Removing horns from dairy cattle is an important farm safety practice because it prevents injuries to people and cattle. Removal of the horn or horn bud is a painful procedure and can be minimized by disbudding/dehorning cattle at a young age with proper pain management. Ideally, disbudding/dehorning should occur prior to six weeks of age. After this age the horn bud attaches to the skull, and the procedure is much more invasive.
UW-Extension Brown County Agriculture Educator Liz Binversie, UW-Extension Taylor County Agriculture Educator Sandy Stuttgen, and UW-Extension Dairy Cattle Wellbeing Specialist Amy Stanton recently developed a factsheet Disbudding/Dehorning Dairy Calves describing the benefits and risks associated with hot iron dehorning and caustic paste dehorning in young calves. Included in the factsheet are the steps for each of the disbudding/dehorning methods as well as recommended age of calf for procedure.
For more information regarding calf and heifer management, please visit UW-Extension Dairy Calf & Heifer Management.