Most cows (females) and bulls (males) are born with horn buds.
This means they will grow a significant set of horns as they grow and mature.
When they are born without horns, we call that “polled”. Angus cattle are naturally polled.
Most dairy cows are horned naturally because the milk producing gene is linked to the horn gene, although we are now selectively breeding for the polled trait in some dairy cattle.
Most calves are dehorned very young using either a caustic paste or an electric dehorning tool. There is an earlier post here showing the electric dehorning method.
Sometimes calves are missed and end up growing horns.
Horns are dangerous to people and other cattle, plus will get caught up in fencing. Therefore we like to remove horns.
Here is an 8 month old Guernsey heifer calf that still has horns. At this stage, the horns are part of the skull and must be cut out.
A cosmetic dehorn involves numbing the top of the head, cutting through the skin around the horn, removing the horn, and suturing the skin closed over the hole.
Here is the process:
First we clip the hair to prepare the surgical site.
The site is prepped with surgical scrub and alcohol to remove any bacteria.
The blood spots are from the needle used to inject lidocaine (numbing medicine) into the nerves surrounding the horn.
After the area is numb, we scrub it again to prepare for surgery.
After the skin is peeled back away from the horn, then the horn is removed using a pair of dehorners that easily cut through the bone of the horn.
As you can see, the horn actually connects to the sinus cavity. We need to close the skin back over the hole to prevent infection and allow a nice cosmetic appearance.
Here is the completed procedure. After the second side is completed, we will clean off all the blood to keep flies away. We will apply fly spray and give this heifer pain medicine.
She should heal nicely and go on to be a wonderful 4-H show heifer!