Dairy Australia - Dairy information for Australian Dairy Farmers and the industry

Primary content

Learn about topics to help you manage calf welfare, including the correct method for disbudding calves, managing disease, injury and general good practices for calf welfare.

Managing calf welfare

All calves are essential for dairy farming and must be managed from birth to lessen the risk of:

  • disease,
  • discomfort to the calf, and
  • injury to animals and operator.

Dairy Australia is working across the supply chain from farm to processor to ensure that calves are managed to meet agreed industry practices and standards.

Good welfare practices for calves - more information:

  • Copy Link Disbudding calves

    Disbudding calves

    Disbudding calves is the most common practice for removing horns on Australian dairy farms.

    It is the least painful approach when done correctly. When compared to dehorning older cows, it is less likely to cause infection.

    Disbudding and dehorning dairy cows is a common welfare procedure designed to lessen injury to the animals and to handlers of dairy stock.


    Dairy Australia has been working with farmers to encourage the disbudding of calves at six to eight weeks of age, rather than de-horning cattle at an older age.

    Survey results show that most dairy farmers who disbud their calves do so at the correct age (six to eight weeks), using proper equipment.

    The following videos demonstrate how to disbud calves at less than two months of age using the hot iron cautery technique with pain relief:

    Disbudding of dairy calves part 1 - setting up

    Disbudding of dairy calves part 2 - administration of pain relief

    Disbudding of dairy calves part 3 - thermal disbudding 

    Pain relief when disbudding and de-horning

    Using pain relief when disbudding or dehorning reduces stress and increases growth rates in calves. (See Note 1 below)

    Farmers are now able to use an over-the-counter topical pain relief spray gel available from rural resellers and vets for disbudding calves.

    Tri-Solfen is applied immediately after the procedure and can be used in addition to other longer lasting pain relief options. See the APVMA PubCRIS database for new approved label instructions. Dairy Australia will provide updates as other products become available.

    About Tri-Solfen

    Tri-Solfen is an S5 drug that contains Lignocaine, Bupivacaine, Adrenaline and Cetrimide – all deemed to be of low risk to humans and safe for calves.

    How to apply

    Tri-Solfen spray-on gel solution is to be applied straight after disbudding. It has pain relief, antiseptic and blood clotting properties lasting approximately 24 hours. Tri-Solfen manages the “pain cascade” effect that follows heat cautery.

    For further information, refer to the product label.

    Where to purchase pain relief spray gel

    Tri-Solfen is largely available for purchase over the counter at local rural resellers or retailers.

    (Note 1) [1] A.J. Bates, P. Eder and R.A. Laven, ‘Effect of analgesia and ant-inflammatory treatment on weight gain and milk intake of dairy calves after disbudding’, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, vol. 63, no. 3, 2015, p. 153-157

  • Copy Link Rearing healthy calves fact sheets and calculators

    Rearing healthy calves fact sheets and calculators

    Fact sheets

    The following fact sheets are designed to supplement the information contained in the Rearing Healthy Calves manual.

    Calf management calculators

    These tools require Microsoft Excel 2007 to be loaded on the computer.

  • Copy Link Rearing healthy calves

    Rearing healthy calves manual

    Rearing Healthy Calves manual 2nd edition (2017) (PDF, 11MB)

    This is the new edition of our practical guide to all aspects of calf management from birth to weaning - A4 book 182pp

    Order your free manual here.


Dairy Feed tools

Dairy Feed Tools is a complete feed management toolset for dairy farmers and managers. Feed planning, cost and resource management backed by Australian feed and pasture data to most accurately reflect the needs of your herd

Hay and grain reports

The hay and grain report is commissioned by Dairy Australia to provide an independent and timely assessment of hay and grain markets in each dairying region. The report is updated 40 weeks per year.

More Initiatives