For today's blog post, Jeanne Wormuth, Manager, CY Heifer Farm shares her insights and experiences dehorning calves.
CY Heifer Farm raises 4,000 calves for 10 dairies in central and western New York. Jeanne began working as operations manager at the heifer farm 12 years ago when it was owned by Agway. CY Farms, owned by Craig Yunker, purchased the heifer facility in 1995.
By Guest Blogger: Jeanne Wormuth, Manager, CY Heifer Farm, Elba, NY
I’ve been raising dairy replacement heifers at our biosecure facility for more than a decade. We now dehorn about 2,000 calves each year. A few years ago, one of our employees accidentally burned herself while using a butane dehorner. We wanted a safer alternative, and our veterinarian suggested caustic paste. We decided to give it a try, and now all our calves are dehorned with paste.
Calves arrive at our farm when they’re around 3 days old. We apply the paste that same day, after they have eaten and are a bit sleepy. It’s obviously less stressful for them than the butane burner. Some shake their heads a bit, but many don’t react at all. There’s definitely less risk of injury to our employees – they just have to wear a pair of protective gloves.
Now, you do have to take your time and go through all the steps – shaving, brushing and application. You can’t take short cuts or speed it up. That’s probably the one disadvantage of this method compared to a hot-iron. But when you consider the improvements in employee safety and animal welfare, paste disbudding is definitely worth the extra steps.
Some farmers are reluctant to use dehorning paste because they think it doesn’t work. I’ve heard those rumors, too. But I’ve dehorned thousands of calves and can tell you if you use dehorning paste correctly, it is every bit as effective as a hot-iron. It’s definitely a lot less stressful – for both the calves and the crew!