Disbudding calves is the most common practice of horn removal on Australian dairy farms.
It is the least painful approach when done correctly. When compared to de-horning older cattle it is less likely to cause infection.
Removal of the horns of cattle is a common welfare procedure designed to lessen injury to the animals, and to handlers of dairy stock.
Dairy Australia has been working with farmers to encourage the disbudding of calves at 6 - 8 weeks of age rather than de-horning cattle at an older age. Survey results report that since the Nation Dairy Industry Animal Welfare Strategy has been in place:
1. Most dairy farmers that disbud their calves do so at the correct age, using proper equipment.
2. Farms disbudding calves (rather than de-horning cows) increased from 77% to 94% between 2005 and 2014.
The following videos show how to disbud calves at less than 2 months of age using the hot iron cautery technique with pain relief:
Disbudding of dairy calves part 1 - setting up
Disbudding of dairy calves part 2 - administration of pain relief
Disbudding of dairy calves part 3 - thermal disbudding