Adding Value to Calf Disbudding
August 2023

Calf disbudding can be a time consuming procedure at a very busy time of year on farm. Our Vetora technician teams offer a high quality, fast and efficient calf disbudding service. This enables farm staff to be able to get on with other important tasks elsewhere on the farm.


Dehorning is best performed when the calves are young. Ideally when they are at least two weeks old and not older than six weeks. There is also a reduced fee for disbudding calves younger than 6 weeks of age.


Our Vetora technicians will visit your farm and disbud your calves in groups. This is to ensure that the calves are not too old, meaning less burning causing less distress, and risk to the animals.

All the calves are fully sedated and then given a local anaesthetic nerve block to provide short term pain relief, during and after the procedure. The disbudding is performed with either an electric hot iron or gas dehorner. Following this antibiotic spray is applied to the area immediately afterwards.

You can also choose to give the calves an anti-inflammatory pain relief injection which provides longer lasting pain relief for 48 hours after disbudding. Calves receiving anti- inflammatory show less irritation to the wound site, less stress and will return to full feeding much faster.


Adding value to calf disbudding visit

At the same time as disbudding, our trained technicians are able to perform a number of value add procedures on the calves whilst they are sedated.

  1. We like to begin the calves’ vaccination programme at this stage and can immunise against Clostridial diseases (Covexin 10 in 1).
  2. Vaccination for Bovine viral diahrroea (BVD) can also be started.
  3. Check for the presence and removal of extra teats.
  4. Ear notch sampling of calves for BVD testing and or DNA testing. This is a very simple task whilst the calves are all sleeping. Ear notching all heifer replacements for BVD is best practice for ensuring BVD virus positive (PI) animals don’t get into the herd as two year olds. From Bulk milk testing for BVD many of our dairy herds show recent BVD exposure at levels which make producing Persistently Infected (PI) animals a real possibility. Identifying any PI calves at a young age saves unnecessary costs on rearing any BVD virus positive calves.
  5. Detection of calves with navel infections, navel hernias, facial abscesses, ear tag infections is also routinely carried out whilst they are sedated.
  6. NAIT ID tags can also be inserted by farm staff while the calves are still sleeping.

What do you need to provide for us?

  • Calves in clean pens
  • Power supply? Let us know if there is no power available in certain calf sheds and we can also bring a generator or use gas dehorners.
  • No milk. Please do not feed your calves any milk in the three hours prior to sedation and disbudding.
  • Shelter. It is important that the calves can go undercover after the dehorning if rain is on its way. If it is raining, or going to rain in the next 24 hours and there is no shelter available for the calves we might have to postpone for another day.

Dairy NZ state on their website that “Sedation results in low stress disbudding for calves and handlers”.