Calf disbudding

In response to a changing public perception around on-farm practices in dairying and ensuring the welfare of calves, new regulations came into force on 1 October 2019 that require local anesthetic to be used during disbudding. This requirement applies to calves of any age.

Our preferred disbudding method is sedation plus local anesthetic 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.

Alternatively, we can use a calf crate and disbud under local anaesthetic and pain relief.

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 recertification so we will revisit and review your technique.

The best time to disbud is between two and six weeks of age. One of the main problems we encounter is calves being done too late. 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.

We are anticipating increased numbers of calves to disbud this coming spring. 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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