Wendell Miller: Below is a letter I sent to the Hoard's Dairyman in response to a
farm woman who writes a column for the magazine. For those who don't get
the magazine, she lamented about the difficulty in getting dehorning done
in a timely matter. She said that when you mention dehorning, it's
suddenly hard to find anyone around to help.
I am surprised that people like her aren't using polled bulls. I wonder
how many dairy farmers are aware of the selection of polled bulls that are
available. It will be interesting to see what kind of response we see on
the polled forums if HD prints my letter.
Richlo Polled Dairy
I agree with Marilyn Hershey (Oct. 25) that dehorning is a real
headache. I hate cutting horns off; I hate the smell of burnt hair; and I
hate the pain dehorning causes calves.
But the good news is that we have a lot of calves on our farm born without
horns. Every breed has a few naturally polled bulls available. If you are
milking Holsteins, Jerseys, Milking Shorthorns, or Ayrshires, or
crossbreeding with Norwegian Reds, you can find good, proven AI bulls that
are polled, and good pedigreed, polled young sires being sampled. It is
true that the best proven horned bulls are better than the best proven
polled bulls (except in the Norwegian Red breed), but there are also a lot
of horned bulls that are worse.
Our breeding strategy is to use polled young sires sampled by AI studs, and
then breed the polled heifers to the best horned bulls. We do use some
proven polled bulls, if they have traits other than polled that would help
For more information on the internet, you can join the discussion groups
PolledDairyCows http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/PolledDairyCows/ , which
is for all dairy breeds, or polljersey
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/polljersey/ ,which is specifically for
I often hear farmers say that dehorning only takes a few minutes. Maybe,
but it often doesn't get done. For instance, how many bull calves are
dehorned before they are sent to the sale barn? And how many farmers would
want a tour group of schoolchildren watching them dehorn?
Dehorning is an animal welfare issue that the dairy industry will have to
deal with. Imagine if PETA would show videos of some of the worst
dehorning jobs. I suggest the dairy industry get ahead of the issue, and
gradually move toward naturally polled. If every dairy farmers would start
using a few polled bulls, we could eliminate dehorning eventually, just
like most beef breeds have done. Unless you enjoy the smell of burned
hair, blood, and struggling with calves, using polled bulls is the way to go.