Country Living Series

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dehorning Shadow

Little Shadow is over a week old -- time to dehorn her! We shooed Raven outside the barn and put a rope around Shadow's neck, then held her as still as we could.

After feeling where her horn buds were...

...Don started shaving over the buds.

The buds don't have to be shaved perfectly, just enough so we can smear the dehorning paste on the buds without it getting all caught up on her fur.

Next step, Vaseline and dehorning paste. The only Vaseline we could find off-hand was left over from when we marked our steer with fluorescent Vaseline so we could find where he was escaping. What the heck, it's still useful! And so easy to see!

I made a circle around the horn bud with the Vaseline.

The purpose of the Vaseline is to corral the paste where it's supposed to stay. As the paste warms with the calf's body temperature, it can get runny. Above all, you don't want dehorning paste going where it isn't supposed to go! The Vaseline keeps it in one spot.

Next step is putting the paste on. (Notice how I'm using the Popsicle stick from my broccoli starts.) The idea is to put on a THIN nickle-sized smear of paste -- NO MORE than that. Dehorning paste is NOT one of those things where "if a little is good, more is better."

One bud done, now doing the other.

All done with that step...

Now comes the hard part: wrapping the calf's head with duct tape.

The idea of the duct tape is to keep the calf from getting any paste on mama, either the mother's tongue or her udder. Calves hate this step and will struggle like mad.

This is tricky because we can't cover the calf's eyes or ears, of course; and meanwhile she's struggling and trying to get loose. What fun!

Not a happy calf!

After this we could let the calf out into the corral with her mama. The duct tape must stay on for about twelve hours.

"What have you done to my baby?"

Since we dehorned in the evening, this morning it was time to take the tape off.

Fortunately it's a much simpler procedure. Snip snip, pull the tape off, we're done!

Looks raw and painful, but I assure you the calf was gamboling about even when the duct tape was on. This is a picture-perfect case.

We outfitted Shadow with a tiny halter and a long trail of paracord (so we could catch her more easily) then let her and Raven with the rest of the herd -- first time everyone got to see the newcomer!

Poor little Shadow -- everyone wanted to see her!

Fortunately after about five minutes of chaos, things calmed down and peace reined again. Little Shadow is now part of our herd.


  1. Hope you took off the halter! Halters on animals in a pasture are deadly and a hazard.

  2. Neon orange is quite stunning against shiny black fur, LOL.....

    I think the rest of the gang is actually quite excited to meet her, how cool is that!!! Someone/something new to look at around the place, LOL......

    I find the whole dehorning process rather interesting, and I like how the way you do it seems to not hurt them, either......thanks for taking us thru all the steps, it's almost like being there (minus all the wrestling, hehe)....

  3. You make it look so easy, lol!

    Thought you might like this:

    Not begging for a link back, just wanted to share this joke my hubby heard yesterday. :-) If you like it, feel free to copy n paste. :-)

  4. Curious about something....I read an article the other day where a woman in her 60's was killed by a cow while her and her grandchild went out to feed it. Grandchild was ok, but woman was killed. The article mentioned something about cows getting agressive when they have you seen this before?

  5. Anon 7:28 -- yes, cows can get VERY aggressive immediately after the birth of their calf. Even the gentlest cow can go rogue. Fortunately this state of hyper-aggression doesn't last more than a few hours after birth, and of course not every cow will attack. But even with our gentle beloved Matilda, we are careful about touching or handling her newborn calves until that first wash of hormones recedes.

    In this case, Shadow was over a week old, so any potential early aggression from Raven was over. This isn't to say cows aren't protective of their calves (they are!), but the "mother-bear" instinct right after birth is gone.

    This is also another reason we like to dehorn our heifers. Horned animals are always potentially dangerous, but horned animals immediately after giving birth can be deadly. Thankfully such instances as that poor woman's death are rare.

    - Patrice

  6. Britt's such a hoot.


  7. What brand of dehorning paste do you use? I'd like to try it on kid goats.

  8. MICHAEL DEAN MILLERJune 24, 2011 at 1:40 AM


    So, how do moo-moo's get along with nay-winny-winnie's when left together in the same corral/lager/kraal/barn ?

    My farming skills consist of re-runs of 'Green Acres' so I was just curious...


  9. Kimberly, the dehorning paste is made by a company called Dr. Naylor and as far as I know is available at most farm supply stores or online farm supply sources. Pretty common stuff. A plastic bottle of it costs about $7 and will last a long time (meaning, you can dehorn many many calves with the amount in one bottle).

    Michael, our horse was raised with all the cattle and she considers herself head of the herd, so they all get along fine. She's actually quite gentle with calves, and they all enjoy a good chase when the mood hits.

    - Patrice