Horn Talk Blog

How Caustic Dehorning Paste Works

Posted by Dave Lucas on Thu, Apr 14, 2011
Dehorning PasteDehorning paste typically contains two caustic substances: calcium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide. When applied to the horn bud, the paste causes a chemical burn that destroys horn-producing cells. A thin film about the size of a nickel is all that’s required. When horn-producing cells are destroyed, horns don’t grow. It’s as simple as that.

Make no mistake: caustic paste is strong stuff. You definitely don’t want it running out of the application area (into the eye, for example), or getting onto other animals – or on you! That’s why it’s important to apply a protective ring of Udder Balm or petroleum jelly around the horn bud prior to application; wear gloves during application; and keep the animal indoors, out of rain and away from other animals, for six hours.

You may also want to consider administering a topical anesthetic or sedative beforehand. Although paste disbudding has been shown to be less painful than hot-iron disbudding, it is still uncomfortable. On the other hand, don’t be alarmed if the animal doesn’t react to dehorning paste application. One of our guest bloggers, Jeanne Wormuth of CY Heifer Farm, usually dehorns 3 to 5-day-old calves when they’re relaxed after a big meal. She tells us some of the calves actually sleep right through the procedure.
What have been your experiences with caustic dehorning paste?

Topics: Dehorning Paste, CY Heifer Farm, Caustic Paste, Disbudding, Jeanne Wormuth