Dehorning of cattle in the EU Member States: A quantitative survey of the current practices.

A survey was carried out to describe the extent and current practice of cattle disbudding/dehorning in the EU Member States. Disbudding was defined as removal of horns in calves of up to 2 months of age, whereas dehorning was defined as removal of horns in older animals. Specific questionnaires were created regarding dairy, beef, and suckler production systems and they were submitted to local experts of each country belonging to relevant institutions like universities, national farmers' associations, cattle breeders associations, farm veterinarians and practitioners. Figures on disbudding/dehorning practices were produced for each production system for both the whole European Union and the North, Centre, East and South EU macro-regions. A total of 652 questionnaires were collected and 64%, 24% and 12% of them related to dairy cattle, beef cattle and suckler cows, respectively. Data from the survey showed that in Europe, 81% of the dairy, 47% of the beef and 68% of the suckler currently keep disbudded/dehorned animals, while the prevalence of polled cattle is rather low, especially in the dairy cattle sector (5% of all cattle farms; <1% of dairy farms). Regardless of production system, prevalence of dehorned animals is the highest in the North macro-region. Polled cattle farms are almost exclusively located in the North where polled beef breeds are raised for fattening. Dehorning is performed primarily on loose housed cattle to reduce the risk of injuries for herdmates and the stockman. Dehorning is less frequently performed in organic farms. As method of horns removal, disbudding is generally preferred over surgical removal of the horns in older cattle. Hot-iron is the most used disbudding method especially in the North and Centre. Use of caustic paste is reported more frequently in the South and the East. In the large majority of EU farms, the stockman is the person in charge for disbudding and some kind of medication for pain relief is administered to the animals only in a small percentage of farms (<30%). Surgical dehorning of more aged cattle is mainly performed with the wire/saw method. Compared to disbudding, it is more often carried out by a veterinarian and pre- and post operative medications (44% farms) is also more common.


Cozzi, G.,Gottardo, F., Brscic, M., Contiero, B., Irrgang, N., Knierim, U., Pentelescu, O., Windig, J., Mirabito, L., Kling Eveillard, F., Dockes, A., Veissier, I., Velarde, A., Fuentes, C., Dalmau, A., Winckler, C., Dehorning of cattle in the EU Member States: A quantitative survey of the current practices, Livestock Science, Volume: 179 Pages: 4-11 Published: SEP 2015.