That’ll Make You Horny

The worst part about keeping goats is ensuring that they don’t grow horns.

Really beautiful

Really beautiful

Goats with horns can be a danger to themselves, to each other, and to their humans.  I’ve heard stories about goats playing and accidentally goring a herdmate, getting caught in fences overnight, and harming the humans who come in to feed or care for them.

Although horns can be really beautiful, I cannot stress enough how much easier and safer it is to avoid them altogether.

But, back to it being the worst part.

Disbudding is done by using a disbudding iron and restraining the kid in a restraint box. Goats HATE being restrained, so you are just as likely to get as much howling from a kid from merely putting it into the box as from the application of the iron.  It is important to shave the kid’s head thoroughly (more howling) first to ensure that you can clearly see the buds.

It is important to use some Owe-Eze Herbal Tincture (or some other preparatory pain treatment) about 30 minutes prior to disbudding–this will provide the kid with some pain relief.  You might also use Molly’s Marvelous Herbal Salve (or similar salve) starting the day after disbudding to help with the healing.

It is even MORE important to know that most rural vets offer this service for around $15/goat kid.  You want to ensure that the vet has experience with this first and, if so, feel free to let them go through this process for you, because it totally sucks.

If you look closely, you can see the nubs

If you look closely, you can see the nubs

But the MOST important part is knowing WHEN to disbud the kids.  As soon as the kids are born, we start feeling their heads every day for the presence of the nubs.  As soon as those hard little nuggets appear, it is time to disbud.

We learned the hard way that kids should be disbudded as soon as THEY are ready, not when it is convenient for us.

The first time, we took both kids to the vet for disbudding and one went very smoothly and the other, it turned out, had progressed beyond nub-stage and had started growing horns that were too far gone to disbud.

I'm horny

I’m horny

While it is possible to remove actual horns, it is not recommended as they are very much an extension of the skull and the procedure requires anasthetic (not only costly but also tremendously invasive) and actual surgery.

We ended up giving our horny goat away to a friend who keeps other horny goats.  They are all very beautiful, but you couldn’t pay me enough to get into their enclosure with them, much less take them out for the lovely walks we enjoy almost daily with our goats here.

From Fiasco Farm, “In the long term, disbudding will ensure that they not only have safer lives (less likely to injure others) but they will also make better herd mates, and safer pets and companions, thus helping to guarantee they can live out their lives in good, loving, caring, permanent homes. Goats with horns can end up in the auction/sale barn because they injured their herd mate, owner, or owner’s family, and could end up living out less then ideal lives, or even being slaughtered. It’s certainly better to go through a one time, ten-second, painful experience, than for a herd animal to be penned, or tied out alone, by themselves for the rest of their life, or worse yet, dead.”

But disbudding is an imperfect process and, sometimes, the horns grow in anyway.  Most often, what grows is a scur, or a partial horn, and these need to be carefully watched.

This is more common with bucks than does because of their higher levels of testosterone, but it can happen with does as well.

The Lopsided Scurs

The Lopsided Scurs

Of our current group of kids, the two bucklings have started growing lopsided scurs (which, I may need to use as a band name) and there is really nothing to be done about that except keep an eye on them.

As the scurs continue to grow, there is a possibility that they could curl around and grow right into the goats’ skull (which is bad).

If this threatens to happen, we would then need to trim the scur, a little at a time, to protect the goat from his own growth.

No bumps on this belfry

No bumps on this belfry

In the meantime, our does appear to have been successfully disbudded and the lopsided scurs sported by the bucklings, while undesireable, are insanely cute.

D'oh!

D’oh!

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About applewoodfarm

Restaurateur, farmer, bartender, beekeeper, friend, wife, mother, dog lover, cat tolerater, chicken hypnotizer, blogger, and sometime yogi
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5 Responses to That’ll Make You Horny

  1. ccm989 says:

    Anything being done to breed goats that are naturally horn-less?

    • A hornless goat (or “polled” goat) doesn’t occur naturally. Goats can be polled through genetic manipulation, but it isn’t recommended.

      A study from sometime around the mid-1940s connected the polling gene to hermaphrodism and potential birth defects. The breeding of polled goats to one another is similarly discouraged for the same reasons. That being said, the study is verging on 80 years old and not much new material has come out on it.

      And, like disbudded goats, polled goat are also susceptible to scurs.

      As much as I’d love to see goats evolve into naturally hornless creatures (to save both them and us from the disbudding process), I don’t imagine it will happen with the Boer-Saanans we currently keep.

  2. Denny144 says:

    Lopsided Scurs! I love it!

  3. Bill says:

    Let me offer a few words in defense of horns. We raise Boers and we’ve never de-horned a goat, nor has anyone else I know. It may be more important with dairy goats, but we’ve never had any issues created by horns, other than one goat who got her head stuck in the woven wire fence (twice!). We’ve had lots of goats over many years and only one who was dumb enough to do that (her time stuck in the fence may have been humiliating, but she was physically unharmed). Goats with horns (as long as they’re tame and unafraid of people) are also much easier to handle (our son called their horns “handles”). Having said all that, safety should be a primary concern so people should carefully assess their own situation, but in our case we’re pro-goathorns. Just my two cents worth…

    • That’s so nice to hear, Bill. Our friend who took Ramyu into her small herd also has all horned goats and doesn’t have much trouble. For us, the horned goats were WAY too challenging. Before Cindy died a few years ago, she would trap me against the wall between her horns when I came in to feed her. It wasn’t aggression, but it was crazy dangerous. Ramyu would Ram us, playing as though we were also goats, and every once in awhile, the ramming motion would start low and move upwards. Our fear of that movement becoming an unintentional GORE was profound, especially when the kids were in there. Trust me, if we felt comfortable with horns, we’d love nothing more than to let them stay!

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