VetEnt Dehorning

Horns on cattle can pose significant welfare issues, and the best way to prevent these is to disbud or dehorn at an early age.


Horns in cattle can be a significant source of injury to cattle. There are special considerations that are relevant to the transport of horned animals. Because of these significant welfare issues, it is best management to disbud calves at an early age. However, occasionally it is possible that disbudding has failed, and horns need to be removed at a later age. Also in beef herds, it is often not possible to disbud calves because of management reasons.


For dehorning cattle, the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations which took effect on October 2019 state:

  1. A person must not dehorn a cattle beast OF ANY AGE unless throughout the procedure the cattle beast is under the influence of an appropriately placed and effective local anaesthetic that is authorised by a veterinarian for the purpose of the procedure.

  2. The owner of, and every person in charge of, a cattle beast must not allow the beast to be dehorned in breach of Subclause (1).

  3. A person who dehorns a cattle beast must—
    1. be experienced with, or have received training in, the correct use of the method being used; and
    2. be able to recognise early signs of significant distress, injury, or ill-health so that the person can take prompt remedial action or seek advice.

  4. The owner of, and every person in charge of, a cattle beast that is to be dehorned must ensure that the health and welfare needs of the animal are met during the procedure and recovery, by ensuring that at all times a person is available who—
    1. has suitable equipment; and
    2. has the relevant knowledge, has received relevant training, or is under appropriate supervision.

  5. A person who fails to comply with Subclause (1) or (2) commits an offence and is liable on conviction,—
    1. in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding $5,000; or
    2. in the case of a body corporate, to a fine not exceeding $25,000.

In this regulation, dehorn— means to remove the horn or part of the horn (including any regrowth after disbudding) from a cattle beast by amputation; but does not include—

  1. removal of the hard insensitive tip of the horn resulting in a blunt hard end; or
  2. removal of an ingrown horn within 3 cm of the point where the horn touches or breaks the surface of the skin or touches the eyelid or surface of the eye.

For more information on disbudding, click on this link.

To discuss dehorning with a veterinarian, or make a booking contact your local VetEnt branch.

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