Cattle with horns can be anything from an irritant to a real problem for producers. They are usually more aggressive than the polled or dehorned animals because they know they have a weapon. They can hurt other cattle by head butting them to get them to move away from feed or water. They can also cause damage by poking the other animal in the eye with the horn or scur while trying to push them away when eating out of a trough. Treating the injuries sustained by the other animals can be very costly for the producer.
It can be difficult to decide on how to remove the horns. You can simply cut them off, but this will cause the animal to bleed heavily and leave the canal open to infection. You can also band them, but this will leave the animal with horns until they fall off. It also requires a large bander for the bigger horns.
We had two bred heifers that missed being dehorned as calves and were in desperate need of having horns removed before they caused serious issues. We chose the banding option and rented a bander from the local vet. After the heifers had calved and were well bonded with their calves, we put them in a head catch and put bands on each horn. Using nose thongs, I pulled their head to the side to keep them from moving and from hitting Gregory as he manoeuvred the band into place.
Position bands properly
When banding the horns, you try to get the band down as close to the skull as possible so as to get all of the horn. You also want to make the band as tight as possible so that it completely cuts off the circulation. When the circulation is cut off to the horn, the tissue will die and the blood vessels will be closed off.
We banded the heifers’ horns a few days after they calved. We kept them in a pen up close so that we could watch them. You could tell that the banded horns caused them discomfort. They both shook their heads and paced around a bit. However, they never went off their feed and they never stopped caring for their calves. After a few hours the discomfort seemed to disappear. They only seemed to be uncomfortable when they bumped their horns into something. We turned them back out with the herd a few days later.
We branded the calves two weeks later. When we brought the cows into the corral we noticed that one heifer had lost one horn. When we put the second heifer into the chute to vaccinate her she stepped back when the chute was opened and knocked one of her horns off. It bled a little bit but not for long. A few days after we vaccinated, both heifers had lost both horns with no complications.
If we have any more animals with horns or bad scurs in the future we would chose to band them for a number of reasons. First, the bander was cheap to rent from the vet. Second, while the animals experienced discomfort, they weren’t in so much pain as to go off feed or to stop caring for their calves. And third, the bander cut off the major blood vessels so the bleeding was light and there was no trouble with flies or infection.