Lesley Irvine, TIA
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to disbud calves each year? While there isn’t a huge selection of bulls with the polled (naturally without horns) gene, this number is increasing each year.
One of the easiest ways to view which bulls have the polled gene is to download the “Good Bulls” app. From the main screen (Photo 1), select ‘Add filter’ and then scroll down to ‘Genetic Characteristics’ (Photo 2). You can then select which genetic characteristics you would like your bulls to have.
There are two options for polled bulls:
As the selection of bulls with poll genes is still a bit limited, you may not want to select all your bulls from only within this group – you still need to take into account other breeding requirements – but why not make a start? Select one or two bulls from this group that fit with your requirements and mate 10, 20 or 50 cows to start the journey towards a herd that is naturally polled with no need of disbudding.
TIA Dairy Research Facility has started this welfare-friendly, labour-saving breeding option.
And for those who don’t want to/aren’t able to download the app, just talk to your AI supplier about the options.
In the meantime (until polled dairy animals are the norm), disbudding of calves should take place as early as possible – as soon as the horn buds are detectable. While the use of pain relief is not essential, research has shown it does reduce the stress response for 2-6 hours after disbudding. If an anti-inflammatory is also used, this stress response is reduced for 24 hours (sometimes longer). This not only improves the welfare of the animal, but also reduces the negative impact on feed intake and growth rates.