The new disbudding guidelines

Vet's vision
with Phil Rennie
Tauranga Vets

As of October 1, it’s now a legal requirement all cattle being disbudded/dehorned will need ‘an appropriately placed and effective local anaesthetic that is authorised by a veterinarian for the purpose of the procedure’.

This is true for all methods of horn tissue removal including hot iron cautery, scoop dehorning, amputation dehorning; and caustic paste, which is no longer appropriate.

In addition, anyone disbudding/dehorning must be experienced with, or have received training in, the correct use of the method being used; and be able to recognise early signs of significant distress, injury, or ill-health so prompt remedial action is taken or seek advice.

Three options are available moving forward. Veterinary staff can perform the procedure of disbudding/dehorning.

Veterinary Operating Instructions can be provided for local anaesthetic for non-veterinary providers to proceed.

Or disbudding training and assessment can be completed – for veterinarians to train non-veterinary/ farm personnel to effectively administer local anesthetic, and disbud calves. 

For example, farmers who disbud their own calves will need to be trained by their veterinarian to administer a local anaesthetic block.

Pain relief is essential for disbudding and improves recovery. Training is required before administering local anaesthetic. The most common method of administering local anaesthetic, via a cornual nerve block, requires patience, technical competence and practice to be consistently effective.

A bleb block is an alternative method of achieving pain relief – it’s quicker and consistently effective. Local anaesthetics available in NZ last about two hours, so a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or long-acting topical anaesthetic can be used to extend pain control. Contact your local vet clinic for further details.


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