Disbudding and Dehorning
Horns of livestock, particularly, cattle, sheep, and goats are sometimes removed for safety and economic reasons (1). Producers routinely remove the horns of beef and dairy cattle to decrease
Disbudding involves destroying the horn-producing cells (corium) of the horn bud before attachment to the skull (2,3). The Code of Practice for the care and handling of beef and dairy cattle require producers to disbud calves as early as practically possible, while in the horn bud stage (~2-3 months of age for beef calves and less than 3 weeks of age for dairy calves; 1,7). As well, the Code of Practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle recommends disbudding over dehorning as it is less invasive (7). For example, disbudding removes the horn buds without opening the frontal sinus, causing less tissue trauma (1,3).
Methods of disbudding
Dehorning involves the removal of horns after they have developed from the horn bud and have attached to the skull (1,3). Once the horns develop, something called the
Methods of dehorning include: hot-iron, chemical (e.g. caustic chemicals), physical (guillotine shears, dehorning knives, saws, scoops, cups, high tension rubber bands; 3). All methods of physical dehorning cause pain and side effects (2). Minimizing pain during disbudding and dehorning procedures is important for limiting the altered behaviour and physiologic states of animals such as tail wagging, head movement and rearing (3). A producer’s herd veterinarian is the best resource for possible methods of pain mitigation that can be used during and after disbudding and dehorning (1). Local anesthesia in combination with an analgesic provides the best pain relief (2). Injecting local anesthesia
Horned goats can cause serious injuries to handlers and herd-mates (4). Disbudding before 10 days of age has been shown to cause the least stress to goats (4). Heated iron or electrical devices can be used and applied to each horn to deaden horn-growing tissues but must be performed by a competent person using proper techniques (4). As for sheep, dehorning and disbudding is not required as many of the common breeds in Canada are polled (have no horns; 5). Some producers will trim the tips of horned sheep to prevent injury or interference with normal everyday behaviours such as sight, eating and drinking (5). Under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to completely dehorn sheep; if so, a licensed veterinarian must perform this procedure using anesthesia and peri-operative analgesia (5).
A non-invasive welfare friendly alternative to dehorning and disbudding
- 2013. Code of practice for the care and handling of beef cattle. http://www.nfacc.ca/pdfs/codes/beef_code_of_practice.pdf (Accessed 13 June 2017.)
- Anderson, N. 2009. Dehorning of calves. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/dairy/facts/09-003.htm (Accessed 13 June 2017.)
- 2007. Welfare implications of the dehorning and disbudding of cattle. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Documents/dehorning_cattle_bgnd.pdf (Accessed 14 June 2017.)
- 2016. Disbudding and dehorning of cattle – position statement. https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/disbudding-and-dehorning-of-cattle (Accessed 14 June 2017.)
- 2003. Code of practice for the care and handling of goats. http://www.nfacc.ca/pdfs/codes/goat_code_of_practice.pdf (Accessed 13 June 2017.)
- 2013. Code of practice for the care and handling of sheep. https://www.nfacc.ca/pdfs/codes/sheep_code_of_practice.pdf (Accessed 13 June 2017.)
- 2009. Code of practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle. http://www.nfacc.ca/pdfs/codes/dairy_code_of_practice.pdf. (Accessed 13 June 2017.)