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Dehorning with Paste & 
Duct Tape

I have used the iron quite a bit, but I feel this version of the paste method is superior for young calves.  I was always afraid to use dehorning paste, because of fear of it ending up somewhere other than the horn buds, but this system really works. This method is for little calves; five to ten days of age is best, (but probably up to 3 1/2 weeks for bulls and 5 weeks for heifers.)  Dr. Naylor's dehorning paste is six dollars at 1(800) JEFFERS.

Dexter calves wearing their duct tape. Some people prefer to cut ear holes in the tape, one calf is shown each way.  Photo by Sally Schwuchow

Cut the hair around the horn, put a SMALL dab of the paste on each side, and place a single piece of duct tape over both horns, over the head, (like an Alice-In-Wonderland headband). Then put the calf back with Mom. He will not rub it into his eyes, and he will not rub it on Mom. If he's young enough, he'll think he was born with it and will leave it on for a month! The tape needs to stay on
a day, so avoid doing it on rainy days, or lock the cow/calf in the barn for the day.  Usually the tape will stay on for some time. If you are worried about a scab falling off somewhere, you can remove the tape yourself in two weeks and the scabs will be attached to the tape. 

The possibility of re-growth should be the major criterion for deciding what method to use. When re-growth occurs, its removal is often necessary, not only for esthetics, but, for some reason, re-growth likes to grow backward into the head.  It may take five years for a dehorning scur to grow into the head, but our Dexters live a lot longer than that, unlike commercial steers. Novices (and even veterinarians) often botch iron dehorning and this results in re-growth. Or, breeders wait until they get a few calves together and call a vet.
This means that at least some of the calves will be older and will need a more elaborate and painful dehorning, (usually cutting the bud off before burning the area). The scoop method is gruesome, and when used alone it almost always results in re-growth in Dexters. It also leaves the animal vulnerable to flies until it heals. The paste method is simple, and I have demonstrated this method to everyone who has purchased cattle from me. Because it is so easy, calves are dehorned in the proper time period, when it is most humane, and the incidence of re-growth has been zero.


This animal shows re-growth ("dehorning scurs") from improper dehorning with a disbudding iron.  Fortunately, the re-growth is growing away from the head.