Cortisol responses of calves to two methods of disbudding used with or without local anaesthetic

Cortisol responses of calves to two methods of disbudding used with or without local anaesthetic
Peer reviewed

Abstract

Cattle are disbudded or dehorned using a variety of methods. In this study, plasma cortisol concentrations were used to monitor distress in 6-week-old Friesian calves during the 9 hours following disbudding. Disbudding was carried out with a cautery iron or a dehorning scoop, with or without local anaesthetic. Cautery caused a transient rise in cortisol concentrations which returned to control values within 3 hours. The cortisol response to the scoop was more prolonged, as the plasma cortisol concentrations did not return to control levels until 7.5 hours after disbudding. The administration of a local anaesthetic reduced the cortisol response during the first 2 hours after scoop dehorning. This reduced response was followed by a delayed rise in cortisol concentrations between 2 and 7.5 hours. Cautery caused less distress than the scoop. The administration of local anaesthetic had little effect in alleviating distress in calves disbudded using the cautery iron.

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