Short communication: Calf body temperature following chemical disbudding with sedation: Effects of milk allowance and supplemental heat.

Vasseur, E., Rushen, J.P., and de Passillé, A.M.B. (2014). "Short communication: Calf body temperature following chemical disbudding with sedation: Effects of milk allowance and supplemental heat.", Journal of Dairy Science (JDS), 97(8), pp. 5185-5190. doi : 10.3168/jds.2013-7519  Access to full text

Abstract

The use of caustic paste combined with a sedative is one of the least painful methods for disbudding. It is recommended to disbud at as early as 5 d of age. However, the sedative xylazine reportedly causes a decrease in core temperature. Furthermore, young calves do not thermoregulate efficiently. We investigated the effects of disbudding calves at 5 d of age using caustic paste and xylazine sedation on body temperature, activity, and milk intake of 46 individually housed 5-d-old calves in a 2 × 2 factorial design, with milk fed at 4.5 L/d (low-fed calves) versus 9 L/d (high-fed calves), with or without a heat lamp. Body temperature, calf activity (standing time), and barn temperature were monitored continuously using automatic data loggers on the day of, before the day of, and the day after disbudding. All calves were injected intramuscularly with 0.25 mL of 2 mg/mL xylazine 20 min before disbudding (dose: 0.12 ± 0.003 mL/kg of BW). We found that the body temperature of 5-d-old calves decreased immediately after the injection of the sedative xylazine. The body temperature of calves decreased 0.9 ± 0.09°C and it took 3.8 ± 0.32 h to climb back to the preinjection body temperature. Calves that were fed the lower amount of milk, received a higher dose of xylazine (mL/kg BW), or were disbudded in a colder environment were more affected by body temperature variations (lower and longest decrease in body temperature and higher magnitude). Calf activity recovery followed the pattern of body temperature recovery. Milk allowance and supplemental heat did not help enhance recovery during the 6 h following the procedure. The disbudding procedure did not affect milk intake but calves with less body temperature decrease or kept in a warmer environment drank more milk following disbudding. Low-fed calves were overall more affected by the procedure than high-fed calves during the disbudding day and the following day (greater decrease in body temperature and drank less in the colder environment). Providing a high-milk diet is a suitable option to help mitigate calf discomfort due to the disbudding procedure, whereas using a heat lamp does not seem to help, at least in a mildly cold winter.

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