• Horn bud size of dairy-bred and suckler-bred calves at time of disbudding

      Marquette, Gabriela A.; McGee, Mark; Fisher, Andrew D.; Stanger, Kelly; Argüello, Anastasio; Earley, Bernadette; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Biomed Central, 2021-06-16)
      Background Hot-iron disbudding is a common management procedure to prevent horn growth in calves. The study objective was to examine effect of age, breed and sex on horn bud size of dairy-bred and suckler-bred calves at time of disbudding. Results The left and right horn bud size (diameter and height in mm) of 279 calves, including dairy-bred Holstein-Friesian (Male (M) = 88) and 191 suckler-bred (86 Charolais, CH; (M = 39, Female (F) = 47), 67 Limousin, LM; (M = 32, F = 35) and 38 Simmental, SI; (M = 22, F = 16) sired)) was measured using a digital calliper at time of disbudding. Calves were retrospectively assigned to two age categories at time of disbudding: 1), 14 to 28 days (d) old and 2), 29 to 60 d old. Holstein-Friesian M calves had a greater horn bud diameter (16.97 v.14.45 mm) and height (7.79 v. 5.00 mm) compared to suckler-bred M calves (P < 0.01), with no difference (P > 0.05) among the suckler-bred calves. Suckler-bred M calves had a greater horn bud diameter (14.46 vs 13.29 mm) and height (5.01 vs 3.88 mm) compared to suckler-bred F calves (P < 0.05). The slopes of the lines of best fit show that horn bud diameter and height increased with age (P < 0.05) for HF, SI male and CH female calves while there was no relationship with age (P > 0.05) for CH and LM male calves, or for SI and LM female calves. Linear regression of age with diameter and with height for each breed and sex showed high variability in the data as indicated by R-squared values ranging from 0.003–0.41 indicating that in the case of the diameter and the height, the weight of the fitting effect was poor. Conclusions Calf age is not a good predictor of horn bud size and recommendations for the disbudding of calves should be based on horn bud size and not on age. The implications of these findings are that calves should be disbudded while horn development is still at the bud stage and when the bud is large enough to be easily palpable/visible, but not so large that disbudding could lead to severe tissue trauma.