This week's tip is sponsored by Dehorning.com and features an instructional video for applying dehorning paste to young calves. See DCHA Gold Standards III for animal welfare standards regarding elective medical procedures and supportive care.
It's every ranch owner's nightmare: Your crew is caught on video performing a typical management practice such as dehorning or castrating. Then the video, shot by the undercover animal activist who infiltrated your operation, hits YouTube and goes viral. Suddenly, that typical procedure now appears shockingly sadistic to people with no direct ties to animal agriculture. The next thing you know, you're the target of harassment and hate mail. It's a PR crisis your operation - and this industry - definitely doesn't need.
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from charges of cruelty in routine animal husbandry. Ask your veterinarian to develop a pain management protocol for invasive procedures - and follow it. Train your crew in proper animal handling techniques that minimize the use of handling aids. Make it clear your operation has zero tolerance toward abuse of any kind.
Also, consider using caustic paste as a bloodless, humane alternative to hot-iron and other invasive dehorning methods. According to research from the University of British Columbia, paste disbudding with a sedative is less painful than hot-iron dehorning with both a sedative and a local anesthetic. Paste is ideal for disbudding calves less than one month of age. What's more, to a casual observer, paste dehorning appears far more benign than any other dehorning method.
Visit Dehorning.com to access research articles, pain management protocols, position statements on dehorning from various organizations and links to posters and videos. All of which is a great first step in helping protect your operation's reputation.