Addressing the pain associated with dehorning

Addressing the pain associated with dehorning
27 October 2020 Express Farming

Dehorning  of cattle at an early age should be recommended, i.e. from three weeks of age, before the nascent horns are fused to the frontal bone. If growth is too advanced, the operation is more complicated and much more painful and dangerous for the animal. This is why dehorning of adult cattle is strongly discouraged.

Why anaesthetise the animal for dehorning

Dehorning causes severe pain  both during and after the procedure. Local anaesthesia prevents this pain and does not traumatise the animal. You must inject an anaesthetic for dehorning, then an anti-inflammatory to alleviate post-operative inflammatory pain. It is also possible to use a sedative to calm the animal.

In the case of adult bovine dehorning, i.e. beyond 24 months of age, anaesthesia is obligatory, in accordance with the Charter of Good Breeding Practices.

Thermal dehorning is to be preferred to chemical dehorning, which is more painful and creates more risks of infection. Furthermore, if the calf rubs against its fellow calves or its mother, particularly during feeding, there is a risk of burning them.

L'écorneur Ref. 126 et sa cage de contentionPreparing the calf

The dehorner Ref. 126 and a cage of cattle contention . Ideally, it is advisable to keep the calf in a cage of cattle contention, which will allow you to work more peacefully. That way, your hands are free and the calf cannot move.

In addition, you must shear the horn-cores. This will allow you to properly target the area where you will place the dehorner, and avoid infection. Shearing also makes it easier for you to locate the two nerves to be anaesthetised.

How to proceed with local anaesthesia

Dehorning requires a local anaesthesia. The calf’s forehead is thus anaesthetised, it does not feel any pain and therefore less stress. Painless dehorning requires two painkillers.

The anti-inflammatory drug

The anti-inflammatory drug can be injected first, even if it is not effective immediately. It is injected to be effective within one to two hours, so as to take over from the injected product used to anaesthetise the cornual nerve.

The anti-inflammatory drug is injected on the neck, halfway between the shoulder and the head. It is an intramuscular injection. The product is injected gently by pulling the skin and then inserting the needle alongside the body.

Local anaesthesia of the cornual nerve

The calf is then administered a local anaesthetic of the cornual nerve, which allows the dehorning to proceed without pain.

This injection requires more precision. You must learn how to locate  the cornual nerve that runs along the bony ridge. You should feel this ridge between the eye and the cornillon under your finger.

The needle used measures 7 mm, which is the distance it takes to pierce the skin of the young calf and reach the cornual nerve. It allows you to inject 2 ml of anti-inflammatory drug by pricking halfway between the eye socket and the nascent horn.

There is another nerve that must also be anaesthetised so that the dehorning can take place without suffering. It runs between the horn and the base of the ear. Again, you must locate it by passing your finger over it and inject another 2 ml of anaesthetic midway between the ear and the horn.

You should do exactly the same for the other side of the head to anaesthetise the two nerves that join the other horn.

Application of Duoclean Protective Spray Ref. 47007 on a goat’s head

Application du spray protecteur Duoclean Réf. 47007 sur une chevrette

Post dehorning care

Once the dehorning process is complete, you must thoroughly disinfect the affected area. In the days that follow, make sure that there is no trace of infection.

You can continue the treatment with painkillers to ensure that the calf does not suffer at any time.