Raising Goats For Dummies
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Heads up: This is an article full of goat owner jargon — we're not kidding! Okay, let's jump in.

Disbudding a goat means removing the horns when they are mere buds in a kid (baby goat). Dairy goats are generally disbudded, although a minority of goat owners prefer horns because they believe it is more natural.

If you've decided to disbud your goats, you have to consider whether to use a veterinarian, have a goat-experienced friend disbud, or do it yourself. Unless you disbud kids under anesthesia, a kid holding box is essential. This rectangular hinged box exposes just the goat's head, enabling you to disbud and tattoo without having to hold a struggling body.

You also need the following supplies:

  • Syringe with 1 cc of tetanus antitoxin, which you can get at a feed store. This will protect the kid from tetanus for 10 to 14 days

  • Debudding iron from a goat supply catalog (yes, there's a catalog for everything these days)

  • Pain reliever and anti-inflammatory Banamine, which you get from my vet. Aspirin or ibuprofen also do the trick, but you need to give them with food

  • An antiseptic spray, such as Blu-Kote, which you can get at a feed store

  • If the kid is bottle-fed, a bottle to comfort it following the procedure (and a drink for yourself, if you fancy one)

    A debudding iron burns the horn bud, causing it to eventually fall off.

    A debudding iron burns the horn bud, causing it to eventually fall off.
Follow these steps to disbud a kid:
  1. Give the kid the tetanus shot and the pain reliever. The pain reliever takes about a half hour to work.

  2. Preheat the debudding iron. Heat it until the end is red hot — about 20 minutes.

  3. Position the kid in a kid holding box so that the ear nearest the horn bud you start with is tucked back into the kid box.

    You also can recruit someone to hold the kid while you disbud. If you go that route, make sure that person is wearing heavy gloves and a long-sleeved shirt so that they don't get burned when the kid struggles. Also make sure you're available the next time they need to move a couch.

    A kid, baby goat, positioned in a kid holding box that will immobilize it while its horn buds are burned.
  4. Clip the horn area with your clippers to expose the horn bud. Clipping the hair keeps it from burning and smoke going into your eyes as you disbud.

  5. Firmly grasp the goat's muzzle, making sure it can breathe, and evenly apply the disbudding iron to the horn bud.

    A person holds the goat's muzzle while someone else holds the debudding iron to the horn buds.

    Hold the iron on the bud while applying firm pressure and gently rocking the iron for eight seconds, keeping the kid's head immobilized. For older kids or bucks who have some horn growth, allow up to eight more seconds. The kid will struggle and yell, but the process is over very quickly.

  6. Check to make sure that you have left a dry-looking, copper ring around the horn bud.

    If you don't see a copper ring, apply the iron for only another few seconds. (If you feel you need to burn more than this, give the kid a few seconds break to avoid overheating the skull and possibly injuring the brain.)

    A kid, baby goat, will have two rings on its forhead after having its horn disbudded.
  7. Remove the part of the bud inside the copper ring with your fingers. If it bleeds, you can cauterize it by applying the disbudding iron lightly.

  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 with the other horn bud. Never use a disbudding paste on a goat. Because of their nature, goats will rub the caustic substance on each other, which can lead to chemical burns or even blindness — yikes.

  9. Remove the kid from the box and spray antiseptic spray on the disbudded area, taking care to avoid the eyes. When the process is over, give the kid its bottle or put it under its mother to nurse. Try not to let the doe smell the kid's head or she may try to reject it. Poor thing's been through enough already, wouldn't you say?

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Cheryl K. Smith has raised a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf and Oberian dairy goats under the herd name Mystic Acres since 1998. She is the owner of karmadillo Press and is the author of Goat Health Care, Goat Midwifery, The Best of Ruminations Goat Milk and Cheese Recipes, and Raising Goats: Some Essentials.

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