Disbudding calves is the most common practice for removing horns on Australian dairy farms.
It is the least painful approach when done correctly. When compared to dehorning older cows, it is less likely to cause infection.
Disbudding and dehorning dairy cows 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 six to eight weeks of age, rather than de-horning cattle at an older age.
Survey results show that most dairy farmers who disbud their calves do so at the correct age (six to eight weeks), using proper equipment.
The following videos demonstrate how to disbud calves at less than two 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
Pain relief when disbudding and de-horning
Using pain relief when disbudding or dehorning reduces stress and increases growth rates in calves. (See Note 1 below)
Farmers are now able to use an over-the-counter topical pain relief spray gel available from rural resellers and vets for disbudding calves.
Tri-Solfen is applied immediately after the procedure and can be used in addition to other longer lasting pain relief options. See the APVMA PubCRIS database for new approved label instructions. Dairy Australia will provide updates as other products become available.
Tri-Solfen is an S5 drug that contains Lignocaine, Bupivacaine, Adrenaline and Cetrimide – all deemed to be of low risk to humans and safe for calves.
How to apply
Tri-Solfen spray-on gel solution is to be applied straight after disbudding. It has pain relief, antiseptic and blood clotting properties lasting approximately 24 hours. Tri-Solfen manages the “pain cascade” effect that follows heat cautery.
For further information, refer to the product label.
Where to purchase pain relief spray gel
Tri-Solfen is largely available for purchase over the counter at local rural resellers or retailers.
(Note 1)A.J. Bates, P. Eder and R.A. Laven, ‘Effect of analgesia and ant-inflammatory treatment on weight gain and milk intake of dairy calves after disbudding’, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, vol. 63, no. 3, 2015, p. 153-157
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