Horn Talk Blog

New Mercy For Animals Video Shows Animal Cruelty and Dehorning

Posted by Dave Lucas on Thu, Jun 30, 2011
Mercy For Animals (MFA) has released another undercover video, this one documenting animal cruelty by some workers at the E6 Cattle Company, a calf raising operation in Hart, TX. The abuses have been rightly condemned by company owners, animal welfare activists, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which called the beatings “barbaric, inhumane and unacceptable.” The workers were fired.

The video also depicts workers burning horn buds off calves with a hot-iron and, in one scene, a branding iron.

The acts of cruelty shown are truly repugnant and definitely not typical of responsible calf raising facilities or any livestock operation for that matter. But the dehorning procedures depicted are standard management practices on many farms, and are not, in themselves, gratuitously cruel. By including these scenes in its compilation of abuses, MFA has, unfortunately, lumped dehorning into the same “horrifying” category as euthanizing calves with hammers and pickaxes.

Dehorning is a necessary management practice that greatly reduces the risk of injury to humans, horses, dogs and, of course, calves themselves (udders, flanks and eyes are particularly susceptible to gouging). The AVMA’s Animal Welfare Policy recommends that dehorning be performed “at the earliest age practicable”, while noted animal welfare activist Dr. Temple Grandin has said, “There is no excuse for not dehorning very young calves.”

The majority of dairy producers and many beef producers practice hot-iron disbudding, which is certainly preferable to dehorning at later stages with more invasive methods. That said, hot-iron dehorning is painful, and producers should use analgesia and/or sedation whenever possible.

A more humane alternative is caustic paste disbudding, which has been shown to be less painful than hot-iron dehorning. The non-sedated, non-medicated calf in this video, for example, barely reacts when dehorning paste is applied.

Do you think dehorning should have been included in Mercy For Animal’s undercover video of abuses at E6 Cattle Company?

Other Sources:

Mercy For Animals Investigation Into a Texan Calf Farm. April 20, 2011. http://vegangstaz.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/mercy-for-animals-investigation-into-a-texan-calf-farm/

Veterinary Practice News. “Abuse of Calves is ‘Unacceptable’, AVMA Says.” April 20, 2011. http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/vet-breaking-news/2011/04/20/undercover-video-showing-abuse-of-calves-is-unacceptable-avma-says.aspx

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

Temple Grandin. Bruise Levels on Fed and Non-Fed Cattle. Proceedings Livestock Conservation Institute. April 5-7, 1995. http://www.grandin.com/references/LCIbruise.html

Vickers, K.J., et al. Calf Response to Caustic Paste and Hot-Iron Dehorning Using Sedation With and Without Local Anesthetic.  J. Dairy Sci. 88: 1454-1459, 2005.

Topics: AVMA Policy, Temple Grandin, Caustic Paste, Hot-Iron Dehorning, Disbudding, Dehorning Methods

It’s Time for Some New Cattle Dehorning Data

Posted by Dave Lucas on Thu, Apr 28, 2011
Calf Dehorning2008 seemed to be a banner year for dehorning research. That was the year we saw the publication of articles on everything from dairy calf welfare to the comparison of pain response in calves receiving hot-iron or caustic paste. That same year, the Journal of Dairy Science published an article, co-authored by Dr. Temple Grandin, highlighting results from a survey 113 dairy farms, showing only about a third of calves are dehorned by eight weeks, and about 80 percent are dehorned with a hot-iron.

Aside from a survey published a year ago showing 90 percent of U.S. bovine practitioners dehorn at the time of castration, there hasn’t been a lot of new data recently. Some interesting dehorning data came out of Europe last fall, but that’s a subject for another blog.

Here’s the kind of dehorning data I’d like to see:
  • A comparison of the effectiveness of caustic paste vs. hot-iron disbudding

  • The impact of dehorning methods on calf weight gain and other performance indicators

  • The impact of dehorning methods on calf value at auction

  • A comparison of infection rates and other complications among various dehorning methods

  • A comparison of dehorning practices from 10 years ago to the present

  • A survey of consumer attitudes toward various dehorning methods.
What kind of dehorning data would you like to see?

Topics: Research, Temple Grandin, Caustic Paste

Congratulations, Temple Grandin!

Posted by Dave Lucas on Wed, Jan 19, 2011

A tip of the hat to Temple Grandin, who was honored at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards after the HBO film based on her life won a best actress award for Claire Danes.

In her acceptance speech, Danes thanked Grandin for, “working with incredible zeal and devotion to illuminate mysteries about autism and animal behavior.” The biopic, Temple Grandin, was based on Grandin’s autobiography, Thinking in Pictures, about her experiences growing up with autism.

Dr. Grandin, as you may know, is an animal welfare activist credited with spearheading widespread reforms in livestock housing and handling. When it comes to dehorning, she has repeatedly recommended that calves be disbudded within the first few weeks after birth.

When she’s not designing livestock housing facilities or advocating on behalf of people with autism, Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Hopefully, she is passing along the benefits of early disbudding to a new generation of livestock producers.

Topics: Temple Grandin, Disbudding, Dehorning Methods, Animal Welfare