Hereford cattle have the gene for horns, both bulls and cows. For decades, breeders have used horn nippers in combination with horn weights in order to make the horns curve down, instead of straight out. This is done for several reasons, the primary being for ease of working them in corrals, lead-ups and chutes.
The second reason is for animal and human safety. When feeding horned cattle, whose horns are growing straight out, it is rather common for eyes of neighboring cattle to get poked and humans to get stabbed.
Hereford Bull With Horn Weights
The downside to using horn weights and horn nippers is that weights fall off, horns will turn at different angles and the horns keep growing. Back in the 90’s I was able to work for the BB Cattle Company, in Connell, Washington and learned a neat trick that eliminated the need for weights and annual nipping.
Cow With Uneven Horns From Weights
First, there are no nerves in horns. They are similar to finger or toe nails. The one exception is that there are blood veins running out to the tips, which allows essential nutrients to flow; thus allowing the horn to grow.
Position Prior to Tipping
It is best to tip horns when the bulls are between 12 and 14 months of age and also be sure to tip on a day that has low barometric pressure. I have found that there is minimal blood on low pressure days and the ends are quickly seared with the iron.
Identifying The Horn Growth Mark
We use a rope halter to hold the head to the side and then bring the end back out and around the horn to be tipped. Note that the rope is placed under the horn at the location of the blood vessel. Proper pressure at the base of the horn stops the flow of blood out to the horn. In the picture above, my finger in pointing to the growth mark of the horn. This is the location where I start with the reciprocating saw. After an initial cut straight down, approximately 1/16″, I then continue at a 45 degree angle.
Horn After Tipping
In the picture to the left, you can see what the horn looks like after cutting at a 45 degree angle. I then use a horn iron to sear the end. Notice there are only a few drops of blood on the ear. The pressure from the rope and the low barometric pressure are critical. After tipping the left side, we then turn the head the other way, repeating the method of tying and tip the other horn. The entire process takes approximately 3 minutes. Back when we used horn weights, it would take 4 to 5 minutes, not counting repeated trips to replace missing weights, remove weights and annual tipping.
Horn After Searing
The picture below shows what the horns look like at completion.
Bull After Tipping
The picture below shows what tipped horns look like on a bull that is 5 years old and have not been touched.
Aged Bull With Tipped Horns
I apologize for not being able to provide a video. However, the wind was blowing so hard today that the sound would have been distracting. Perhaps when the spring bulls are tipped I will be able to video.