Horn Talk Blog

When Is The Ideal Time To Apply Dehorning Paste?

Posted by Dave Lucas on Thu, Sep 8, 2011
Caustic paste disbudding can be effectively performed on dairy calves up to the point where the horn buds attach to the skull, around eight weeks of age. Practically speaking, however, the procedure really should be performed much sooner, within a few days of birth, for reasons that benefit both the operation and the animal.

At this age, horn buds are still free-floating and quite small. Only a very small amount of dehorning paste applied to this area – about the size of U.S. nickel – is needed to effectively destroy horn-producing tissue. Three- and four-day old calves are docile and easy to handle (especially after a good meal), with no need for squeeze chutes or much restraint beyond a firm grasp. One of our guest bloggers, Jeanne Wormuth, tells us when she applies dehorning paste to sleepy, just-fed dairy calves, many don’t react at all.

Unlike older calves, which may need up to two weeks to return to their pre-dehorning weight,1 calves disbudded within a few days of birth usually recover quickly. They’re also less likely to experience infections, blood loss or other complications associated with mechanical dehorning.

Most important, early-age disbudding makes sense from an animal welfare perspective. As Dr. Todd Duffield from the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College says, “It is generally accepted that the younger the animal is the less painful the dehorning procedure is.”2 A University of Guelph experiment showed that calves under four weeks of age exhibited less of a pain response to hot-iron dehorning than older calves.2

Unfortunately, cattle producers in the United States tend to dehorn at a much later age when the procedure is more invasive and the risks of complications higher. Only about a third of dairy calves3 and less than one-fourth of beef calves4 are disbudded by eight weeks of age. Compare this to dehorning practices in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and other countries where caustic paste is typically applied within a few days of birth.5

Are you using caustic paste within the first week of age? Why or why not?

  1. Fred Hopkins, et al. Cattle Preconditioning: Dehorning Calves. Cattle Network. 7/09/2009. www.cattlenetwork.com
  2. Todd Duffield, DVM, DVSc. Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. Current Data on Dehorning Calves, Current Data on Dehorning Calves, AABP Proceedings, Vol. 41, September 2008.
  3. 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.
  4. USDA APHIS, Veterinary Services, National Animal Health Monitoring System, October 2008. Reference of Beef Cow-Calf Management Practices in the United States, 2007-2008.
  5. Welfare Implications of the Dehorning and Disbudding of Cattle. American Veterinary Medical Association. June 8, 2011. http://www.avma.org/reference/backgrounders/dehorning_cattle_bgnd.asp

Topics: Dehorning Paste, Disbudding, Jeanne Wormuth

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

New Website Dehorning.com Launches

Posted by Dave Lucas on Tue, Mar 8, 2011
Morris, NY (March 8, 2011) – With increasing public interest in farm animal handling practices, a new Website – Dehorning.com – has been launched to share science-based information and facilitate discussion about cattle dehorning. The Website is sponsored by H.W. Naylor Company, Inc.

“Consumers have shown a growing interest in how animals, especially dairy and beef cattle, are raised and cared for,” says David Lucas, president, H.W. Naylor Company, Inc., who grew up on a dairy farm. “When it comes to dehorning, however, there hasn’t been a place on the Internet for accessing credible research, articles and professional recommendations, and having a place to talk about it. That’s why we created dehorning.com.”

Dehorning.com provides:
  • An explanation of the difference between dehorning and disbudding.
  • Photos and information about various dehorning methods.
  • Dehorning and disbudding videos.
  • Access to research articles, which visitors can vote and comment on.
  • A blog about farm management practices and science-based research related to dehorning and early-age disbudding.
  • Answers to frequently asked questions.

Visitors to the site can subscribe to the blog via e-mail and RSS feeds, and join Facebook and Twitter pages. The site also invites producers, handlers, food retailers, veterinarians, researchers, academics and others with experience and interest in dehorning to become a guest blogger.

“I’ve been raising dairy replacement heifers at our biosecure facility for more than a decade and we now dehorn about 2,000 calves each year,” says Jeanne Wormuth, manager, CY Heifer Farm, Elba, NY. “Dehorning.com is a wonderful resource and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in how dairy cows and beef cattle are raised and treated.”

About H.W. Naylor Company, Inc.
Founded in 1926 by upstate New York country veterinarian Howard Naylor, the H.W. Naylor Company, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of topical medications for livestock, equine and companion animals. The company’s products, marketed under the brand name Dr. Naylor, include Dehorning Paste, Udder Balm and Hoof ‘n Heel. Learn more at www.drnaylor.com.


Dehorning.com Logo

Topics: Dehorning Paste, Disbudding, Dr. Naylor, Jeanne Wormuth, Dehorning Methods