The long time debate- to dehorn or not dehorn... that is quite the question! Another one of those personally choices that every breeder has to make. However it may not be as black and white answer, even though the horns are...
As a breeder or as a family farm that has a cow or two around, you need to take a few things into consideration.
1- What is the cow's use? Are you going to milk or show? Halter train or what range cows?
2- Do you have a predator issue? Coyotes, wolves, bears, cougars....
3-Does said cow know how to use her horns? Does she already toss her head?
4- Do you have the space to accommodate for the horns or the equipment that can withstand that beating?
Our current herd is entirely dehorned...minus a yearling heifer we just bought and steers we are beefing out. We have our reasons as to why we do what we do. We don't have the predator issues, we don't generally milk, we lack the space.
Our very first cow that we bought was a 2 year old named Twainland Jasmine and her calf Twainland Morning Glory. Jasmine was a horned cow. We brought her home Missouri in the back of a Ford Ranger pickup with sides put on it. Quite the sight.
Anyway...back to the horns...
Jasmine knew how to use her horns. We had a friend of ours help unload her and she threw her head and got him right in the thigh with her horn. Not a pretty sight. Shortly after that we had the vet out to remove her horns. It was a decision that was made for safety reasons.
Let's fast forward 28 years....to July 4, 2016
The heifer we brought home last month, Wendy's E2 Richie, is 15 months old and she already has quite the set of horns. She's a beauty. When we had her in a pen with the 4 year old cow we bought, she got smashed and beat on almost constantly even though she had a way to defend herself. Richie in general is a pretty laid back, mild mannered girl. However, then comes today.
I recognize that when we bought her she wasn't fully halter trained... but she really did pretty well on a lead so I wasn't too worried when I decided to take her for a walk today. All was good and she was enjoying our little stroll around the barnyard. We stopped to do a little photo shoot, and that's where the good ended.
We were able to snap 4-5 good pictures and then she decided to jerk backwards, not something that I take lightly when I am halter training or leading a cow around in general. So naturally, I snapped back on that chain and she sprang into the air! All 4 feet off the ground, tongue hanging, and a bellow rang out! And then it got interesting...
Richie decided it'd be a good idea to come after me with her horns... we went around in circles and she threw her head around and was generally pissed at me. After a few minutes of fighting with her I was able to get things under control and get that little spit fire back in the barn in her pen.
Richie decided her fate today- she WILL be dehorned. Up until our fun episode, we had considered leaving her horns on her, but not any more. We will need to wait till later this fall when the flies aren't so bad though.
So long story short, dehorning is a safety thing. While the Dexters are a majestic horned breed of cattle, we cannot keep the horns around here.
When I taught kids in 4H why we dehorn goats, I always told them 3 good reasons: 1- So they can't hurt you, 2- So they can't hurt the other animals, 3- So they don't break your stuff. I am also a dairy goat breeder...I have registered Toggenburg and Oberhasli Dairy goat and they are also horned breeds. However, how often do you see a dairy goat in a show ring or at a dairy that has its horns? Almost never. We disbud the goat kids at a couple days old for the same reasons we dehorn the cattle.
Why have a horned breed then? Why not breed polled Dexters?
Frankly... because we can. We love this breed. It is a horned breed. Just another one of those personal decisions that you need to make when getting into this fine breed. There's a place for all types, we just happen to breed the dehorned, non-chondro, red, black, and dun ones :)