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Pain management for disbudding dairy calves.

A. K. Bitter


Pain management for disbudding dairy calves.
A. K. Bitter*, C. C. Williams. Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, LA.

Disbudding and dehorning calves are common practices in the dairy industry. Disbudding is the removal of the horn before it attaches to the frontal sinus. The most common practice of disbudding is with an electric hot iron. Another common method of disbudding is chemical disbudding via caustic paste, and a less common practice of disbudding is by amputation. Once the horn begins to attach to the skull around 2 mo of age, then disbudding is no longer an option. Dehorning is the process of removing the horn when it fuses to the frontal sinus. There are different methods of dehorning including guillotine dehorner, surgical wire, horn saw, Barnes dehorner, or tippers. Dehorning is a more painful procedure because of the fusion of the horn to the tender sinus above the eyes. In both procedures, the calf experiences pain and discomfort. While these procedures are painful to calves, some reasons for disbudding or dehorning include decreasing the risk of injury to other animals and reducing the risk of injuring workers. Disbudding or dehorning a calf is a painful process, and because of this, more dairy farms are beginning to use short and/or long-term pain management for this procedure to practice better management in their dairy operation. The best time to disbud a calf is from one to 6 weeks of age because the horn is not yet attached to the skull; therefore, it is less painful for the calf. There are also various ways to control pain caused by disbudding or dehorning procedures. Research has shown that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), local anesthetics, and sedation alleviates the pain calves may experience during and after disbudding. Research has also shown that pain management during disbudding results in improved growth and performance of calves. In order for dairy operations to practice better management practices and increase their level of welfare of their animals, they should disbud their dairy calves from one to 6 weeks of age and use NSAIDs and local anesthesia when disbudding or dehorning.

Keywords: dairy calves, disbudding, pain management.

Biography: Amy Bitter is a junior from Oceanside, California. She is majoring in Animal Sciences with a concentration in science and technology. She will graduate in May, 2021, and plans to attend veterinary school upon completion of her Bachelor of Science degree.