AABP offers cattle castration, dehorning guidelines

Guidelines offer information on current castration and dehorning practices that emphasize cattle welfare.

The American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) has created "Castration & Dehorning Guidelines" for general information for the castration and dehorning of beef and dairy cattle (http://aabp.org/about/AABP_Guidelines.asp).

These guidelines are meant to assist veterinarians and their clients in enhancing the welfare of cattle on beef and dairy farms by providing information on how best to approach dehorning and castration of calves.

"These new guidelines for castration and dehorning represent our combined view on the best approach to be taken for performing these procedures, melding science where it exists with sound judgment and commonsense where science is less clear, accepting that the veterinarian of record for the farm is likely the best person to ultimately determine the most appropriate combination of procedures," said AABP past president Dr. Nigel Cook with the University of Wisconsin. "They will be updated regularly as new science emerges so that our recommendations represent the best possible approaches available."

The guidelines discuss age at castration and dehorning, proper chemical or manual restraint, different methods used to castrate and dehorn and anesthesia and pain relief.

"These new guidelines accept that these are painful procedures where pain mitigation is a priority," Cook explained. "They provide the most up-to-date recommendations for the use of different procedures for castration and dehorning, the use of local anesthesia and the use of long-acting pain relieving pharmaceuticals."

Cook emphasized, however, that these are guidelines only — not legislation. "They allow the veterinarian to work with them with their clients in deciding the most appropriate procedures for a given farm situation," he said. "It is the veterinary profession that should take the lead in providing the most appropriate practices for the circumstances that exist on any given farm."

Use of anesthetics or pain mitigation may include extra-label drug use as provided for in the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act, and their use should be based on the judgment of the farm's veterinarian of record with a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR).

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