Disbudding and calf welfare

West-Finnish breed calves are mostly genetically polled

Around 300 000 calves born yearly in Finland and most of them are disbudded (ie their hornbuds are destroyed) before 4 weeks of age using hot cauterization.

Majority of Finnish producers do call veterinarians to medicate the calves prior operation. This is also a prerequisite for joining the national cattle heard health program (NASEVA). Also industry promotes calling veterinarians to pain medicate calves prior the dusbudding procedure. During ongoing animal welfare law renewal process one has discussed for prohibiting disbudding in the future without sedatives and local anesthetics. In aline with this, also consumer awareness is growing, and especially routine painful procedures of young animals are of concern.

However, pain medication during and after disbudding should be improved for the sake of calf welfare and health, as well as and ethical acceptance of of the painfull disbudding procedure. Use of pain medication and local anesthesia during the opration has already been studied but there is very limited information on the needed lenght of pain medication after the procedure. The effects of combination of different sedatives on the health and welfare of disbudded calves are rather unstudied area.

Disbudding manual

Disbudding manual (Nupoutusopas, available only in Finnish) was produced at the Faculty of veterinary medicine, University of Helsinki and funded by the Finnish Ministry of agriculture and forestry. The manual was written by DVM, PhD  ELT Ann-Helena Hokkanen and adjunct professor, DVM, PhD Laura Hänninen.

The manual will be updated during the ongoing project 2018 - 2020 funded by the Finnish Minisytry of agriculture and forestry (Safier and healthier sedation of calves during disbudding, Dr. Laura Hänninen)

TER­VA - Safier and healthier sedation for calves during disbudding 2018 - 2020

We wil study combinations of sedatives available to find safe and more effective sedation, that requires smaller dosages but gain better and longer pain relief than the usual combinations. We will also educate producers and veterinarians about disbudding medication and methods, and up-date the disbudding manual with new information.  

Researchers at the project

Project head, adjunct professor Laura Hänninen, DVM, PhD, Dip ECAWBM-AW, University of Helsinki (UH)

Responsible researcher Ann-Helena Hokkanen, DVM, Dip ECAWBM-AW, UH

Professor Outi Vainio, UH

adjunct professor Marja Raekallio, DVM, PhD, UH

professor Anna Valros, UH

Clinical instructor Kati Salla, DVM, PhD, UH

Doctoral student, DVM, Riikka Aho