New innovations for wound protection and management in livestock - Veterinary Practice
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New innovations for wound protection and management in livestock

New technologies, such as precision liquid bandages and naturally occurring polymers, are providing an innovative and evidence-based approach to wound protection and management in livestock

Clients need only walk into their local agricultural merchant or have a quick search online, and they’ll find a plethora of products for livestock wounds. However, not all wound care products are of equal benefit. While veterinary practice has come a long way from simply spraying wounds with antibiotics and hoping for the best, it’s important that we recommend products and practices with a clear evidence base behind them.

Proper wound care is vital to prevent infection, promote healing and minimise complications, and the principles of wound management in livestock have not changed. The operator needs to achieve adequate haemostasis (if necessary), clean or lavage the wound and protect it from trauma or further contamination. This article will consider several options – old and new – for covering wounds in livestock.

Antibiotic sprays

We should, indeed, consider any wound over six hours old contaminated (Table 1); however, a topical spray is not always the best method for providing antibiosis. This is because these products rarely provide an effective or long-lasting barrier. They are often water-based and, therefore, do not adhere well to wet surfaces, thus requiring daily re-administration. Therefore, vets and farmers should consider if a single long-acting intramuscular application would be a better route for providing antibiotics.

ClassDegree and duration of contamination
1Clean wound with minimal contamination and duration of less than 6 hours
2Wound with significant contamination or duration of 6 to 12 hours
3Wound with gross contamination or duration of over 12 hours
TABLE (1) Classification of wounds based on the duration and degree of contamination. Adapted from Waldron and Zimmerman-Pope, 2002
FIGURE (1) A post-surgery wound covered using a topical aluminium spray. Image credit: David Charles

It is still commonplace to provide systemic antibiotics and a topical spray (Figure 1), but this is hard to justify when we consider the responsible use of antimicrobials and should be avoided. In human medicine, the best effect is observed if topical antibiotics are applied within five minutes of injury, and there is a minimal effect if the time exceeds four hours. In calves, the benefit of their use during routine procedures (such as disbudding) to heal wounds is debated. These products, however, remain useful when we only need a topical application of antibiotics.

It is also important to ensure that topical antibiotic sprays are accounted for not only in medicines records but also when calculating the defined daily dose and defined course dose for antibiotic use on-farm.

Antiseptic sprays

Antiseptic sprays provide a good antibiotic-free approach to managing a superficial wound, especially if systemic antibiotics are given concurrently. However, they are subject to the same flaws as water-based antibiotic sprays. As such, their ability to form an effective, long-lasting barrier and promote natural healing is limited.

Material bandages

For a long time, material bandages have been a mainstay of the on-farm “first-aid” box, and are usually what springs to mind when we think of “wound care”. A good material bandage should have three layers: a padding layer, a conforming layer and a cohesive layer.
However, it is worth considering topical or synthetic approaches to wound coverage for minor wounds. The risk with fabric material is prolonged exposure to the environment, which tends to cause one of three things:

  • Loss of the bandage
  • Wet bandage material acting as a nidus for infection
  • A loss of pressure, creating space for contaminants or physical debris to enter the wound

For more significant wounds (eg following the removal of a digit), vets may opt for a pressure bandage to protect the wound and aid haemostasis. Material bandages will be highly efficacious in such scenarios. However, once the haemostasis has been achieved and it is time for the first bandage change, the benefits of the material are reduced, and we must consider the risk of exacerbating the infection.

Gel barriers

Gel barriers are an emerging therapeutic option for wound management in animal health, including livestock (Figure 2). They are a novel approach that can confer the benefits of a topical product combined with the protection of a bandage.

NoBACZ Bovine is the first product of its kind developed specifically for bovine wound care. When applied, it has the consistency of a viscous gel, offering an instant waterproof layer that gradually hardens, forming a flexible and protective covering for the treatment site. NoBACZ Bovine is enriched with metal salts to prevent colonisation on or through it. It also contains a surgical spirit solvent for cleansing the site on application. The barrier, therefore, helps maintain appropriate wound moisture, which, in turn, supports healthy granulation tissue and protects new epithelial tissue as it forms. When used on exudative wounds, NoBACZ Bovine will support debriding but will not seal the lesion until the discharge is resolved, thereby avoiding the risk of trapping contaminated exudate at the wound interface.

The requirement and frequency of re-application for gel barriers is adjusted depending on the wound, making them a versatile solution. For a superficial or granulated lesion that would benefit from temporary protection, a gel barrier can be applied as a one-off layer that lasts between 24 and 48 hours. Where long-term protection is needed or for deeper or more persistent lesions, supplementary gel can be re-applied over the existing product to replenish the barrier after 24 to 48 hours. For highly contaminated or exudative wounds, daily re-application can support debridement of the wound.

An additional note on wound management in livestock: drains

It is also worth noting that the risk of dead space around the wound can be high in livestock. Therefore, veterinary professionals should not underestimate the value of a well-placed drain in aiding wound management and reducing dehiscence.


While our small animal and human medical colleagues have seen huge advances in the types of wound care products available, livestock wound management options have remained more limited for several years. However, new technologies – such as precision liquid bandages and naturally occurring polymers – are providing a modern, evidence-based approach to wound management in livestock.

At a time when sustainability and responsible use of antimicrobials are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, picking a product that reduces the contamination risk and supports natural healing will be more important than ever in the years to come.

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