FA youngstock processing

Disbudding and dehorning


AVMA’s position on analgesics during dehorning

Learning Objectives

Study Questions

Dehorning methods include paste, Barnes, gigli wire, and thermocautery. Are there age restrictions for any of these? If so, what is the recommended/maximum age?

How do you know if the thermocautery has damaged the tissue sufficiently?

What happens if you don’t kill off all the germinal tissue when disbudding?

Why do we want to dehorn/disbud calves  at a young age?

What nerves do you need to block?

You should be able to find the related local block how tos (reference for future).

What sedation could you use if needed?

Primary sources – use Ctrl F in a document below to find the answers you still need for the study guide

Calf dehorning, Ontario

Technique comparison page, MSU page 6

See images for dehorning vs disbudding, ABBA

Other notes

Sandra Baxendell (6/30/19) – uses “Buccalgesic” – a form of meloxicam designed to absorbed through the oral mucous membranes. Lets it work for 5 min (while clipping and weighing). Then she gives 4.5 mg/kg alphaxalone slowly iv (usually 2-3 mls). That gives just enough time to disbud if the iron is already hot.

The cornual block is described under the dehorning chapter; local anesthesia is recommended for all dehorning procedures.

OVC has developed an easier method of local anesthesia – they inject lidocaine subcutaneously under the horn bud vs trying to find the nerves. The same effect could be obtained with a ring block around the horn.

Key Takeaways

  • Disbudding should be done at a young age, using perioperative meloxicam, local blocks and/or sedation.
  • Hot iron disbudding is most popular. Burn until a copper ring is achieved. Burn again if necessary. Don’t burn through the skull (brain is underneath)
  • Scurs form if the bud is incompletely cauterized.
  • Dehorning opens up the sinus and can lead to serious infections.
  • Horn tipping is an option in adult cattle that are dangerous due to their horns.

Additional resources-

Miesner and Anderson. Surgical Management of Common Disorders of Feedlot Calves. Vet Clin Food Anim 31 (2015) 407–424

P Aubry. Routine Surgical Procedures in Dairy Cattle Under Field Conditions: Abomasal Surgery, Dehorning, and Tail Docking. Vet Clin Food Anim 21 (2005) 55–72

MN Hempstead et al. Pain sensitivity and injury associated with three methods of disbudding goat kids: Cautery, cryosurgical and caustic paste. The Veterinary Journal 239 (2018) 42–47

CD Neely et al. Effects of three dehorning techniques on behavior and wound healing in feedlot cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 2014.92:2225–2229

Dehorning on CCHP rotation

Xylazine sedation

Barrell/Knauer dehorning block and bovine sx dehorning block

Dehorning block using lidocaine + xylazine


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Large Animal Surgery - Supplemental Notes by Erin Malone, DVM, PhD; Elaine Norton, DVM PhD; Erica Dobbs, DVM; and Ashley Ezzo, DVM is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.