First Time Debudding Goat Kids; Call PETA

skagit_goat_man_(WA)March 14, 2008

We raised cashmere goats for five years and never disbudded the kids. During that time we raised near 150 goats and had our own buck. All of them had horns and we had no problems. Now we've moved and have dairy goats. You can't show horned goats and no one wants to buy replacement does with horns. Yesterday we disbudded the first set of twins born this year and I can't come up with any good reason why anyone should be doing that to an animal. Why is this such an acceptable practice? Tom

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I absolutely agree with you on this Tom...I myself have 2 twin sister pygmy's and they have their horns too. I was told by many many people to have them disbudded but flatly refuse. I know that somepeople have had the misfortunate event such as being hit in an eye or a child being hurt by the horns,but we take extra caution and are extremely aware of the horns and their danger. Some people have had their goats get stuck in fencing,or other objects..but again,we take extra care in putting them in a safe environment and don't use things that they can get hurt or stuck in.
I know of a really sad story where a goat was attacked by a couple neighborhood dogs and if the goat had her horns,she would have been able to defend herself,but she sadly died of unnecessary injuries. This makes me so sad,therefore I would never disbud my girls.
It's like removing our arms as far as I'm concerned,they need them for many things...sad.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 11:58AM
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One of the horns major function is cooling during the summer. They are highly vascular and help conduct body heat away to the air. They are also major tools in social communicating. Horned goats usually gesture or have minor head butts. The dehorned does I observe at friends butt each other until they bleed. As far as protection my observations are that is something really limited to bucks with their larger racks and aggressiveness. And within the herd they are disposable; they are there to protect.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 1:34PM
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They also like to scratch their backs and other back areas with their cute to watch! Very necessary tools :)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 1:48PM
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Happy2BeeME(4a NH)

Got me on that question, I guess because some one who didn't know better thought it a good idea. A fad?

Why if you show horses without shoes they don't place. Shoes and most horses aren't a good idea in my mind either.

My goats alway keep their horns, yep you do have to look out for them and know where they are. They are also good for steering them in at night, or so I think so.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 8:32PM
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we keep the horns on the goats....but we dehorn the cows....maybe a double standard, but the goats are alittle easier to handle than the 1200 lb cows, i dont want to grab our cows by the horns, but the goats horns are easy grabbers

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 11:32PM
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littledog(z7 OK)

Tom, if I may ask, what method did you use?

We have dairy goats too; mainly Alpines, LaManchas, a Nubian here and there and a token Togg, and have always opted to disbud the kids. It's been my experience that disbudding (destroying the horn buds when the animal is young) is easier on the animal than dehorning. (Cutting off the horns after they have grown out, which includes cutting bone.) Done correctly, you are talking about 30 seconds worth of discomfort verses a lifetime of management issues.

While it can be done up to a point, breeding for productive polled goats (as has been done with sheep and cattle) is highly problamatic, leading to increased sterility and hermaphorditism. Once upon a time, you didn't worry about fences or barns; you just sent the youngest children out in the morning to roam the hills with your herd and bring them back at night, but we don't see much of that in this country anymore. Instead, the majority of goat owners are expected to keep their animals within the confines of their own property (meaning fences), and in most places are also obliged to provide some type of shelter from the elements. I don't think removing the horns from a goat started as the result of a fad, as much as it was a practical method of safely handling the animals, especially in confined, limited areas like barns and pastures.

Beeliz, that is sad to hear about the goat being attacked by dogs, but thinking that she could have protected herself if she only had horns is wishful thinking. A goat against one dog might have a chance, but once you add multiple canines, the result is almost always going to be injured or dead stock whether it has horns or not. If there is a problem with loose dogs in the neighborhood, the solution is better fencing and the addition of your own livestock guardian dogs.

There's an old saying that if you're having a problem with predators, get a dog, and keep adding dogs until you no longer have a problem. We have 3 young Anatolian/Pyrenees cross in training to replace a pair of older Komondor that are retiring. As they mature, I suspect we'll only need two, but because of their inexperience, we're working with a pair and a spare. :^)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 3:05AM
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I'm 100% for the horned goat. We only disbud our Boers if they are going to be fair wethers. We disbud all the Alpines simply because if we ever wanted to sell one would even look if they still had their horns.

To me...a hornless goat just isn't natural.

We have more "non-horned" goats than we do horned ones...but that is only because a lot of our does were fair projects for our kids when the goats were kids themselves. Now our fair rules have lightened up a little and are now allowing Meat Breeding Doe projects to have horns. I hear there is a lot of talk about allowing Market Wethers to have horns in the near future. I hope this more than just a rumor. That would then only leave the dairy goats to disbud...and I do not think that will ever change!

But on the other hand if you disbud the kid before they are 10-days old it is relatively painless and easy on the kid. You also have a greater chance in burning off the entire bud. I am sure they feel something...but I would bet they are more frightened about 2-grown people holding them and placing a hot sizziling / crackling contraption on their head (and being away from the other kids) more than actually feeling excutiating pain.

When we disbud, the kids quit screaming the minute they are let down and are back into their pins with the other kids. Now if they were screaming due to pain...they would not stop so my opinion of course.

But like the majority of the ones that have posted already...if there wasn't fair rules to abide by and if the dairy goat market favored horned goats...I would throw away the disbudding iron and never disbud again.


Here is a link that might be useful: Our goats

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 6:04AM
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little dog, we used an x-30 dehorner and disbudded them at 1 week of age. It is only a short time of discomfort and they are back to normal by days end. But I question myself about why I'm taking off a very important feature of the goat anatomy. At least with castration there's a reason in most cases. We have a friend with sufficient land to not castrate his buck kids and keeps them separate from the does. Their meat is great. But I just can't come up with an asnwer for the debudding beyond the fact that AGDA does not allow horned goats to show (but they can be registered). And I don't think that people who regularly didbud their goats are cruel evil people. It's just their herd management style. I just can't convince myself that it's good or neccessary for our set up. We do have a Maremma guardian dog. Everyone enjoy their new kids! Tom

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 9:40AM
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littledog(z7 OK)

Yes, but Boers were originally developed in a country that relied on the ancient child labor/goat herd system. The animals were loose but supervised in wide open spaces all day, rather than confined within a fenced area with plenty of room to spread out, and for lower ranking animals to escape their tormentors. From what I've seen, I'd say it's only lately, with the rise of popularity that meat goats have with the show crowd (slowly but surely displacing that fragile, fussed over animal formally known as the "Show Sheep") that disbudded/dehorned wethers are becoming the rule at shows. Originally, all classes of Boers had to have horns; they could be tipped, but the horns were scored as part of it's breed character; breeders wanted the animal to be as close as possible to the ones that originally came from South Africa. But over the years, that attitude has relaxed as people realize that horned animals present some unique management issues without any equitable benefits, especially when you are talking about a relatively inexperienced Junior keeping one or two wethers.

If you've ever seen an animal with an eye nearly gouged out from the careless toss of a (horned) head, or worse, seen a once beautiful milker selling for meat prices because half her udder has been permanently damaged from one of her horned herd mates jostling for position, (horned goats don't only posture and tip their heads, they will also reach up under another animal and lift it from behind), you would understand exactly why serious dairy goat herds want only hornless animals.

If someone has disbudded a kid that is still vocalizing, examine the burn ring again; it should be dry and copper colored. If it appears "wet" around the edges, you'll need to go back and lightly re burn that area, as the tissue has not been sufficiently cauterized. If you see any part of a white ring, give it a baby aspirin, or call a Vet for some banamine, as you have probably applied too much pressure and burned through the skin to the skull. But done properly, disbudding takes less than 30 seconds, and the kid shows no discomfort afterwards.

What it boils down to is that different people have different management styles. For example, I would not use an animal's horns as a handle anymore than I would twist it's tail to get it to start walking. I prefer to either train it to walk beside me with a hand under the jaw to guide it, or to follow behind me. I like knowing that my young nieces (like all three of my now grown daughters and their friends before them) are safe around our animals, and I especially like the overall calming effect that a lack of horns has on our animals. But that's just me, naturally, YMMV.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 10:41AM
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littledog(z7 OK)

"And I don't think that people who regularly didbud their goats are cruel evil people. It's just their herd management style. I just can't convince myself that it's good or neccessary for our set up."

Exactly. I was typing my response to Brian while hustling in and out of the house warming milk, making bottles, and measuring feed. Just now got a chance to go back and read it, and saw your post Tom.

We use the Rhinehart X50 with a goat tip; if you're going to be doing many animals a year, it's worth it. The most we've done at one farm is 32, and the most in a day was 70 (four different herds). My personal experience is the X50 maintains the correct temperature for a longer period of time, allowing you to easily do a dozen one right after the other without having to wait on the iron. I've seen many, many scurs and incomplete burns (leaving a "cool spot" on the ring) that resulted from using the lighter weight irons, but then, that's as much the fault of the operator as the tool.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 12:07PM
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We disbud all our goats unless we have a meat or draft customer that specifically wants horned goats. Pack goats and draft goats should always have their horns for cooling, especially in warm climates. ADGA requires dehorning because the horns are dangerous. Several of the goat owners up here have had udders damaged by horned goats. We disbud our Boers simply because we mix them with the Nubians. We went to a program given by the Mother of Boers in the US. She has had goats that learned to break the legs of other goats using their horns--they get the legs between the horns and twist their heads to break the legs of the "opponent" goat. She told us never to keep a horned goat with less that two fingers space between the horns at near-maturity--cull 'em. We won't mix the horned goats with the dehorned ones so if we have a request for a horned goat, we keep the nearby but separated. When we do disbud, the kids seem to be none the worse for the procedure, zero recovery time. My wife had trouble trying to be gentle when we first started, but when I took over the process, it is over in a few seconds and the kids are back playing with the others immediately.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 2:15PM
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I have had dairy breeds of goats off and on for 40 years. I wouldnt have one with horns. As has been stated in previos posts, there are too many good reasons for disbudding and not many for rfetaining horns. It is more traumatic to the new keeper than to the animal. I even disbud the animals intended for slaughter as they might not end up thatway.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 3:35PM
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No major disrepsect to AGDA, well maybe, but that organization sees a goat as a life support system for an udder. I've been to AGDA shows where the participants want their goats to have as full a bag as possible when they enter the ring. So they delay the milking to the point of having to use some type of tape or putty to seal off milk leaking fromthe teat orifice. The goat is uncomfortable but too bad, it's almost show time! So IMHO using AGDA as a reference holds no weight.

Don you say you disbud your Boers because you keep them with your Nubies. Well it could be said your management sytle is the problem, not the goats' horns. You could have just as easily left the horns on the Nubies. And yes goats, mainly bucks, have horn spacing that is very useful in fighting and breaking legs of other goats and people too. So you manage to minimize being the cause of the problem and cull or separate especially aggressive animals. For two goats my conclusion is that one acre is the minimum amount of land to allow for their proper management as livestock. I've never had more than 8 does and a buck and they had 3+ acres of managed pasture. We have a friend that has 300 horned goats spread around about 30 acres. There is plenty of socialization between those does trying to be queen but no injuries, aborted pregnancies, or one eyed children in the 10 years we've know him. He also has one or two pens with between 6 and 10 bucks. They have discussions at times but again none of the horror stories I often hear from others.

Fancifowl, how many goat or people injuries have you personally had dealing with horned goats? How many people do you know that have suffered serious injury due to horned goats?

Now I know these differences of opinion aren't going to be settled here. But having people who have never managed horned goats tell all the horror stories about them is like having someone who has never raised children give me practical pointers on raising mine. And yes, I did disbud another yesterday and have two to go. But when we start raising our own doe replacements they will be horned. Anyhow, enjoy the new kids.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 7:51AM
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littledog...I agree with you that Boers come from a place where the goats are Sheparded like the old ways; but that doesn't have a thing to do with them being aggressive and injuring other goats with their horns.

This dilemma is just like anything is a preference. There are probably a hundred reasons for and against horns on a goat; but it comes down to your own management style and what works for you. If you have aggressive goats or do not have enough room for them to spread out...disbud everything. Before you do though...check out the breed standards if you plan on showing any animals. You won't win to many shows or classes with a hornless Boer buck.

I belong to at least 3 goat specific groups that a good portion of the list makes a living from raising meat goats. I have read about every kind of problem you can imagine involving goats (pnemonia, hoof rot, FKS, polio, bloat, entertoxemia, CL, CAE etc, etc) name it. Not one post in the last 6-months have I read about a goats udder being torn up by another goat. I know it happens, just haven't read it happening in on these lists. I have read several posts about a goat getting their horns hung up in a fence...put that is a "management issue" with the owner.

If you have an aggresive goat with horns and it is causing problems, cull it. It isn't aggressive just because it has horns. If it didn't have horns it would still be butting and rearing up.

The matriarch of our herd is a hornless goat. Our Alpines have been (not currently) in with the horned goats without any funny business going on.

This is a good discussion! I personally prefer a horned goat. They look like goats. I love my hornless goats just as much. If I ever have the misfortune of having a goat killed or mangeled by a horned goat or worse yet...a person injured by my horned goats...I may join you on the other side of the fence. Until then...I will enjoy the majestic horn on the goat as the good Lord intended them to be.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 5:17PM
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I have 3 wethered nubians, one very dominant guy. He will take the legs of either of the others and catch them in his horns, bring them right to the ground and many times left them limping. I am extremely lucky we have had no broken bones. I have seen him ram them in the side so hard they have come off their feet. Spring is here and now comes the head butting. Last year big guy ended up with major eye trauma due to the butting (pay back). When the vet comes for examines we put collars on them so we can contain them to the fence and the other two will try to grab the others collar with their horns. When they did succeed they would drag each other around. Now we have to put the collars on one at a time, treat them, take the collar off, put it on the other so on and on. I've learned never to turn my back to any of them, to them I am a play thing and the matter of which they play are with their horns. They are sweet and loving but very powerful. I take a rubber strap in with me at all times and will catch them in the nose if they get to rough. With all the extra work, with some injuries and scares I would never think of taking the horns off.

On the other hand people "cut" the ears and tails of their dogs for show or because they are cuter. Declaw cats so they can't dig their furniture. Breeders surgically cut the vocal cords of their dogs because they can't stand the barking while breeding them to death. We make the rules...GO FIGURE.

With that being said, I guess it's the preference of the owners.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 12:00PM
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It is against AGDA rules to obstruct the milk flow for the purpose of showing, so whoever you saw showing should have been reported. Some shows are having mandatory pre-show milkouts the day before to prevent that abuse and actually measure the milk production. We used to keep the Boers separate from the Nubians, but discovered that our hay usage dropped dramatically when we housed them together, especially in the winter, and with hay here from $8--$20 per bale, it is a major consideration.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 3:51PM
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