September 12, 2022

Disbudding guidelines and law change

By vet Dr Phil Reenie

As of 1 October 2019, it will be a legal requirement that 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 to this, 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 that prompt remedial action is taken or seek advice.

The 3 options available moving forward are

  • Veterinary staff can perform the procedure (disbudding/dehorning),
  • Veterinary Operating Instructions (VOIs) can be provided for local anaesthetic for non veterinary providers to proceed,
  • Disbudding training and assessment for veterinarians to train non-veterinary/ farm personnel to effectively administer local anaesthetic, and disbud calves.  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 New Zealand last about two hours, so a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or long-acting topical anaesthetic can be used to extend pain control.

Feel free to contact us for further details and assistance.