Knock down Disbudding

It’s that time of year again with lots of autumn calves on the ground we have been getting busy disbudding. So far this autumn we have disbudded 541 calves with few more to come in the next few weeks; and a total of 1151 calves in 2022. As disbudding is performed for safety and handling reasons it is important that we make sure that the process itself is as stress-free and painless as possible for the calves. Although the majority of calves we disbud are dairy it is definitely something that can be used for beef calves too.

The process of disbudding can be a stressful for the calf and time consuming for the farmer. Giving a sedative to the calves prior to disbudding helps to reduce the stress for the calf, reduces the number of staff required, significantly speeds up the process and improves the calf’s return to normal behavior and growth. As well as giving a sedative the calves are all given a combination of both local anesthetic and a NSAID (metacam), these are both essential for welfare during disbudding and as you will all be aware are a requirement for red tractor. There have been many studies over the last few years showing the benefit of pain relief at the time of disbudding, including return to normal playing behavior, decreasing restlessness and improving return to normal drinking.

The age of disbudding is important, very young calves may not have palpable horn buds and they can have a body temperature drop from the sedation. Disbudding is best done at 3 weeks old as the buds are still small, making the process quicker, they are used to being fed so easily distracted to be sedated and are smaller so require less drugs making it more cost effective.

The cost of knock-down disbudding can vary quite a bit depending on the number of calves, the size of the calves and whether there are other jobs to do along side the disbudding such as castrations. For large groups of young calves, it can cost as little as £5.50 per calf, but the average cost has been £8.70 due to calf weights and extra jobs at the same time. After the initial set up of the equipment we can easily disbud 40+ calves per hour.

So far we have had very positive responses from all the farms we have been disbudding on, the process is fast, simple and much less stressful for the calves. If you would like more information on disbudding please contact us! 

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