Little Victoria is five days old.
She and mama Ruby have been stuck in the barn since last Sunday when she was born. Up to this point the weather has been yucky so the barn was a nice place to be, but today was an exceptionally glorious day - sunshine, no wind, warm temps (up to 50F). But poor Ruby and Victoria were still stuck in the barn, bored and cooped up, because we had not yet dehorned Victoria.
We did so this evening. We shooed Ruby outside and pulled the calf into Matilda's pen (where there's an electric light as well as a power outlet for the clippers.
Here Don is shaving her horn buds. It's easier to apply the dehorning paste directly on top the horn buds if a lot of that pretty curly fur is out of the way.
Our barn cat, JJ, decided this was a really good time to get really friendly with the new calf.
Next I put two circles of Vaseline around the horn buds to corral the dehorning paste into the right location.
Using a Popsicle stick, I took a small amount of dehorning paste and smeared it on the horn bud, in the center of the Vaseline circle. It should be no more than a THIN nickle-sized smear. The calf jerked her head at an unfortunate moment so I had to wipe off the excess paste. It is no joke to get caustic dehorning paste where it isn't supposed to go; it can cause severe burns and injury. That paste must be right over the horn buds, no where else. When this step was done, I wiped the excess paste off my skin with a wisp of hay and then made sure to wash thoroughly when I was back in the house. (Vinegar will also negate the effects of dehorning paste and it's not a bad idea to keep some on hand when dehorning a calf.)
This is what it should look like after the paste is on (including the calf's sulky expression).
Next comes the fun part. The calf's head must be wrapped in duct tape to keep the dehorning paste from getting all over mama (either Ruby's tongue while licking her calf, or on her udder while the calf is nursing). The tape must be wrapped in such a way that it doesn't cover the eyes or pin back the ears, and it can't be so tight it chokes the calf. But it has to be on tight enough that it won't come off, either by sliding or when the mama licks the calf's head. Don is better at doing this than I am.
Once again JJ was a big help. What is it about cats and their impeccable timing?
Calves hate having their head wrapped and will sulk mightily. The duct tape should stay on for 12 hours. If we dehorn in the morning, we remove the tape in the evening. Because we dehorned Victoria in the evening, we'll remove the tape tomorrow morning.
See Ruby licking her baby? This is why that duct tape must be over the dehorning paste. It would be horrible for the paste to get on Ruby's tongue.
If all this seems like an enormous hassle, compare it to the hassle (and expense!) of a vet coming out to do a manual dehorning -- the blood, the cauterizing, the trauma. Believe me, dehorning paste (on young animals!) is the way to go.