Cattle Disbudding and Dehorning by Non-Veterinarians
To provide clarity on the expectations and obligations on veterinarians when non-veterinarians request local anaesthetic to perform disbudding and dehorning procedures.
Disbudding and dehorning cattle are necessary farm practices. They are painful procedures and are regulated under the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018.
VCNZ encourages all those responsible for animals during disbudding and dehorning to adopt the highest standards of husbandry, care, welfare and handling.
Veterinarians have a special duty to protect animal welfare and alleviate animal suffering. They must know and comply with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 1999, Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) and the relevant Codes of Welfare.
Because of their training and experience veterinarians and large animal technicians and technologists (LAVTs) are the best qualified people to carry out disbudding and dehorning in keeping with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Regulations. However, where circumstances are appropriate, and the volume of animals is sufficient to justify the training requirements and support competence, non-veterinarians may be trained to administer the local anaesthetic and carry out the procedure safely and effectively.
The Regulations allow for the disbudding and de-horning of cattle by non-veterinarians under specific conditions. The person conducting the procedure must be:
- suitably experienced or trained in the correct use of the method being used
- able to recognise early signs of significant distress, injury, or ill-health
- satisfied the animal will be under the influence of an appropriately placed and effective local anaesthetic that is authorised by a veterinarian for the purpose of the procedure, and
- satisfied that the health and welfare needs of the animal are met during the procedure and recovery.
Veterinarians are responsible for the authorisation and stewardship of the restricted veterinary medicines (RVMs) needed for pain relief and analgesia for these procedures.
Local anaesthetic is an RVM that can be authorised by a veterinarian for use by non-veterinarians to allow them to undertake disbudding and dehorning.
Systems & Procedures
The NZVA Policy ‘Dehorning of Cattle and Disbudding of Calves’ (members only) and its appended documents provide a detailed and best-practice approach to training and assessment of training of non-veterinarians in these procedures.
The Veterinarian’s responsibilities
Veterinarians should expect to be approached from clients and non-clients to access local anaesthetic to disbud or dehorn their cattle.
Veterinarians are not obliged to authorise RVMs or provide a Veterinary Operating Instruction (VOI) for disbudding or dehorning and must not if, in their professional opinion, they decide that the people are not competent to carry out any of the following:
- the administration of the anaesthesia
- the management and handing of the RVM products
- the management of the health and welfare needs of the animal, or
- the disbudding or dehorning procedure and recovery.
Similarly, veterinarians must decline the request for RVMs for disbudding or dehorning if, in their professional opinion, they decide the animal’s welfare needs will not be met during the procedure and recovery.
Veterinarians must ensure all non-veterinarians administering the local anaesthetic, and additional analgesic(s) where it is deemed necessary by the veterinarian, have the appropriate skills and knowledge for it to be effective.
Veterinarians must be satisfied that all non-veterinarians performing the disbudding or dehorning have the appropriate skills and knowledge to safely and correctly carry out the procedure using the chosen method.
Training and competence assessments of non-veterinarians should be documented.
Veterinarians must be satisfied that the non-veterinarians administering the local anaesthetic can recognise adverse events and know how to manage them effectively.
Veterinarians must comply with the requirements for authorisation of an RVM.
Veterinarians authorising RVMs for disbudding and dehorning must be competent and have sufficient experience in the related field of veterinary practice.
In addition, for dehorning procedures veterinarians should consider the following:
- The potential for horn development to begin from 4-6 weeks of age at which stage using a disbudding procedure may be inappropriate. This also highlights the importance of appropriate training and education of non-veterinarians.
- There is likely to be a higher welfare risk associated with the procedure.
- There is likely to be a need for increased analgesia which may necessitate analgesics or sedatives under veterinary supervision in addition to local anaesthesia.
- There is a need for appropriate restraint from animal welfare and health and safety perspectives.
- There is an increased requirement for post-operative assessment and care.
- That different training requirements and a reduced frequency of exposure to the procedure may make non-veterinarians’ competence more difficult to maintain.
- The requirements under Section 58 of the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018: Dehorning Cattle Beasts.
Employers of veterinarians and allied veterinary professionals should ensure that:
- Veterinarians and LAVTs are appropriately trained on the topic of disbudding and dehorning.
- The appropriate tools and resources are made available for easy compliance with the expectations with the Regulations, the Code and this statement.
- Authorisations and VOIs for disbudding and dehorning comply with the relevant ACVM requirements and the Code of Professional Conduct.
- Code of Professional Conduct
Any analgesic or local anaesthetic drugs (or both) administered with the aim of providing significant alleviation of pain (Animal Welfare Care and Procedures Regulations 2018)
The removal of the horn or part of the horn (including any regrowth after disbudding) from a cattle beast by amputation, but does not include:
- Removal of the hard insensitive tip of the horn resulting in a blunt hard end, or
- Removal of an ingrown horn within 3cm of the point where the horn touches or breaks the surface of the skin or touches the eyelid or surface of the eye.
The removal of the horn bud in young calves when it is still free-floating in the skin layer above the skull. Attachment of the horn bud occurs from around 6 weeks of age.
Additional advice and recommendations to encourage veterinarians to maintain, or aspire to, high standards of professional conduct are identified by the word ‘should’.
Denotes minimum standards that veterinarians are expected to meet.
The administration of RVMs with analgesic properties such as Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatories, Alpha-2 agonists and Opioids.
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