Cattle with horns are dangerous to both cattle and humans alike, and this leads to the disbudding of around two million calves every year in New Zealand.  Calves are ideally done between 2 and 6 weeks old as the procedure becomes more invasive, stressful and less reliable in older animals. It is essential to ensure all calves are effectively and accurately disbudded to minimise pain, stress and growth checks.

Since 1st October 2019, the new regulations regarding dehorning and disbudding require local anaesthetic to be used at all times when performing these painful procedures.  To ensure welfare levels are maintained, and the calf experiences as little discomfort as possible, Vetlife protocol involves the use of sedation (Xylazine) as well as local anaesthetic using a local infiltration method.  Within our ‘Gold’ service we also administer an injection of Metacam which provides an additional 72hrs of pain relief to help minimise the growth check and improve feed intakes post disbudding.

The use of pain relief management (sedation, local anaesthetic and Metacam) has been proven to significantly improve growth rates. Compared with calves receiving nothing to relieve the pain, calves that do receive pain relief show an additional weight gain of 0.1kg/day with an increased milk intake for the 30 days post disbudding. Studies have also shown that calves which are disbudded with the use of sedation and local anaesthetic, calved 4 days earlier compared to calves which were disbudded without sedation and local.

The combination of both sedation and local anaesthetic enables the job to be carried out more accurately and ensures minimal stress for the calves. While the calves are sedated, we can administer vaccinations and check for and remove extra teats.  Other procedures, including ear-tag marking, castrations, DNA and BVD testing, can also be performed during this time, ensuring these additional husbandry procedures are performed with as little stress as possible.

Providing appropriate analgesia alongside sedation during disbudding will guarantee high welfare standards are maintained, thus ensuring your future dairy replacements are well grown and reach their maximum potential in both milk and reproductive performance.