In Research: Horn Growth During Feedlot Finishing Period

Included in the research feature this month is an abstract from K-State’s Phi Zeta Research Day held in March. This following presentation was given by BCI graduate student, Elsie Suhr. The purpose of Phi Zeta Research Day is to promote research pertaining to the welfare and diseases of animals through the graduate student poster and oral presentations. These presentations are scored and the top three presentations in several areas are recognized with awards. Watch for additional abstracts from Phi Zeta Research Day to be featured in upcoming newsletters!

Authors: Elsie Suhr, Maggie Stephens, Steve Bartle, Dave Sjeklocha and Dan Thomson

Measurements being taken on a heifer upon entry to the feedlot.

Measurements being taken on a heifer upon entry to the feedlot.

Even with the increase of polled genetics, according to the National Beef Quality Audit, the prevalence of horned cattle arriving at the abattoir was 23.8 percent in 2011 — a slight increase from 22.3 percent of cattle in 2005. Horned cattle are often associated with human and cohort injury, therefore the current industry standard is to tip horns at the feedlot. Tipping is removing only a portion of the horn, but is often accompanied by pain issues. The necessity of tipping is often questioned due to these associated pain issues, however, there is no current documentation on the amount that horns grow during the feeding period.

The objective of this study was to determine horn growth during the finishing phase in feedlot cattle. Measurements taken on heifers upon arrival to the feedlot and again at the abattoir included tip-to-tip, length of one horn, and base circumference of one horn. The cattle (n = 30) were primarily beef breeds with Brahman and Longhorn influence and were on feed 194 days in southwest Kansas. Some horns were damaged during the feeding period and at the abattoir before measurements were taken. The average initial and final measurements for tip-to-tip length were 33.0 and 44.4 cm, lengths of one horn were 9.5 and 17.0 cm, and for base circumference were 13.1 and 16.2 cm, respectively. The average tip-to-tip length growth was 11.4 cm, the average length of one horn growth was 7.5 cm, and the average base circumference growth was 3.2 cm.

Animals were categorized into 25, 50, 75, and 100 percentile groups by initial measurements and growth measurement averages were compared. Measurements for tip-to-tip growth were 6.1, 16.0, 12.7, and 13.1 cm, for one horn length growth were 9.0, 7.2, 5.0, and 5.8 cm, respectively with no statistically significant differences.

Same heifer as above at the abattoir after the final measurements were taken. This particular animal had an initial one horn length measurement of 8 cm, final of 18 cm, and total growth in one horn length of 10 cm.

Same heifer as above at the abattoir after the final measurements were taken. This particular animal had an initial one horn length measurement of 8 cm, final of 18 cm, and total growth in one horn length of 10 cm.

In conclusion, initial measures were not indicative of growth during the feeding period, and horn growth averaged 1.2 cm (approximately 0.5 inches) per month during the observed feeding period. Horn growth during the feeding period should be considered during tipping decisions to decrease pain and welfare issues for incoming cattle.

Phi Zeta Day Awards:
Clinical and Applied Science Research –
Food Animal Presentations
Group B: 1st Place: Elsie Suhr

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