Increased use of pain medication after dehorning

More and more calves receive medication to relieve pain after dehorning. This has emerged from a survey done in the Netherlands by a magazine named ‘de Boerderij’. Of the 514 responding farmers, 78% administers pain medication. The reasons for giving pain medication are diverse but most of the farmers indicate that calves are more active after they recover from their anaesthesia (sedation) and they continue to eat better.

The costs for the injection seem irrelevant. Three percent of the surveyed farmers indicate that their veterinarians leave them no choice and routinely administer pain medication. The main reasons for farmers not to use pain medication are the costs or because they do not see the benefits of using them. According to one responding veterinarian these are often the farmers that do not use pain medication for their dairy cows either. They just have not come around to the idea of administering pain medication.
Amongst veterinarians there is no clear consensus. Three out of the ten large veterinary practices questioned by ‘de Boerderij’ leave their farmers no choice and routinely use pain medication when dehorning. One of the practices always gives pain medication when they dehorn the calves but leave this up to the farmer when he does the dehorning himself. The other practices do advice their farmers to use pain medication, but are not compulsory in their advice.

Another conclusion from the questionnaire is that three quarters of the farmers do not dehorn their calves themselves. These calves are mostly dehorned by veterinarians. The veterinarian is already on the farm for their routine visit and already administers the local anaesthesia to the calves (which is obligatory in the Netherlands [red]). It is remarkable that about a quarter of these farmers indicate that they consider their veterinarian to be more competent in the procedure than themselves.

This article has been translated into English. The original Dutch article can be found here and was written by Anne-marie van der Linde. Publication date of the original article is Dec 8th 2014.
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