Dehorning 101

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Dehorning calves is a necessary management tool that prevents injuries to both people and cattle. But, it’s important to take steps to minimize the pain associated with dehorning.

Sheila McGuirk, veterinary clinician at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine advises dairy producers keep the following points in mind. McGuirk shared these tips at a recent Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Calf Care Workshop.*

  • Dehorn calves prior to six weeks of age. If you can see the horn bud, it is not too early for removal.  
  • If dehorning calves with heat make sure the device has a diameter slightly larger than the horn base.
  • If you use paste to dehorn calves, calves must be housed in individual pens.
  • Decrease the odds of horn re-growth by clipping the hair around the horn buds for better visualization and therefore better contact for paste or heat; regardless of the dehorning method used. This step also reduces the risk of infection.
  • Discuss pain management with your veterinarian. Talk about local anesthetics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or sedation. Make sure to discuss meat withdrawal time frames for each method of pain management. Sedation is optional but it can make local nerve blocks and restraint easier. If using a local anesthetic be sure to wait five minutes after administering to the calf before dehorning.
  • Be sure to monitor your calves closely after dehorning, especially those under sedation.

*Reprinted with permission from Sheila McGuirk.

Source: Land O’Lakes Purina Feed

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Wendell MILLER    
MI  |  January, 04, 2012 at 04:12 AM

Dehorning is "a necessary management tool" only if a calf is born with horns. Given the negative public image resulting from the images of dehorning, and the availability of polled dairy bulls, it makes a lot of sense to reduce or eliminate the need for dehorning by selecting for naturally polled cattle.

Katt Walter    
WI  |  January, 04, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Also one of the things to remember when using a heat device to de-horn calves is to make sure the equipment is reaching proper temperature and to clean it of regularly. Most heat device de-horners can take less them a minute to de-horn if working properly. Also make sure to get properly trained on any kind of de-horning method.

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