Dehorning Calves

Did you know that cows have horns? Well, at least they can have horns.

There is no difference in horn growth between males (bulls) and females (cows). In cattle, horns are for protection against predators in the wild. They are formidable weapons.

In captivity, on ranches & farms where the livestock are relatively safe from predators, horns can be dangerous to people and make handling cattle difficult.

A cow or a bull may have horns if they have the gene for horns. Polled is what we call cattle with the gene that prevents horn growth.

Some breeds are naturally polled, meaning there are no genes for horns in the breed. Angus cattle fall into that category.

Many cattle are born with the potential to grow horns. We tend to dehorn those to prevent the issues horns can cause.

Earlier is better when it comes to dehorning. There are several ways to destroy the cells responsible for horn growth. I tend to burn them, using a numbing agent and pain medication in young calves.

The electric dehorning tool gets extremely hot, so I place local blocks to both horns.

You must be careful to not burn too deeply or too long or you can cause inflammation to underlying brain tissue.

You can see this calf doesn’t feel the hot iron.

Here is a photo of a good burn ring around the tiny horn bud.

This needs to be done as soon as the horn bud can be felt. If you wait longer, it will result in “scurs” or small areas of horn growth that look like this:

The calves heal well and seldom have a problem. If you wait until they are bigger, the process becomes more involved and more painful for the animal

Be sure to get your calves dehorned early!!

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