Castration and dehorning of cattle

The AVMA recognizes that castration and dehorning of cattle are important for human and animal safety when cattle are used for agricultural purposes. Because castration and dehorning cause pain and discomfort, the AVMA recommends the use of procedures and practices that reduce or eliminate these effects. These include genetic selection when appropriate and use of approved or AMDUCA-permissible clinically effective medications whenever possible. Studies indicate that preoperative use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and local anesthetics reduces pain and distress associated with castration and dehorning.

  • Both dehorning and castration should be done at the earliest age practicable.
  • Disbudding is the preferred method of dehorning calves. Local anesthetic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be considered for other dehorning procedures..
  • Elastrator rubber banding techniques have been associated with increased chronic pain and should be discouraged. High tension-banding systems may be used with appropriate veterinary supervision and/or training in those situations where surgical castration may predispose to postsurgical complications.
  • There are a number of acceptable castration techniques utilized by the cattle industry. The castration method used should take into account the animal's age, weight, ​skill level of the operator/technician, environmental conditions, and facilities available, as well as human and animal safety.

Research leading to new or improved techniques that reduce or eliminate pain and distress associated with castration and dehorning, or development of viable alternates to castration and dehorning, is encouraged.

Literature reviews

Welfare implications of castration of cattle
Welfare implications of dehorning and disbudding of cattle

​​Additional resources

Extralabel drug use and AMDUCA (FAQ)