I thought it was illegal to put cattle with horns into a sale ring. But seemingly not at the present time.

I have seen no end of animals with mature sets of horns coming through a number of sale rings in Northern Ireland over recent weeks and months.

I wouldn’t have a horned animal about me.

First-off, they look unsightly. But, more importantly, I think they are a health and safety risk – both to other cattle and the human beings managing them.

These risks might be quite low during the spring and summer months when cattle are at grass, but the thought of having to go into a crowded pen and pick out an animal amongst others – some of which have full horns – has risk written all over it.

Moreover, the damage that a horned animal could do to its herd mates, again in a penned situation, could be considerable – in certain circumstances.

Rules on horns

Obviously, the previous rules in place to the effect that all animals must be de-horned have been relaxed.

Personally, I think this was a retrograde step. If I was Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, I would it make it my business to reintroduce regulations that make de-horning a mandatory requirement in short order.

Some breeds of cattle are naturally polled. The Aberdeen-Angus is the most obvious breed that comes to mind in this context.

But the reality here is that breeders, over the years, have identified specific animals with this trait and preferentially bred from them.

And they did this for a reason:It is so much easier to manage cattle that do not have horns – full stop.

I think I am also right in pointing out that it is now possible to select naturally polled Holstein blood lines.

No doubt the animal welfare groups would make the assertion that de-horning is an unnecessarily painful process. Well it’s not, if the procedure is carried out properly when animals are young.

In my opinion, not to de-horn cattle is an example of ‘lazy’ farming.

Yearling plus cattle, with full sets of horns represent a welfare issue, both for the animals themselves and those who have to work with them.

Moreover, I get a sense that farmers putting this type of animal into a sale yard are also de-valuing their own stock.

No matter how good an animal is, in terms of its weight, flesh cover and general condition, I would always be of the view that people buying such stock will have fully accounted for the ‘horn issue’ as the cattle in question go through the ring.