Removing the horns (dehorning) or horn buds (disbudding) of cattle is considered routine practice. Dehorning or disbudding is performed to reduce the costs associated with muscle (beef) bruising and hide (leather) damage, for ease of handling and to reduce the risks of injury to cattle, stockpeople and working dogs. A hot iron, knife or sharpened scoop is used to remove the horn. As the area at the base of the horn has nerves, the procedure is painful. If it is performed, it should be conducted as early as possible preferably before the age of two or three months in accordance with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle. State legislation makes dehorning of cattle over the age of twelve months illegal unless performed by a veterinarian using anaesthetic and pain relief.

The RSPCA strongly supports the breeding of cattle without horns (poll) to avoid having to perform dehorning or disbudding. Where disbudding and dehorning is performed, the RSPCA believes that all animals must be given an anaesthetic and pain relief.

For more information visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.

Heat stress

Cattle can suffer from heat stress in hot weather which can compromise their health, welfare and production. Certain animals are more vulnerable to heat stress, including the very young, sick, heavily pregnant and those with dark coloured coats. The RSPCA believes that all animals should be provided, at the very minimum, with cool clean water and adequate shade especially in hot weather. Handling, husbandry procedures and transporting cattle should be avoided in extreme heat. 

For more information visit the RSPCA knowledgebase.