Most people would agree that dehorning cattle not only protects animals from each other, but it also protects employees who work with them. While dehorning, the process of removing horn buds from a calf, has been a long-practiced safety procedure, mounting evidence suggests there are better ways to carry out the practice.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) just released a three-minute video highlighting the most up-to-date methods to dehorn cattle which include providing pain relief. "If the horn is removed when it is still a small bud, the procedure is less evasive and effective pain relief is easier to provide," says Cia Johnson, D.V.M., of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division. "This is why the AVMA policy states dehorning should be done at the earliest age practicable by the method of disbudding or removing the horn bud before it has attached to the skull," she says.

The video goes on to demonstrate the best way to dehorn calves. "AVMA policy encourages the use of local anesthetics like Lidocaine during dehorning. Research has shown that injections of Lidocaine substantially reduce the pain experienced by animals, particularly calves that are older," notes Johnson. "Lidocaine is relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Therefore, it can be successfully implemented at an operation without significantly impacting costs. Consideration should also be given to using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents to control long-lasting postoperative pain," said the veterinarian.

Recent Hoard's Dairyman research suggests that the nation's dairy producers are picking up on the practice. Last year, 18.9 percent of Hoard's readers reported using a sedative or numbing agent while dehorning calves. Yet, there is room for improvement as only half of all readers report dehorning calves in the first 2 months of life.

To see the video, click below.