Dehorning can be a very stressful process. It is a best-management practice to avoid any changes in a calf’s routine just before and for a week after dehorning. Lingering effects of stress on a calf can result in lowered immune defense and stunted growth.

Follow these practices to make dehorning less stressful:

  • Dehorn before 120 days of age. The earlier you can dehorn, the better. Sam Leadley, calf- and heifer-management specialist with Attica (N.Y.) Veterinary Associates, recommends doing it between three and four weeks of age. At this age, the amount of tissue to be removed is limited to just the horn bud. Also, calves at 120 pounds are much easier to handle than 300-pound calves.
  • Dehorn before the diameter of the horn base grows to a diameter of 1 inch.
  • Avoid dehorning when doing other stressful processes, such as castration or vaccination. All of the stressors together can significantly reduce feed intake and stunt growth. When done alone, especially at a young age, dehorning can be fairly stress-free.

Visit www.bqa.org for more information on dehorning. Additionally, contact your state Beef Quality Assurance coordinator to become BQA certified and join a growing number of producers committed to producing the best beef possible.