For the first time, dehorning is included among animal welfare standards published by the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) which represents more than 600 heifer growers in the United States.
The DCHA introduced its “Gold Standards III” at last fall’s American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) conference in St. Louis. Developed by a committee of heifer growers, veterinarians and industry representatives, the guidelines include updated recommendations for calf housing, handling, transportation, elective medical care and other practices with an emphasis on animal welfare. They were reviewed by the Animal Welfare Committee of the AABP and a panel of university experts.
On the subject of dehorning, the Standards specify disbudding as the “preferred” method for horn removal, recommending “cautery” at less than one month of age with local anesthesia. Dehorning at least than three months of age is also acceptable with local anesthesia and sedation. You can read the complete Gold Standards III here.
Gold III also supports the “Five Freedoms” developed in the United Kingdom by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, now the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, one of which is freedom from pain. Of the two “cautery” methods, disbudding with caustic paste has been shown to be less painful than hot-iron dehorning, even when a local anesthetic is used.
For its next incarnation of guidelines, perhaps the DCHA will specify caustic paste disbudding for horn removal that has “the animals’ best welfare interests in mind”, according to DCHA board member and Gold Standards III committee chair Vance Kells.
What do you think of the DCHA’s Gold Standards III?
Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, http://www.calfandheifer.org/
Jim Dickrell. “Gold Standards III: Heifer growers set welfare guidelines.” Dairy Today, Nov. 1, 2011. http://www.agweb.com/article/gold_standard_iii/
Vickers, K.J. et al. Calf Response to Caustic Paste and Hot-Iron Dehorning Using Sedation With and Without Local Anesthetic. April 2005. J. Dairy Sci. 88:1454-1459.