Blindfolding calves prior to disbudding can reduce stress

Disbudding calves can be a particularly stressful job for both stockman and animal, but research from Writtle College could make the job easier.

According to work undertaken by Gemma Charlton and reported at  British Society of Animal Science conference, Southport, blindfolding calves prior to disbudding significantly reduces the time taken to complete the task.

“Blindfolding cattle during restraint and simulated husbandry procedures reduced struggling by 44% and decreased heart rate compared to control cattle with unrestricted vision.”

In the trial half of the calves were blindfolded with a 30x16cm blindfold immediately before disbudding. All calves were disbudded under local anaesthetic by the same operator. “Time taken to disbud blindfolded calves was almost half that taken to disbud those without a blindfold. Blindfolded calves took an average of just 34.4secs to disbud, compared with 66.2secs for those without a blindfold.”

While this trial demonstrates that blindfolding calves ensures they remain calmer during disbudding, it may also help prevent negative associations between humans and unpleasant procedures. However, this requires further investigation, said Miss Charlton.