“The AABP [American Association of Bovine Practitioners] felt that the topics of castration and dehorning differed enough that it made sense to develop separate guidelines to focus on the issues and considerations specific to each topic,” explains Renee Dewell, an Iowa State University veterinarian and AABP Animal Welfare Committee chair.
Dehorning cattle is a necessary procedure to reduce the risk of injury to the animal, other cattle and people, and during transportation to slaughter facilities, reduces bruising of carcasses. AABP recognizes the differences in management of newborn calves between the cow-calf and dairy industry in performing this procedure.
Because dairy calves are handled daily, the guideline recommends that disbudding/dehorning be performed no later than eight weeks of age. The beef industry has made significant improvements in utilizing polled genetics and currently only 7.8% of beef cattle are born with horns, according to the NAHMS Beef 2017 Cow-Calf Survey.
“One significant update in the dehorning guidelines is the recommendation that pain mitigation protocols for dehorning be considered a standard of care,” Dewell says. “This was done to reflect the considerable body of scientific evidence that has shown that calves benefit from pain mitigation protocols associated with dehorning and disbudding procedures.”
Specifically, the AABP Animal Welfare Committee updated the sections in the guidelines on proper restraint, local anesthesia and systemic pain relief. “The updated guidelines provide science-based recommendations to help veterinarians and producers best raise the animals entrusted to their care,” adds Dewell.
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