While horns may be an identifying signature on many species of cattle, they often cause more harm than good. Horned cattle can be a danger to themselves and other animals and are worth less on market day than polled animals. Dehorning young calves is common practice, and dehorning paste is one of the simplest, and safest, methods. Dehorning paste is less invasive and less stressful than surgical dehorning and allows calves to return to the herd much sooner.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Things you need
- Lead rope
- Thick rubber gloves
- Petroleum jelly
Catch the calf with a soft lead rope. Separate the calf from the rest of the herd. Dehorning paste should be used only on calves under 3 weeks of age, so bring the calves in as soon as possible. Place the calves in a small pen together to prevent separation anxiety.
Have a helper hold the first calf. Clip a 1-inch circle of hair away around each horn bud. Use a number-40 blade to shave very close to the skin.
Protect your hands with heavy rubber gloves. Smear a ring of petroleum jelly around the base of the horn. This ring of petroleum keeps the caustic dehorning paste on the horn bud, preventing burns to the surrounding skin.
Shake the dehorning paste bottle vigorously. Paint a thin layer of paste over the horn bud with the included brush. Spread the paste over the entire bud, taking care not to drip any paste on the calf during application.
Move the calf to a stall, allowing the paste to dry completely before moving him back to the herd. The paste will create an impermeable coating over the bud, eating down into the horn and killing it from the inside out. The horn will scab over and fall off in approximately 2 weeks.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure the paste is completely dry before releasing the calf. If the paste is still wet, it may rub off on the cow as the calf nurses and cause serious burns.
- Dehorning paste is extremely caustic and should never be used for any purpose other than dehorning. If the paste comes in contact with your skin, call your doctor immediately.
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