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AVMA Updates Welfare Policy On Dehorning


AVMA updated dehorning policyEvery five years, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reviews its animal welfare policies. The 80,000-member organization recently updated its Animal Welfare Policy on Castration and Dehorning with input from AVMA members and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP). On the subject of dehorning, the Animal Welfare Committee made two changes:

  • The policy now contains a mention of the importance of genetics in selecting for the polled (hornless) trait.

  • The policy now includes language recommending the use of local anesthetics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve postoperative pain as well as preoperative pain for dehorning procedures other than disbudding.

We applaud the AVMA for expanding its recommendation for pain relief during dehorning. We’re also pleased to see the organization drawing a sharper distinction between disbudding and “other dehorning procedures.” This is a tacit acknowledgement that disbudding is indeed less invasive and more painful than other methods of horn removal.

Other elements of the policy remain unchanged, including statements that:

  • Dehorning is painful.

  • Dehorning is important for human and animal safety (this is where the AVMA parts ways with most animal activists).

  • Dehorning should be performed at the earliest age practicable.

  • Research leading to new or improved pain relief methods is encouraged.

  • Disbudding is still the preferred method for dehorning calves.

The AVMA is arguably the largest supporter of animal welfare in the United States, and its recommendations should be taken seriously by both livestock producers and animal activists alike. We hope the AVMA considers including a recommendation for caustic paste disbudding, the least invasive dehorning method, in its next round of welfare policy updates.

What do you think of the AMVA’s revised position on dehorning?


I am very pleased that the AVMA has recognized selection for polled genetics as an important management choice in naturally dehorning calves. Polled genetics provide the most effective, painless, and safest method of permanently removing horns.
Posted @ Friday, January 18, 2013 2:45 PM by Mark Rodgers
Polled is an easier option than disbudding or dehorning. Good that AVMA recognizes that. It is no longer uncommon in most dairy breeds, and does not mean sacrificing selection for other traits.
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