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Alternatives to Dehorning
April 11, 2014
It's been my feeling for a long time that DEHORNING is obsolete. I'd go even further and state that I think it's always been an evil thing of less than zero value. Even though I have been involved with the surgery since I was a kid (and, dang it, I still have nightmarish memories of bad dehorning done by my relatives back then! ), and even though I have dehorned using every single method you ever heard of (saws, Barnes choppers, hot iron, bands, chemicals, etc), it's all rubbish and I will never do it again. The only exception would be a scur that grows into the head. It's a rotten procedure that should die. And, really, not all city people are knuckleheaded humaneiacs, I think that those who react negatively to this kind of surgery are actually right.
I had a career epiphany about 15 years ago: Why don't people who don't want horns just get polled animals? Obviously, they can still get it done, but I quit doing it that many years ago. Likewise, I don't declaw cats, and I don't debark dogs. All the implications go really deep. Sadly, many humans act like they are neutered as well, so I can see why they are afraid of so many things. You could write a book about the things that people do that don't really make sense.
Furthermore, I advocate having horned animals and I have therefore learned to work with them. In larger dairies with horned cattle, I have used a technique of taking off just the sharp points (1-1.5" of horn), and then screwed on brass balls for blunting the sharpness. Bossy cows can still rule but won't puncture the skin or udder. Sure, horned animals require more work sometimes, and are certainly more dangerous but I think the good outweighs the bad.
I prescribe to one of the primal philosophies expressed in BIODYNAMIC farming that the horns are the "antennae" of animals that, among other things, bring down cosmic energy into the body and brain. The bull moose, the mighty elk, the big bucks, aurochs, bison, and many others all have these big receivers for energy to lead the herd, weapons to defend the herd, weapons to determine alpha leadership and DNA propagation. Many of the powerful homeopathic preparations used in BD farming are created in a buried cow horn. Horned animals almost always have more vitality and health than polled individuals.