Dehorning Methods

Written by Dr. Armon Hetzel, ANIMART Professional Services Veterinarian

Calves experience the least amount of stress when dehorned before they are two weeks old. For young calves, two dehorning methods can be used.

Dehorning with Paste

  • Restrain the animal, clip hair overlaying the horn buds and clean the area of hair and
  • Wear gloves and avoid contact with skin or other unprotected
  • Apply paste to a nickel-sized area, covering the entire horn

Note: The paste is effective when the calf is less than three days old. The chemical reaction that burns the horn to prevent growth needs a minimum of 32 degrees to work properly. If in a group pen, calves may lick the paste resulting in mouth trauma. Duct tape can be applied over the paste to prevent calves from rubbing it on other calves.

Dehorning with a Burner

  • Follow operating instructions for the dehorner to ensure proper
  • Restrain the calf, locate the horn bud, press the dehorner so the tip of horn bud is centered inthe
  • Press down firmly, rotating the dehorner back and forth until it’s through the
  • Make sure the skin is freed from the horn a complete 360

Note: To ensure the horn is burned properly, gouge off the horn cap.

If dehorning isn’t done until the calf is older, gouging or wire methods may be required. Use the gouging method on medium to large horns and the wire method on very large horns.

Dehorning by Gouging

  • Properly restrain the animal’s
  • Place the open dehorner around the horn and flush with the animal’s
  • Close the dehorner with a quick, sure-handed movement and maintain enough downwardpressure to create a concave depression in the skull where the horn
  • Cauterize the blood vessels with a hot iron and apply blood stop
  • Apply fly spray if flies are present.

Dehorning with Wire

  • Properly restrain the animal’s
  • Cut an arm’s length piece of obstetrical wire and attach it to wire
  • Place the wire on the back side, or caudal aspect, of the horn flush with the
  • Saw back and forth making sure to stay as close to the scalp as
  • Cauterize the blood vessels with a hot iron and apply blood stop
  • Apply fly spray if flies are present.

Pain Management

Pain management is necessary when using a dehorning method other than paste. Two options are a local anesthesia or an anti-inflammatory drug. The University of Wisconsin-Extension Disbudding/Dehorning Dairy Calves fact sheet* lists lidocaine as an option for local anesthesia and meloxicam as an option for an anti-inflammatory. These drugs require a veterinary prescription under a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). Consult with your veterinarian on selection and proper use of these drugs to avoid harming your animals or causing a drug residue.

* Source: https://outagamie.uwex.edu/files/2010/12/Dehorning-Debudding-Dairy-Calves-Factsheet.pdf

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