How to Dehorn a Goat

Which Goat Dehorner Method is Right for your Herd?

how-to-dehorn-a-goat

Learning how to dehorn a goat is just one of the tasks you need to understand before starting a breeding program. If you are preparing to keep a milking doe, breeding her each year to continue the milk supply will be necessary. After your dairy goats give birth, tagging the goat kids, castration and disbudding are issues that need to be decided. Tagging and dehorning are normally done early in a goat kid’s life, preferably in the first three to 14 days of life. Dehorning, done later in life, is much more complicated and is a surgery performed by a veterinarian. Castration is usually done by banding in the first weeks of life. Pet goat owners may choose to wait until later to castrate, giving the urethra more time to mature. This can lessen the chance of urinary calculi forming later in life. In addition to these early decisions and lessons, the routine care also needs to be learned. Regular worming, vaccinations, and goat hoof trimming will need to be taken care of on a regular basis.

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Learning How to Dehorn a Goat

Holding the sweet and small goat kid in your arms is a joy. It is probably the best part of raising goats. And then the harder parts of goat rearing arrive. Tagging the babies with your farm tags and state or local herd tags isn’t too bad. Some farms can skip this entirely if the animal is not leaving the property for shows or markets. Castration should be done at some point for any bucklings that will not be used as breeding stock. Male goats that are not castrated can be very hard to handle when they mature. If raising the kids to be sold as meat animals, castration can often be skipped. And then we must consider what to do about horns.

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The horn bud is located at the whorl in the goat hair on top of the head.

Disbudding or learning to dehorn a goat kid is something that should be shown to a new goat owner. There are many arguments for and against disbudding. Those in favor of dehorning will recommend that it be done early. The later you wait the more likely the dehorning procedure will not completely stop the horn bud from developing. A livestock veterinarian or a trusted goat mentor or experienced breeder can show you how to take care of this procedure. I will warn you that it is not for the faint hearted. The kids will scream as if you are killing them. I have no doubt that the procedure is painful. Learning how to dehorn a goat properly before trying it for yourself is very important, for this reason. Done correctly, the process is quick, and the goat kid is back nursing his doe in just a few minutes.

What Tools Do You Need For Dehorning a Goat ?

A Disbudding Box

Disbudding Iron

Ice bag

Baby Aspirin

Tetanus Antitoxin Injection

The disbudding box is a wooden box, not much bigger than the goat kid. The kid fits snugly into the box and the head is placed through the cut out opening. A lid is closed leaving only the head protruding. The box holds the kid securely for disbudding and tattooing or tagging the ears. It is possible although probably not the best idea to have one person hold the kid tightly while the other person burns the horn buds with the disbudding iron. Whenever possible, use the disbudding box.

The disbudding iron is an electric tool with a handle and long metal rod that becomes extremely hot. The enclosed end of the metal rod is held against the horn bud, long enough to stop any growth, but not for too long, or infection or brain damage can occur.

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Apply the ice bag first to numb the area.

Inject the kid with the Tetanus antitoxin before beginning the disbudding procedure.

A well-stocked farm first aid kit, containing an antibacterial spray (Vetericyn Antibacterial Wound Spray is our choice), gauze, and other products should always be close at hand when working with animals.

What Are Scurs?

Scurs are smaller, misshapen horns that grow if some of the horn bud is not destroyed in the disbudding process.

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Looking down on the top of the goat’s head, the small horn projections are scurs.

Do You Have to Learn How to Dehorn a Goat ?

There is no rule that all goats have to be dehorned. Some farmers or goat keepers are against the procedure. Others prefer to leave the horns intact as a way for the goats to defend themselves. There are a few things to consider when making the decision.

  1. Having small children on the farm and safety issues of goats with large horns around children.
  2. Horns can get caught on fences, feeders, and other things, sometimes leading to injury or death of the goat.
  3. The doe can injure the kids with her own horns
  4. The goats can injure each other while playing or battling for dominance.
  5. The horns can injure you while you’re milking or performing other routine care.
  6. The breed standard requires dehorning for registration or participation in breed shows.

With any invasive procedure carried out with livestock, we need to be prepared for unhappy outcomes. While it is rare to lose a goat kid to disbudding, it can happen. Early in our breeding program we lost two kids to a botched job performed by a livestock veterinarian. The goat’s horn buds were burned too deeply and for too long. They developed a brain infection and died within days of the procedure. It was, of course, heartbreaking. Although it was difficult to make the decision the following year, I did have the next batch of kids disbudded. This time I asked an experienced goat breeder to show me how she dehorned her goats. Since she raised the same breed, plus other breeds she was knowledgeable about the anatomy of their tiny heads. All went according to plan and the goats did beautifully, once they got past the actual procedure. While I lean more to the side of having the goat kids disbudded than not, I do still pause each time I have to make the decision.

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If you feel comfortable after learning how to dehorn a goat, you will be ready to take care of the kids in your herd. If you cannot get past the thought of performing the dehorning, maybe another goat breeder will take care of it for a fee.

Post disbudding care includes keeping an eye on the horn buds for any signs of infection or bleeding. As the scab prepares to drop off, minimal bleeding might be seen. Any heavy secretions or drainage should be treated by a veterinarian. While antibiotics are not routinely used for the disbudding procedure, having a farm first aid kit stocked with a good quality antibacterial spray is always a good idea.

Raising dairy goats means you have the goat milk benefits on a daily basis. Creamy milk, right from the backyard is a healthy choice. Being able to enjoy the freshness, use the milk in cooking, make cheese, and drink it chilled are excellent returns for raising dairy goats in your backyard or on your farm. Learning to do as much of the goat routine maintenance will give you more confidence when handling your herd. I think it is worth the time it takes to learn how to dehorn a goat. Do you agree?

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