Demystifying the Dehorning of Dairy Cattle [with Video]


| 8/31/2015 11:11:00 AM


Tags: dairy cattle, dehorning, video, raising livestock, Steve Judge, Vermont,

 

It seems like every twenty years or so the subject of dehorning dairy cattle catches the eye of the non-farming public. This year I have seen several Facebook posts and read several articles that condemn dehorning as animal cruelty - no exceptions.  It is a fairly complicated subject but on the other hand it is also pretty simple.

I am old enough to remember the days when not all commercial farmers dehorned their cows and stories of people and cows being gored were not that uncommon.  Horns on dairy cattle can be very dangerous for the humans caring for them as well as other cows.  In nature, the horns on the wild ancestors of cows were weapons used for both defensive and offensive purposes. In a well-managed dairy farm horns are completely unnecessary.

I don't believe horns strengthen the spirit of cows. My farm is not a wildlife sanctuary.  I want my cows to be domesticated, easily handled and relaxed around me and other people.  The cows that I raise from calves will follow me around the pasture and scratch heads on my back and legs.  I'd be a dead man today if my cows had horns.

But there is a catch. Dehorning calves can be a brutal experience that I agree can be called animal cruelty. But remember our attitudes towards farm animals and pets have changed dramatically in the past quarter century.  It used to be that pain wasn't a factor with farm animals.  You did what you had to do and it didn't matter if it caused the animal pain or not.  If and when anesthesia was used, it was for the safety of the farmer not the comfort of the animal.  My father used to shoot our cats if they got sick.  Today I bring my cats and dogs to the "animal hospital" and paying a $500 bill when I leave is not unusual.  It's a different world.




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