In its most recent issue of Ag Animal Health, Washington State University Veterinary Medicine Extension cites the four-step pain management process recommended for dehorning by Dr. Todd Duffield of Ontario Veterinary College:
1. Develop a dehorning protocol
2. Use a Lidocaine nerve block
3. Dehorn calves less than four weeks of age
4. Use an approved NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) for calves over four months of age
We’ve cited Dr. Duffield’s AABP Proceedings article, Current Data On Dehorning Calves, in several blogs, including Dehorning and Analgesia and Is Paste Disbudding Really More Humane? This protocol is certainly consistent with the new Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standards which call for disbudding calves under one month of age with “cautery” methods and local anesthesia. For older calves, the DCHA recommends using both local anesthesia and sedation.
The editor of Ag Animal Health recommends a fifth step to Dr. Duffield’s protocol: Training and retraining individuals conducting dehorning procedures. This is so common-sense, it almost seems ludicrous to include it in a formal protocol. However, many of us in the business have witnessed or heard about dehorning mishaps that result in injuries to crew members. You may recall Jeanne Wormuth’s guest blog last year about the employee who accidentally burned herself with a butane dehorner, prompting the calf-growing operation to switch to caustic paste.
However, even caustic paste needs to be handled with care. Dehorning.com offers two important resources to help train crew members in dehorning paste application. Feel free to use one or both in your own operation:
Do you think five steps in a dehorning protocol is too few? Too many? Or just right?