Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): Schwartzkopf-Genswein KS;Booth-McLean ME;McAllister TA;Mears GJ;
Publication Date: January 1, 2005
Reference: , vol. 85: pp. 131-138.


The behavioural and physiological effects of hot-iron dehorning or dehorning followed by scalpel castration were compared to control and sham procedures and to each other. Twenty-nine calves (17 bull and 12 heifer dairy) were studied. Each animal served as its own control. The control procedure for dehorning and castration involved collecting blood samples with minimal handling. The sham dehorning procedure involved restraint with a halter and being held immobile against a wall, and holding an unheated hot-iron dehorner around the horn bud for between 13-33 s. The actual dehorning procedure used the same method of restraint, but used a heated dehorner placed on the horn bud for between 19 and 52s. The control, sham and actual procedures were all performed on the same day by the same person without anaesthetic. The sham castration procedure was done to mimic the actual procedure except no incision was made. The tail was held upright and the scrotal area was disinfected. This procedure took between 13 and 70 s. The actual procedure was similar to the sham procedure, except there was an incision made into the scrotum and the testes were exposed and removed by manually applied traction. This procedure took between 21 and 79 s. For at least two hours after castration and for 30 minutes after dehorning, cortisol levels remained higher than controls. Initially, the cortisol responses did not differ between castration and dehorning. However, two to four hours after the procedure, cortisol levels were greater for castration than dehorning. Animals kicked and vocalized more during actual castration and dehorning procedures compared to sham procedures. More struggling occurred during actual dehorning than the sham procedure, but occurred less during castration than the sham. There was greater struggling and kicking among dehorned calves compared to castrated calves. Both sham and dehorned calves had higher heart rates compared to the control values. Dairy calves showed greater physiological and behavioural responses, with higher heart rates, cortisol concentrations, greater kicking, vocalizations and struggling compared to responses during the control and sham procedures. Handling differences and prior experience of dehorning could have caused the differences in responses to each procedure.

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