New innovations in livestock wound protection

by | May 7, 2024 | Articles, Bovine | 0 comments

Livestock owners need only walk into their local agricultural merchant, or have a quick search online, and they’ll be presented with a plethora of products for livestock wounds. However, not all wound care products are of equal benefit. Whilst we have come a long way from just spraying wounds with some antibiotic spray 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.

The principles of wound management in livestock haven’t changed. The operator needs to:

  • achieve adequate haemostasis (if necessary)
  • clean or lavage the wound
  • protect the wound from trauma or further contamination.

This article will consider several options – both old and new – for covering wounds in livestock.

Antibiotic sprays;

It is correct that we should consider any wound over six hours old contaminated (and any obviously contaminated wounds!) (table .1), however, a topical spray is not always the best method for providing antibiosis. These products rarely provide an effective, or long-lasting barrier. These sprays are often water-based and therefore do not adhere well to wet surfaces and require daily re-administration – vets and farmers should consider if a single long-acting intramuscular application would be the better route for providing antibiotics. It is commonplace, still, to provide systemic antibiotics and a topical spray – this is hard to justify when we consider 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 minimal effect if the time exceeds four hours. And, in calves the benefit to wound healing of their use during routine procedures (such as disbudding) is debated. These products do however remain useful when we only need topical application of antibiotics.

It is also important to ensure that topical antibiotic sprays are accounted for in medicines records, and when calculating DDD & DCD for antibiotic usage on farm.

Class 1Clean wound with minimal contamination and a 0 to 6 H duration
Class 2Wound with significant contamination or 6 to 12 H duration
Class 3Wound with gross contamination or > 12 H duration  

Table 1 – Classifying wounds based on duration and degree of contamination (Slatter, 2002)

Antiseptic sprays:

These 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 the water-based antibiotic sprays. As such their ability to form an effective, long-lasting barrier and to promote natural healing is limited.

Material bandages;

A mainstay of the ‘first-aid’ box on farm, or in the vet’s car for a long time – material bandages spring to mind when most of the population think of ‘wound care’. A good material bandage should have three layers; a padding layer, a conforming layer, and a cohesive layer.
For minor wounds it is worth considering topical, or synthetic, approaches to wound coverage. The risk with fabric material is the prolonged exposure to environment tends to cause one of three things:

  1. loss of bandage
  2. Wet bandage material acting as a nidus for infection
  3. Loss of pressure creating space for contaminants or physical debris to enter the wound

For more significant wounds (e.g. following 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 then the benefits of the material will be reduced and the risk of them increasing wound infection must be considered.

Gel barriers:

Gel barriers are an emerging therapeutic option for wound care in animal health. 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 that offers an instant waterproof layer.  The gel then gradually hardens forming a flexible and protective covering for the treated site. NoBACZ Bovine is enriched with metal salts to prevent colonisation on it, or through it, and 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.

Requirement and frequency of re-application is adjusted depending on the wound, making it a versatile solution. In the case of a superficial or granulated lesion, that would benefit from temporary protection, it can be applied as a one-off layer lasting between 24-48 hours. Where longer 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 24-48 hours.  For highly contaminated or exudative wounds daily re-application can support debridement of the wound. When used on exudative wounds, NoBACZ Bovine will support debriding the lesion but not seal it until the discharge is resolved, therefore avoiding the risk of trapping contaminated exudate at the wound interface.

– Flexible and protective covering
– Supports granulation
– One off application lasts 24-48 hours
– Daily application can support debridement 

Additional note on wound management in livestock:

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


Whilst our small-animal, and human medical colleagues have seen huge advances in the types of wound care product 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, new approach to wound management in livestock. At a time when sustainability and responsible use of antimicrobials is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, picking a product that reduces the contamination risk and supports natural healing will be even more important in the years to come.


  1. Bastos, C.A.P., Thom, W.D., Reilly, B. et al. Robust rapid-setting antibacterial liquid bandages. Sci Rep 10, 15067 (2020).
  2. Huebner, K.L. et al. (2017) ‘Evaluation of horn bud wound healing following cautery disbudding of preweaned dairy calves treated with aluminum-based aerosol bandage’, Journal of Dairy Science, 100(5), pp. 3922–3929. doi:10.3168/jds.2016-12192
  3. Matsumoto, L.T. (1968) ‘Topical spray of antibiotics in simulated combat wounds’, Archives of Surgery, 97(1), p. 61. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1968.01340010091009
  4. Nguyen, H.M. et al. (2023) ‘Biomedical materials for wound dressing: Recent advances and applications’, RSC Advances, 13(8), pp. 5509–5528. doi:10.1039/d2ra07673j
  5. Ridgway, R. et al. (2022) ‘Evaluation of horn bud wound healing following cautery disbudding of dairy calves with and without the use of oxytetracycline aerosol spray’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 9. doi:10.3389/fvets.2022.745632
  6. Slatter D. Wound management of superficial skin wounds. Textbook of Small Animal Surgery, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, 2002, p 269.

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