dehorn; calf; disease; calves

Cattle production: How do I know if a calf has been dehorned correctly?

Question: I would like to know how to determine, while dehorning a calf, if I have cauterised the horn bud sufficiently without inflicting excessive stress on the calf.

There is no way of working out how many seconds are needed to cauterise the horn bud, as several variables are involved – such as the heat of the iron, wind, and if the calf is lying quietly – that could influence the process.

If the circumstances are right – the calf has been effectively immobilised and the iron is hot enough – the entire process can be completed in seconds.

Experience is obviously the most important factor. The iron must be very hot, and the calf should be completely immobilised and well-controlled. As a guideline: remember one has to burn through the skin, but not right to the underlying bone.

If you can see bone, you have gone too far. And it is very harmful to the animal.

Also read: Cattle production: How to dehorn cattle

  • This article was written by Dr. Sunelle Strydom and appears in Ask the vet: What cattle farmers should know (1), compiled by Dr. Faffa Malan.

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