• Bom Harris, DVM

Dehorning Calves



Dehorning is performed routinely in dairy cattle for the safety of the animals and farmers working with them. When performed at an early age with appropriate pain management, dehorning is a very low-stress practice. The majority of beef breeds of cattle are polled, meaning they naturally lack horns, and therefore do not require dehorning. The FARM program encourages dehorning as young as possible. It also encourages the use of local anesthesia and anti-inflammatories. Dehorning larger calves without pain control can decrease feed intake and weight gain for up to six weeks. Pain control drugs are inexpensive and, when combined with early dehorning, make the job much easier on the calf and the farmer! Horns are most commonly removed using a butane or electric dehorner. Caustic paste dehorning is an alternative that allows dehorning at an even earlier age and can be used very successfully following a few important rules. The paste must be applied within the first 48 hours of life. The hair should be clipped prior to dehorning and the surface of the horn bud should be scratched for good penetration. Only a dime-sized amount of paste should be used, and the calf should be kept dry for 24 hours after application to prevent paste from running into the eyes. Oral anti-inflammatories should still be used. Work with your veterinarian to make dehorning low-stress for you and your calves.

#dairy #dehorning #calves

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