Why do farmers remove Hoerner from Kuehen?

Horned Cow Initiative: This is how dehorning works

Horned Cow Initiative: This is how dehorning works

Swiss farmers have their horns removed every year for around 200,000 calves. What is going on in the barn.

Leika was born polled. The approximately three-week-old calf was conceived by a semen in which the horn gene is not developed. Vet Sandra Gloor grabs the petite young animal by the frontal bone, where the horn buds usually grow. "Nothing," she says. Leika will become a medium-sized dairy cow that farmer Alois Huber wants to integrate into his 60-head herd. The Aargauer SVP-Großrat began two years ago to raise polled calves of the cattle breeds Swiss Simmental and Limousin. However, says Huber, it is a long process until a thoroughbred bull without a horn gene is bred.

Video: A two-week-old fattening muni is dehorned in the stable of the Aargau farmers' association president Alois Huber.

The majority of calves in Switzerland are still born with horns. One of them is Muneli, who is still unnamed and who stands in the ankle-deep straw on the farm behind Wildegg Castle next to Leika. Its lifetime is predefined. In around two years it will be slaughtered - then as a strong fattening bull - and sold in retail outlets as organic pasture beef. Huber passes the fattening calves on as soon as they are around five months old. He is limited to milk production.

Despite the short lifespan, Huber takes the horns of the bull. What happens here is what Switzerland is talking about before the vote on the Horned Cow Initiative, which demands subsidies for farmers who keep cows on their headdresses. "I only dehorn the Muneli because the other farmer wants it," says Huber. The customer wants this because it makes it easier to handle a bull weighing more than 400 kilograms.

She breathes a "treasure" into the animal's ear

While Leika stands shyly in a corner and watches the scene, Huber holds the little nameless bull. Vet Sandra Gloor comes over with a needle and syringe. “Can you feel the croissant here?” Asks Alois Huber. The vet dehorns almost two dozen calves every year on Huber's organic farm. Although as a farmer he could dehorn himself after a course, this is out of the question for him. “It's a routine matter,” says Huber. That's why he trusts his vet. "Sandra, how often do you dehorn a year - 100 times?" Asks Huber. "Well over a hundred," she says. In a soft voice she breathes a reassuring "Schätzu" into the calf's ear. Gloor hits the neck with the needle, injects an anesthetic and also gives the animal a pain reliever, which is supposed to work for two days.

Within seconds the calf loses its grip and jerks one of its four legs to take the last few steps in the straw. Then it is overwhelmed and the functions of the central nervous system are dampened. The calf's eyelids go slack, then the animal lies down on the straw. It breathes calmly, only its ears are still twitching.

The buds are scorched away at 600 degrees

Huber shaves off the hair around the croissants. "So that it smells less strong and burns less hair," says veterinarian Gloor. With two more syringes, she numbs the base of the horn on both sides. Then the vet grabs the fuel rod with a black plastic handle. Its iron head has now been heated to 600 degrees. She kneels down next to the motionless bull and burns out the horn buds, which are invisible from a distance, with circular movements. The horn and leftover hair are scorched, light smoke rises, there is a smell of burned hair. A small wound remains, which farmer Huber disinfects.

Patrizia Andina from the office of the Society of Swiss Veterinarians (GST) says: “With correct and early dehorning, the blood supply from the horn system is cut off. The horn system dies afterwards. " The association fears that acceptance of the initiative would lead to farmers building more tying stalls again, as was the case in the past. "We weight the loose housing more than the horning of the cows," says Andina. That is why the veterinary society speaks out against the horned cow initiative. Shortly after the vote, however, a study by the University of Bern will be published, which examines the pain as a result of dehorning in calves. "Depending on the result, the future practice of dehorning will have to be discussed," says Andina.

After dehorning, the little bull lifts its head. Even wants to get up, but immediately slumps back to the ground. "I put it down correctly," says Alois Huber, and supports the animal on the side with straw. For the farmer, the inspection begins in the days after the dehorning. A crust will form over the wound. Flies would often nest beneath it, he says. That is why he has to remove the crust regularly. “It's extremely fast and the maggots eat their way into the meat,” says Huber.

Despite all concerns, the Aargauer finds dehorning unproblematic. The alternative would be economically unattractive. "I would have to reduce my livestock by around a third if I decided against dehorning," says the SVP canton politician. He rejects the horned cow initiative because direct payments should not be regulated through a constitutional amendment. Nevertheless, he gets a little rapt when he talks about Armin Capaul, who managed the initiative almost single-handedly: "He was almost forced to launch a popular initiative."