Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Improving Genetic Predictions in Dairy Animals Using Phenotypic and Genomic Information

Location: Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory

Title: Breeding for polled dairy cows versus dehorning: Preliminary cost assessments & discussion

Authors
item Widmar, N J
item Schutz, M
item Cole, John

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 23, 2013
Publication Date: July 8, 2013
Citation: Widmar, N.O., Schutz, M.M., Cole, J.B. 2013. Breeding for polled dairy cows versus dehorning: Preliminary cost assessments & discussion. Journal of Dairy Science. 96(E-Suppl. 1):602 (abstr. TH373).

Technical Abstract: Dairy producers today face costs associated with dehorning heifers, including labor, equipment, and medications. Further, costs associated with decreased feed intake immediately following dehorning and possible complications requiring a veterinarian or antibiotics occur with some probability. The objective of this work is to develop preliminary cost and benefit estimates associated with selecting for polled dairy heifers, rather than dehorning. Stochastic budgets were developed to analyze the potential costs and benefits associated with selecting for polled dairy heifer genetics. Triangular distributions, commonly used to represent distributions with limited data, were used to represent probable ranges of costs for dehorning, additional costs of polled genetics (added semen cost), the likelihood of treatment of calf during the typical time period associated with dehorning, and the cost of veterinary treatment (should it be necessary). The minimum, most likely, and maximum values used for dehorning were $5.00, $7.00, and $15.00; additional polled genetics $0.00, $8.00, $20.00; probability of treatment with dehorning 0.01, 0.03, and 0.08; probability of treatment with polled 0.01, 0.02, and 0.03; and the cost of treatment, held constant across all scenarios, was parameterized by $10.00, $50.00, and $150.00. A total of 10,000 iterations were run using @Risk v 5.7. The minimum expected cost of dehorning and polled breeding, using these simplified parameters, was $5.84 and $0.47, respectively. The maximum expected cost of dehorning and polled breeding, using these simplified parameters, was $22.89 and $22.50, respectively. The mean expected cost for dehorning was approximately a dollar higher than using polled genetics, given our assumptions outlined; mean expected costs of $11.79 and $10.73 were found for dehorning and polled genetics, respectively. While total costs are quite close, given the parameters outlined here, additional sensitivity to individual farms’ genetic expenses and dehorning protocol and expenses are likely to swamp these differences. Beyond on-farm costs, industry-wide discussion may be warranted surrounding the public acceptance and attitude towards polled genetics versus dehorning of heifer calves. This topic, while admittedly simplified for the purposes of these budgets, has the potential to generate discussion surrounding the potential industry-wide costs of poor perceptions of dehorning practices. The value of avoiding dehorning may be (much) larger for the industry, and perhaps some individual farms, than initially suggested if additional value is put on calf comfort, potentially decreased rates of gain if calves are stressed at dehorning, and possible worker aversion to the dehorning process.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014