A large European study revealed producers’ opinions of the widely implemented dairy management practice of dehorning. The results of 639 questionnaires completed by northeastern Italian dairy producers indicated:

  • More than 80 percent of farms practiced dehorning.
  • Disbudding was the most common method of dehorning, at an average age of 32 days.
  • Hot-iron cauterization was preferred by 91 percent of respondents as their chosen method of disbudding.
  • Dehorning typically was done by farm personnel, but farms with 30 cows or less were most likely to use the services of a veterinarian to perform the procedure. Most farmers (70 percent) stated that they had not received any specific training on how to perform disbudding.
  • While more than half (52 percent) of respondents reported that disbudding causes prolonged postoperative pain, only 10 percent of producers used local anesthesia before cauterization, and just 5% provided calves with postoperative analgesia.
  • Limited willingness to incur additional costs was the most frequently cited reason for not using pain-management methods.
  • About half (54 percent) of producers who favored keeping horned cattle noted aesthetics as their key motivation. Some stated that horned cattle were more attractive to consumers when milk and dairy products were sold directly at the farm.
  • Of the producers who kept horns intact, 74 percent reported no difficulty in handling horned cattle.