SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Disbudding and Dehorning of Cattle and Goats

Farmed Animals

SPCA supports the farming of naturally polled cattle and goats, achieved either through selectively breeding or genetic technology, as this would eliminate the need to disbud or dehorn cattle and goats. Where there is a need to prevent horn growth in non-polled animals, SPCA advocates that it is preferable for animals to be disbudded rather than dehorned.

Where there is a need to prevent horn growth in non-polled animals, it is best for the animals for their horns to be prevented from developing, or to be removed, at the youngest possible age. Disbudding is the destruction, by any method, of the free-floating immature horn tissue (horn “buds” growing within the skin) from which the horns of an animal subsequently develop. Dehorning is the removal of whole horns (including any regrowth after disbudding) from an animal by amputation. Disbudding must be performed before the horn bud attaches to the skull (typically less than month of age for cattle and less than a week of age for goats). After this point, the horn bud will have attached and dehorning will be carried out instead of disbudding, which is associated with greater pain and possible complications.

SPCA advocates that disbudding of cattle should be classified as a “controlled” surgical procedure, meaning that it can be performed by the animal’s owner or employee of the owner as long as they have veterinary approval to perform that procedure on that species of animal. If disbudding does take place it must be carried out by a skilled and competent operator with adequate and appropriate medical care provided prior to, during and after the procedure and include anaesthesia and analgesia.

SPCA advocates that dehorning of cattle, and disbudding and dehorning of goats should only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. If dehorning does take place, appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during and after the operation and include anaesthesia and analgesia.

Our organisation opposes the routine tipping of horns. SPCA supports the practice of horn tipping, only if there is concern that the horns may grow into the animal’s head. Our organisation advocates that horn tipping should only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.

(see Goats for more details)

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