The Dehorning Debate

It seems Ryan Gosling has a soft-spot for cattle. Unfortunately he’s opting to donate his celebrity status to a group that does not have the best interest of livestock in mind.

The AP reported Wednesday that Gosling has decided to take on the plight of horned dairy cattle, issuing a letter to the National Milk Producers Association urging them to take a stance against dehorning dairy cows.

That request seems simple enough – most dairy and beef cattle have been bred to not grow horns – but the idea of preventing livestock owners from removing horns from animals interfere with the ability of ranchers to properly care for their herd.

Modern technology and understanding of genetics has allowed dairy and beef cattle breeders to engineer breeds that are born without horns. Most livestock owners have bred horns from their herds but genetic traits remain in many breeds that result in animals growing horns.

Many times these horns grow at an angle that proves dangerous for the animal and their owners. These horns can be used as weapons when cattle come in contact with one another or with their owners and other farm animals. Even if an animal does not intend to cause harm, their horns can impact others in the herd.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that dehorned cattle “present a lower risk of interference from dominant animals at feeding time; pose a reduced risk of injury to udders, flanks and eyes of other cattle; present a lower injury risk for handlers, horses and dogs; and exhibit fewer aggressive behaviors associated with individual dominance.” The AVMA supports dehorning in livestock.

Horns also prevent animals from fitting into livestock trailers, working pens and other pieces of equipment ranchers rely on to work and care for their animals.

Many cattle owners opt to remove the horns while others turn the horns – using weights – so they grow down and not out. Removing horns does cause some discomfort for the cattle but the process is quick and the animals recover quickly. Livestock owners have the ability to apply local anesthesia to help further decrease the discomfort.

No livestock owner performs a procedure on his or her animals that does not in some way benefit the long-term health and well-being of the animal. When necessary, we remove the horns of cattle on our farm. Everything we, as animal owners, do is in the best interest of our animals and done with purpose and care.

We care for our animals because they are our business, our live hood and our way of life.


4 thoughts on “The Dehorning Debate

  1. This is where I ignore such a person’s plight with an obvious summation… ” Some people just need to stick to their day jobs. ” This guy is becoming more of the male version of Paris Hilton. He needs to spend some time on a ranch, working from the stalls up.

  2. Katie,

    Thanks for sharing on this difficult subject! All of our cattle are born with horns. Polled Holsteins are available, but the trait has only recently started to take off. Polled was at one time considered a beef trait so I believe all the major dairy breeds are predominantly horned (though I’m only personally familiar with Holsteins). We dehorn all of our calves when they are only about a week old by applying a paste that dissolves the horn bud. Their discomfort is short lived, and dehorning is necessary for the health and safety of the cattle and all of us who work with them. Good post.

    1. Thank you Jennifer. I hesitated to write on this subject but Mr. Gossling’s “letter” has made enough news I felt it was time for the farming world to say something. There is no 100-percent, pain-free way to remove a cow’s horns but I know you all, like us, take the least invasive approach knowing, in the long run it is best for the animal and the owner.

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