Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Welcome to Texas, Illinois

About 4 years ago, just before our first organic inspection, we decided to stop frying our calves little heads. It is common practice in the cattle world of the Midwest to either breed for polled (hornless) cattle or de-horn them when they are very young.

I hated de-horning. The calves were frightened and based on their screams, I am assuming they experienced pain. Last but not least, the whole procedure smelled horrific. .Keith would put the calf in a metal crate which secured their bodies while I or hopefully someone else, would hold their heads down.

Then he wielded a large electric de-budding iron and holding it over the little horn buds he applied pressure for several long seconds. A ring of burned tissue resulted and within a few weeks the horn roots died and what was left of the horn fell off.

See those little horn buds?
These are on a four month old calf

We always felt terrible doing it but all the other dairy farmers convinced us it was the only way.

One day we visited another dairy, in Indiana, and surprise of surprises...their cows had horns! So we asked many questions of that farmer and did more research and then we went cold turkey on our bovines. We stopped setting calves heads on fire. We all began sleeping better immediately.

This fine looking guy is about 18 months old.
Folks here think we are nuts...again. No one in this area keeps horned cattle but if those Texans can do it why can't we? At first we were worried they would get their heads stuck in the milk stanchions but after a couple turns, they figure it out.  But like the one kid who always has to put his finger in the light socket there is always one  cow in the crowd though that has to push the envelope or in this case, the plastic drainage pipe. Do you see Bozo?

Look closer.

We also worried they would use the horns like weapons on each other but that too was rare. Usually by the time the horns are really grown in the pecking or stabbing order is well established.

We were fearful of injury to ourselves but again Keith and I, mostly Keith, are with theses cows and or steers every day. We don't keep any bulls and do all our breeding by AI (artificial insemination)They have no reason to fear us or try to hurt us. Of course they are still animals so we watch ourselves. OK, I watch myself, while Keith watches something in the field and the cows watch something on Keith's shoes.

PS Don't worry about the tubular cow. After lifting the lightweight plastic tube way up high like a chimney cleaners top hat , and getting a good laugh from the crowd, they shake it off and move on to their next parlor trick


  1. A friend of mine raised longhorns (much longer horns than what I see here). When she took a steer to the butcher, there was only one, three hours away that could handle it.

    Seems to me cows are smarter than we give them credit for and can handle horns.

  2. I wonder what people did before electric horn debudders or elctricity...Guess they didn't drink much milk.

  3. Beh! Let them think you're insane...again ;) It's worked for me, for years. At least it keeps 'em guessing!

    Until then, know you are doing the right thing. I wouldn't be a fan of setting small cow heads on fire, either!

  4. YOU ARE 100% RIGHT. Apart from anything, they look so stupid without horns. We have some beautiful long-horned varieties here, it would be crazy to de-horn them. Only if they are in-growing should they be trimmed, and then only a few inches! Well done YET AGAIN.

  5. How nice to hear that the calves don't have to go through any more pain.


  6. Janet, our locker says our cows are the easiest to butcher as they are quite friendly and calm. My husband gets all the credit for his kind ways with our animals.

    DBD. Funny how just 60 years ago we did manage to get milk from a horned cow. So many issues are created by man alone. (but never by woman :)

    Zan, you know of course you are my insanity muse don't you?

    CRO. I know! In fact horns look so majestic I am thinking of growing a pair myself.

    Michele. Yes, we feel better about it too. We're not perfect farmers but we do keep trying to be.

  7. Loved the Bozo cow picture, very funny. I agree with you, why dehorn the cows or any animal for that matter. Wonder what Keith has on his shoes that is so interesting....I could guess, but I won't! ;-)

  8. I love these pictures. The Bozo picture is so funny. And all the cows intrigued by his shoes. Awesome. I love creatures, they always make me smile.

    Dare to be different. I'm glad that you are letting the horns grow. But not as glad as your cows are. ;)

  9. haha we're getting used to "folks thinking we are nuts" around here .. we try everything differently.. from which cattle breed to raise for meat (small Dexter breed), to how we do our gardening, to *gasp* letting our chickens and ducks free range throughout the summer without adding in egg maker pellets to their diets.. lol..

    most times people say "just watch.. you won't dehorn the heifers, until you get gored one day.. THEN you'll be dehorning them" haha

    we got a great chuckle out of Bozo.. must have known there was a camera close by lol ;)

  10. As a lay person who doesn't have cows but wants mini cows when I get my land, I was surprised to learn that with some breeds the females have horns as well as the males.

    Growing up, I always thought it was just the big, bad boys who got to have horns.

    And was always questioning why some whole herds had none.

    Thank you for clearing some of that up!! I like the horns. But then again, I like to leave nature alone as much as possible...just let her do her thing.

  11. While I am for doing things as natural as possible. One thing I do is disbud my goats. Works like dehorning your cows.. But it takes seconds and you are done. They usually are back to normal with in a few hours if that. Quicker if they have a bottle or momma right after.
    I am asked why many times.. But after getting a horn in the leg, Digging a goat out of the hay rack that had been standing on her back legs for who knows how long with them stuck, Almost breaking my fingers trying to get a goats head out of a piece of panel and seeing an udder that had been gored by another... We are in small area and the horns are dangerous. If they was roaming wild it maybe different. Goats get horns much quicker than cows. And you never know when some one is going to get the gumption to challenge the Herd Queen... And lets not forget when they all start coming in heat... Oh sweet mercy... I honestly think its a choice that varies depending on your situation and specifics.. To say one way is right or wrong is not applicable with horn or no horns... all My Opinion of course!lol

  12. YOU ARE 100% RIGHT. Apart from anything, they look so stupid without horns. We have some beautiful long-horned varieties here, it would be crazy to de-horn them. Only if they are in-growing should they be trimmed, and then only a few inches! Well done YET AGAIN.