Are we really Numnuts?


Today the 4c team are heading to the Royal Highland Show (18th to 21st June) at Ingliston to announce Numnuts: a project we have been working on for the last 4 years. We are very excited to finally be able to share this major project with everyone at the show.

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It all started with research carried out by vets at the Moredun Research Institute near Edinburgh. They found that the pain suffered by lambs when they are castrated or have their tails docked could be relieved by injecting a local anaesthetic. Castration and tail docking are routine procedures carried out by farmers on millions of lambs every year. At the moment, there is no tool for farmers to use to deliver anaesthetic. So the procedures are carried out without pain relief. We are trying to change this. Imagine going to the dentist to have a tooth out. Who would choose not to have the local anaesthetic?

Photograph of 4c Design and collaboration partners brainstorming ideas for the Numnuts project

We collaborated with Moredun, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), CSIRO Armidale and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) to develop a new tool that enables farmers to quickly and easily deliver pain relief at the same time as castration or tail docking. Trials of the new tool have shown that it is highly effective in reducing the pain felt by the lambs. Over the last two years we have carried out trials in both the UK and Australia where the behaviour of lambs treated using the Numnuts tool was compared to the behaviour of a control group. The scientists have found that the Numnuts lambs display far fewer symptoms of pain and are able to walk and behave much more normally after treatment than the control lambs.

Moredun trial

Now that we have successfully developed a tool that includes pain relief, the collaboration is seeking funding in order to get it manufactured and out to farmers. We have already had great interest from manufacturers and distributers in Australia and are looking for UK partners as well. As the Numnuts tool introduces a new function, pain relief, which is not current standard practice it does add cost. But this is only 20p per female lamb, 40p per male – we think that is not too high a price to pay for significantly reducing pain. We think it is worth it, the scientists and vets at Moredun think so too. The farmers involved in the trials agree: they want the best for their animals but are under pressure to squeeze cost out of their business. So the real question is – what do you think? Because it is only through the choices made by shoppers at supermarket shelves that we can deliver higher welfare standards. Are consumers ready to vote with their wallet and pressure supermarkets into giving us better buying choices? We hope so, for the sake of the lambs.

Lambs at Moredun Research Institute

More information will become available on the Numnuts website as we move towards getting the product on sale.

The Royal Highland Show is Scotland’s annual celebration of the best in farming, food and rural life. It is the biggest outdoor show in the country and a great day out for everyone, whether you are a farmer or not. This year it runs from the 18th to the 21st June at Ingliston near Edinburgh airport. Come to meet 4c and learn about Numnuts in the Moredun Research Institute marquee. We are on 7th Avenue, looking onto the main ring, between M&S and the International Pavilion.

Farming is big business in Australia and Numnuts has already been featured on Australian radio and in newspapers. You know you’ve struck a chord when you become the target of a cartoonist. We love this take on our Numnuts trials by the farming gossip column ‘Herd on the Terrace’ in the West Australian.numnuts cartoon


Our Partners

numnuts team photo

The Moredun Research Institute was established by Scottish farmers in 1920 and is committed to promoting animal health and welfare through research and education.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) delivers marketing, research and development services for Australia’s cattle, sheep and goat producers.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is Australia’s national science agency. Their Armidale site in New South Wales focuses on agricultural research.

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) is a not-for-profit company that invests in on-farm research and development to increase the profitability and sustainability of growing wool.