Disbudding – Using Sedation

In the archives you’ll find my article on the Dehorning Dilemma . Because I seem to like inspiring a bit of controversy, here is a video and instruction on how producers can sedate their kids (or calves) and disbud while the animal is semi-conscious. This drug also provides pain control (analgesia).  While some of you may wonder what could be controversial about pain control when performing painful procedures on animals, I have already come under a bit of criticism mostly from professionals who seem concerned that farmers can’t learn how to do this safely and animals will die. I, on the other hand, believe that most of us have the capacity to learn and deserve these options.


9 thoughts on “Disbudding – Using Sedation

  1. I originally checked out your blog because I am interested in starting to make my own cheese. As a licensed veterinarian I was shocked to see the most recent post. Although I currently work on small animals exclusively, I have a lot of experience with cattle, mostly on the production side. I appreciate the need of producers to cut costs by doing veterinary work on their herd. Not only do I agree that farmers experienced in animal husbandry are capable of doing a number of procedures on their animals, but I think it is incumbent on the veterinary profession to assist them and make sure they are doing it the right way. I also wholeheartedly agree that animals should be given anesthesia before surgical procedures, such as dehorning, are performed. However, I do not think that any veterinarian should be providing a drug like zylazine to clients to be administered without veterinary supervision. It is an extremely powerful drug that affects the entire body, not just the brain. It causes marked changes in the cardiovascular system, especially. It is also very potent and if it were to be given IV be accident, the animal would be overdosed and potentially die without emergency veterinary care. Additionally, if an injection is given incorrectly in the rear leg then the sciatic nerve could be damaged. The animal would be crippled for life. Really, though, the biggest issue is that people are extremely sensitive to this class of drug. A mere needle prick from a syringe containing this drug could be fatal. That is why there is no abuse potential and the drug is not controlled by the DEA. Whereas I do think that producers can be actively involved with their herd’s health, it should be done with the supervision of your veterinarian not only for the animal’s safety but for the producers as well. Casey Ray, DVM

    • Hi, sorry I didn’t see this sooner! I really appreciate your comments. Part of what I hope to accomplish is this sort of objective conversation. Can you think of a viable option for larger scale producers to accomplish adequate sedation and pain control without the cost and logistical impossibility of having a licensed veterinarian present? Thanks!

      • I just randomly saw your reply. To answer your question two options I would suggest would be to 1)have several producers in the area pool their resources and bring the animals to one location where a vet could supervise, but not actually perform, the procedures. This would be ideal side work for a retired but still licensed veterinarian. Or, 2) learning how to administer local anesthesia in addition to a longer term pain medicine such as banamine can provide very effective intraoperative and postoperative pain control. It is, after all, the paradigm most often followed for small outpatient procedures in human medicine.

  2. Thank you for this video. When I first had goats 20 years ago I was taught to disbud without using any sedation. I am starting a dairy and I must say that this procedure was the only emotional hurdle that I was not looking forward to. I will be speaking with my vet about sedation. I understand the concern from the vet’s comments above. Unfortunately as producers the cost to have a vet on-hand for a whole day or even half day is very costly. But I do understand their concern and I wish we had easy access to a veterinarian,

    • Hi Casey, I like the idea of your 2nd option. The first isn’t viable for goats, as the disbudding time must be within a few days of birth, meaning that disbudding is ongoing and can’t be delayed. Closed herds also preclude this option. But learning to do local blocks is an excellent option in combo with pain control. Thank you for this. I think I will try to add a session, with a vet teaching it, to our goat academy.

  3. I just wanted to thank you for this! My husband and I are starting our own little Nigerian Dwarf herd on our 11 acres. I was horrified when I learned people do this to beautiful little goats with minimal/no pain management. I wanted to believe that “they really are fine” as those other videos tried to assure you (as the baby screamed in agony) but my extensive background in animal behavior and anatomy knew better. I can’t thank you enough for this refreshing method to a cruelty-free farm!

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