number of vocalisations and latency to approach were recorded. Calves from the Disbudding + Analgesia group received an additional NSAID injection (ketoprofen, 3 mg/kg, Subcutaneous, Anafen, 100 mg/mL, Boehringer Ingelheim, Ontario, Canada) 1 h before each of the three test sessions. After each session calves were returned to their home pen and again provided access to their full milk allowance (12 L). After the three test days calves were returned to routine farm care.
A mixed model was conducted on each outcome (maximum pressure, vocalisations and approach latency) on test phases (post treatment) using R’s lme4 package40. For pressure and latency, data were log transformed to fit model assumptions of linearity, normality and homoscedasticity. For vocalisation counts, we used a Poisson mixed model. Fixed factors were treatment (2 df), test day (1 df), daily trial (1 df) and their interaction (3 df). Daily trial, nested within day and Calf ID, was included as a random factor. Significance and tendency thresholds were set at P ≤ 0.05 and P ≤ 0.10, respectively. Data (Supplementary Information 1) and R code (Supplementary Information 2) are available in supplementary materials.
The dataset and R code are freely available in supplementary materials.
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We thank the staff and students at The UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre for their help and support. We are especially grateful for the help provided by (alphabetical order) Joseph Lee, Kathen Lee, Emeline Nogues, Zimbabwe Osorio, Yasamin (Yas) Ranjbar, Russell Tucker, Raphaela Woodroffe and Emily Yau. This research was funded by a Discovery Grant (RGPIN-2016-0462) awarded to DMW from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
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Cite this article
Ede, T., von Keyserlingk, M.A.G. & Weary, D.M. Exploring the effect of pain on response to reward loss in calves.
Sci Rep 13, 15403 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-42740-8
- Received: 05 December 2022
- Accepted: 14 September 2023
- Published: 16 September 2023
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-42740-8
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