Calf Disbudding

by Helen Taylor

Helen Taylor is the Senior Veterinarian at Wairoa Farm Vets

In October 2019 new regulations were introduced to ensure the welfare of calves around on-farm practices and dairying with the requirement to use local anaesthetic for disbudding. This applies to calves of any age. Our preferred disbudding method is sedation plus local anaesthetic and pain relief. This provides the benefit of being quicker as well as allowing other procedures to be done such as vaccination, DNA testing, checking navels, removal of extra teats and ear tagging. We have a training programme for owners and farm workers to become competent and certified in the use of local anaesthetic for disbudding. Once trained you will be able to do the disbudding yourself. The initial training combines an on-farm session with one of our vets for one to two hours. There is a bit of theory as well as a practical session and we can train up to four people per session. Annually you will require recertication so we will revisit and review your technique. The best time to disbud is between one and four (to six) weeks of age. One of the main problems we encounter is calves being done too late. Disbudding is the process of removing the horn bud before it adheres to the bone of the skull. This is preferred to dehorning them as older animals which is a more invasive procedure. Calves over eight to 10 weeks frequently have horn buds that have grown too high to enable proper contact of the ring of the hot iron with the horn base, resulting in more bleeding and potential regrowth of horns. Calves with overgrown horn buds need to be scooped. Also, in older calves more sedative needs to be used and has a less predictable response. Please contact us early in the season so we can get you booked in at the appropriate time frame of two to six weeks of age for your animals. Also please contact us to discuss requirements for staff training.

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