America is going back to the moon. Eventually. This time to stay. Sort of. At least, that’s NASA’s plan — for now.
Through a program called Artemis, the agency will, at some point in the 2030s, allow a couple of its employees, including the first African American and first woman, to step on the rock where Buzz, Neil and 10 other Americans stood some 50 years ago. Then, after a few more such missions, the U.S. government will establish a part-time sometimes camp that may become somewhat permanently staffed by 2040 or so — unless there are more delays or budget cuts.
It doesn’t sound very inspiring, does it? It isn’t. Nor is it useful or really important as currently structured. NASA says its main goal is to learn how to send humans to Mars. Great. That is exciting and important. However, given that Elon Musk‘s SpaceX may get there (Mars) by 2040 to establish the first human community beyond Earth, the Artemis moon plan seems … irrelevant. It is.
However, China is focused primarily on the moon and is moving full-speed ahead on its lunar base. They plan to put their citizens on the moon before 2030 and stay there — permanently. China will then use its base to begin mining lunar resources as part of an industrial development program. From that first landing, their current plan is to expand and accelerate dramatically in the 2030s, leading to full-scale lunar factories by the 2040s producing materials to build massive solar power stations and other space facilities.
For those who might be skeptical of my words or of Chinese promises, or are still bought into the NASA Artemis hype, let’s compare:
In 1984, NASA said we would have a space station — an outpost named Freedom, approved by President Reagan — by 1992 for $8 billion. The International Space Station (ISS) actually began its life in 1998. It was never completed, and primary construction stopped around 2011 after we and our partners spent roughly $150 billion. Originally sold as a spaceport and research facility to support our exploration and expansion into the solar system, those elements of it were dropped to save money. While it has been a great source of information and research, ISS will have nothing to do with returning humans to the moon. Rather, NASA has announced it will be thrown away, and wants to build a new space station called Gateway to fulfill a way station function (only for the moon).
China said it would build a space station by 2011. It did. Their early versions led to today’s Tiangong space station. About a fifth as large as ISS, it is up there right now with a crew that varies between three and six on board. We don’t know its cost. But I’ve been to Walmart and Harbor Freight. I bet it was cheaper than NASA’s.
Back in the 1970s, NASA told Congress the space shuttle would fly 50 times a year and carry payloads to space for $100 a pound. At its peak, the shuttle flew only five times in one year and helped lock the cost of flying to orbit at over $10,000 a pound.
NASA (Congress) has declared that the nation needs the Space Launch System (or what I call the Senate Launch Scam) rocket to open the solar system. It cost taxpayers over $23 billion in its first 10 years, was years late, will cost over $4 billion per flight, and can only fly once every few years. It will be thrown away after each flight.
Along with the SLS is its Orion space capsule, which NASA says it needs to bring astronauts back to Earth. So far, Orion has cost about $20 billion. According to the Planetary Society, if we include the famous crawler and ground infrastructure needed to support SLS and Orion, the total is over $49.9 billion.
After reaching a flight rate of one per week with its Falcon 9 rocket and perfecting partial reusability, SpaceX has flown 10 human missions to orbit, including as a NASA astronaut taxi to ISS and private missions. Boeing, NASA’s long-time prime contractor, has yet to fly its Starliner astronaut capsule, despite being paid around $4.5 billion to develop it and twice as much per astronaut as it is paying SpaceX — even though SpaceX is not flying smaller astronauts.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is testing its huge new Starship vehicle. If it achieves its goal, Starship will cost 40 (yes, forty) times less than the SLS to deliver payloads to the moon, will be partially self-funded, and, when fully operational, will be able to refuel in space and fly to and from the moon multiple times a month. Even if SpaceX’s claims are off by a factor of 10, Starship will still be four times cheaper than SLS, fly hundreds of times more often over the decade, and it will also be able to go to Mars.
It is worth mentioning that at least five U.S. firms, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Rocket Lab, are focused on reusable spaceships that also promise to lower the cost of access to space dramatically. And Blue is also working on a lunar transportation system — partially funded by NASA.
So who do you believe? What do you believe? And what is the best and most important purpose of returning to the moon?
The Chinese have it right when it comes to the “Why?” After all, it’s pretty clear they got their ideas from us. I don’t mean “us,” as in just NASA. I mean U.S. citizens, including science writers, former NASA folks, or visionaries like my mentor Dr. Gerry O’Neill, who, in his 1976 classic “The High Frontier” laid out a plan for going to the moon and asteroids to build space-based energy systems that could end humanity’s dependence on carbon. To be fair to the brilliant people who have come and gone at the agency since then, there are also lots of studies and plans and concepts rotting on NASA shelves that lay out ways to do incredible things on the moon — ignored by Congresses and White Houses, but not by China.
It’s a story we are all too familiar with. American genius and creativity produce a brilliant idea or plan. We ignore it. Then China does it, and in the end, sells its product back to us. In this case, the product will be low-cost clean energy from space, “rare-earth” metals, and fusion-enabling Helium-3 mined on the moon. Oh, and they will also control the Earth-moon system the way they are trying to control the seas of the western Pacific. This is the reality of things as they stand.
Here’s the science fiction part. Imagine if the White House and Congress could agree that it was time again for America to step up as we did during the first space race. What if we decided to return to the moon before China arrives in 2030? In fact, what if the president declared that Americans will be back on the moon by 2029, the 60th anniversary of Apollo 11? And this time we were going to stay!
Better yet, our return would be focused on developing new clean energy systems and resources to help save Earth from our current climate crisis! (Sure, Republicans would first have to admit there is a crisis, but their kids would get it.) Imagine a nation united behind a single cause. Imagine the excitement that would build as the date got closer. Imagine the moment. Not an also-ran after China’s triumph, but two Americans, free people, confirming the first race wasn’t just a fluke, and showing we do have the Right Stuff.
We still have time. We also know what to do to get it right. But it would mean some serious changes in who, why, and what we are doing regarding the little gray island off our orbital shore.
It’s not too late for Congress and the White House to call for a “drop tools” moment (an engineering term for a pause) and re-evaluation of why we are going back to the moon and who is going back and for how long.
Here’s a suggested plan. Let’s call it the Artemis New Moon program. It is simple, based on practical need, strategic utility, and what Buzz and Neil’s generation called “common sense.” If implemented immediately and with vigor, it would also mean the free world can beat the Chinese — both in the short and long term, up there and down here.
1. The president sets a goal for U.S. astronauts to land on the moon by 2029, the 60th anniversary of Apollo 11. As to their gender or race, that’s a political decision. Maybe one Republican and one Democrat. Ok, perhaps that’s too much. But we can also still call the first NASA-led missions Artemis. All good. We already have the patches. Save some money.
2. The Mars prep stuff will wait and shift. The first missions aim to explore, survey, and establish the first permanent human lunar facility (as in full-time all the time) and begin experiments on harvesting and processing lunar materials. In other words, the establishment of the first human community on another world. Let’s call it Artemis Base (evolving to Artemis Town or A-Town). The astronauts and their robots will also build the first lunar landing pad. This is a priority, as lunar dust (what I call “razor blade talcum powder”) is nasty stuff, and we don’t want landing ships to be blowing it all over the place.
3. The means of transportation are a bit more complex, as the old-school SLS/Orion horse is already out of the barn. (Ok, it’s back in the barn, but at some point, it may stick its head out of the barn again, and we’ve paid so much for it that we may as well use it.)
Regarding transportation, my suggestion here is not radically different than the current short-term plan in many ways, just faster. The challenge and question is whether we utilize the legacy Orions and SLS tech or toss them out right away as write-offs. For example, NASA can still use its existing contracted SLS rockets and Orion return capsules as part of a mixed fleet. Just no more BS about keeping them alive or extending their contracts. While they might hide their waste under the rubric of “exploration,” they simply do not fit any serious economic development model for the moon or anywhere else. The old aerospace complex is welcome to compete in a future Earth-moon economy, but they’ll need to go back to the drawing board and beat Starship, Blue Origin’s New Glenn and the other NewSpace transport systems coming down the line.
So, in the near term, we can begin by using the SLS/Orions to win the sprint, with the Starships and other privately operated systems taking over for the marathon. This is a nice way for NASA and its contractors to go ahead and get their glory. Or, the SLS may be better suited to emplace large structures on the lunar surface. Meanwhile, Starships and Blue Origin moon pods carry the humans, with Orions used short-term to get them back to Earth. We will have to develop some sort of docking system and the ability to refuel in space. SpaceX is already working on the refueling part, and we did the docking and crew transfer part during the Apollo program. I believe we can do it again, and without an entirely new space station in the mix at first. We can let the experts sort this out. Note: I say experts, NOT lobbyists.
The key here is to get there fast AND to create a system that enables us to stay. Not visit, not camp out, but to stay and build. There needs to be a clear-headed trades discussion here by parties with no axes to grind nor contracts to be paid.
Whatever the mix, or if we decide to go straight to the next generation of reusable rockets, the plan must be completed by the end of this year. The New Moon plan must also incorporate a transition to a pay-for-delivery services multi-contractor model, enabling several players to get involved. Given what I’ve said about SLS and Orion, I want to be clear: I have nothing against the traditional aerospace contractors per se. They performed magnificently during the Apollo program. New Moon is their chance to reinvent themselves, too. However — and here’s the only sci-fi component in this article — Congress and the White House have to agree to it, and fast.
4. If (and only if) it is found necessary to have a space station serving as a lunar gateway, NASA will contract for its services using a variation on standard leases as currently done for other government use all over America. The same will be true of ground facilities on the moon. Currently, the U.S. has five private companies that have raised over $200 million each to build their space stations. The interest and assumed capabilities are there. However, the first part of the race cannot wait for this decision to be made. We go!
Speaking of space stations, the model some of us worked on that NASA adopted to enable private companies to carry astronauts to the ISS might be applied. For example, a company can invest in designing a habitat, working with the agency on perfecting the tech, building the hab, and leasing it to NASA employees for a set price and time. If it houses more folks, the company can rent bunks to them, and at the end of the lease, the hab belongs to the company. This is how it’s done every day here on Earth. The government has acted as an anchor tenant in hundreds of buildings nationwide. It works.
5. Also, Congress will offer the same sort of tax breaks and investment incentives it does all the time in areas of economic possibility and need to companies investing in the development of lunar resources and space-based energy systems. Again, NASA and the Department of Energy can work with companies to offset research and development costs, a normal tool the government uses to encourage technology on Earth — so why not in space?
6. NASA can then focus on exploration. After Phase One, the private sector takes over the building and expansion of what transitions from a base to an industrial park and community. Meanwhile, the agency’s people can work on researching and developing those elements and projects that might apply more specifically to Mars. They would likely find a willing partner in Musk, who is always eager to offset his own costs for projects.
7. A-Town’s biggest focus will be harvesting lunar resources, from water ice to regolith, to launch into space as bricks and mortar needed to build space solar power facilities. China is doing this. They are not doing it as a stunt. They are doing it because China, like the U.S. and the rest of the world, is facing an unprecedented climate crisis and knows it must transition away from a carbon economy — big-time and fast.
The climate crisis aspect of this program is critical. Not only can whoever is on the moon utilize its resources to build space solar power plants, but it also offers other important tools to help us save the Earth. We know there are relatively large amounts of Helium-3 on the lunar surface, which is important in developing clean fusion energy. We believe there are massive amounts of what are called “rare-Earth metals” there as well. These are critical to the development of an electric economy. Lunar materials can also be used for more extreme emergency measures, such as building shades between Earth and the sun if things get out of control. The point is, those who control the moon gain a lot of options when it comes to the future.
One example of this dual-use exploration and development approach is that, while the civil and industrial program is building steam, the agency can launch its own Mars analog missions over the horizon on the moon’s far side, supported by personnel living and working in a “mission control” center at A-Town. These support personnel’s living needs can all be provided by contractors, priming the economic pump for civilian growth.
Not one item I have mentioned in this plan is new. I published a book in 2005 called “Return to the Moon,” featuring 20 of the best lunar thinkers at the time. They, and I, and dozens of others much smarter than I, over many years since the end of Apollo, have worked out almost every detail of these ideas. As I said at the beginning, so has NASA. I have massive books on my shelves and piles of reports and studies by brilliant people at the agency showing how, if the decision were made, America could return to the moon quickly, efficiently, and in a way that assures the free nations of the world will lead humanity into the solar system.
So now, the challenge is to the White House and Congress. Feel free to send them the link to this piece and ask them: “Can you, just once in the short history of the 21st century, agree to take one giant leap that will position this nation to lead us for the next thousand years?”
The race is on. We are in a Sputnik moment — a sudden and important recognition that we are about to lose the heavens if we do not act with clarity and unity. Humanity is going back to the moon. The question is, Will America get there first, and will we stay when we do? Oh, and there’s also that climate crisis thing — where we save humanity while doing so.
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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