Dehorning calves is not a job most farmers like doing – it’s slow, labour-intensive and tough on the calf and the farmer. But it is a necessary job for health and safety, animal welfare and cross-compliance reasons as animals with horns are a danger to people, other animals and themselves.
While we call the job dehorning, really what we are doing is disbudding, as horns are not formed until the calf is a few months old. Most farmers will dehorn calves at between two and six weeks old. According to law, local anaesthetic must be used before dehorning on calves older than two weeks, but is recommended when dehorning all calves.