Horn Talk Blog

Typical Dehorning Practices Leave Room For Improvement

Posted by Dave Lucas on Thu, Aug 18, 2011

When it comes to dehorning, if you’re a typical dairy producer in the United States, chances are

  • you use a hot-iron1
  • you dehorn between eight and 12 weeks of age1
  • you don’t use anesthesia or analgesia1
If you’re a typical beef producer, you most likely dehorn
  • with a saw, Barnes or keystone (guillotine) dehorner2
  • around 13 weeks of age2
  • with no anesthesia or analgesia

What about dairy and beef producers outside the United States? Well, if you’re a producer in Europe, you are far more likely to practice early-age disbudding and use anesthesia and/or analgesia than your American counterparts.3 In the EU, 80 percent of dairy cows and only 26% of beef cattle are dehorned, and very few are polled.3

These are just averages, of course, and there is great variation in dehorning practices even within the same production segment. For example, cow-calf producers in the western U. S. are far less likely to use saws, Barnes or keystone dehorners (14%) than cow-calf producers in the eastern U.S. (59%).2 But these numbers do provide a broad look at the practice of dehorning in general, and highlight areas where improvements can be made, especially in the areas of pain relief and early-age disbudding.

When it comes to dehorning, what improvements do you think are needed?


  1. Fulwider, W.K., et al. Survey of Dairy Management Practices on 113 North Central and Northeastern United States Dairies. J. Dairy Sci. 2008. 91:1686-1692.
  2. USDA APHIS, Veterinary Services, National Animal Health Monitoring System, October 2008. Reference of Beef Cow-Calf Management Practices in the United States, 2007-2008.
  3. Cattle Dehorning and Alternatives in the EU. The CattleSite.com. November 2010. www.thecattlesite.com/articles/2540/cattle-dehorning-and-alternatives-in-the-eu

Topics: Research, Pain Relief, Dehorning Methods