There is a ton of information about disbudding goats and everyone has an opinion. I’m a big fan of laying out the information and letting you make the decision that is best for you. There are a ton of pros and cons of disbudding goats. There’s also a ton for leaving the horns intact. At the end of the day, it’s your homestead, your rules.
Before we get too far into this, I have a great course on the basics of goat care. I call it Goat Crash Course: Goat 101. In this course, I explain things like types of shelter, types of feeds and hays, basic assessments and so much more! Check it out!
What Is Disbudding
Disbudding is simply removing the horn buds of a goat kid. There are several ways to do this but the two main ones are a disbudding iron and disbudding paste.
The iron works pretty similarly to a branding iron and cauterizes around the horn buds. This stops growth and seals off the area to help prevent infection. By doing this it kills the horn producing cells and prevents new horn growth. The procedure will generally look like this: shave the area around the buds, place the kid in a disbudding box, while holding their head/ears apply the iron and rock back and forth for 5 seconds. Scrape the cap away and apply blue-kote to the area. Bucks will generally require another application called a figure 8.
Disbudding paste is a caustic substance that slowly burns away at the horn and down to the skull. It will then destroy the horn creating cells. This can take 6 or more hours depending on the goat, horns, and more.
The general procedure looks something like clean the area and dry. Using gloves, apply paste to horns and place duct tape over the area. Monitor kid and be careful of letting him around other animals/ livestock. They could get this paste on them which could burn the other animal.
After 6 hours, check the site. If the tape comes off easily, wipe off left over paste and allow to dry completely before going back to mom. The biggest draw back is how the paste works. If you get this extremely caustic substance on you, you will have a chemical burn. Period. If this stuff gets on momma it will burn her, too.
With either process you can have scurs which is when not all the cells were killed and the goat grows a horn anyways. Most of the time it’s just a tiny piece of horn. Sometimes it continues to grow and can cause issues.
Pros And Cons Of Disbudding Goats
Like I said above, I’m not going to tell you one way or another which camp you should stay in. If you want to keep your goats horns intact, by all means. If you want to disbud, you could do that, too. Despite what both camps say, there is absolutely no right or wrong here.
Pros of Disbudding
Less chances of injury to self, humans, or other goats. I recently got a goat horn to the mouth while attempting to get Bella onto the milking stand. I thought she knocked out a tooth. Instead, I walked away with a good size bruise on my top lip. Bella’s horns are also the reason why we only got one doeling from Champ instead of three.
Bella rammed, flipped, and rolled Champ while she was pregnant. Champ ended up going into labor the next day and the first and third babies where not in the proper position. After talking with another breeder and the vet, they also believe that is why the kids died.
I’ve also heard stories of breaking horns off with fighting, mating, and just general goat antics. When the horn gets broken off, a lot of times it will open into the sinus cavity. This invites all sorts of bacteria into the cavity which is really, really close to the brain.
Less chance of them getting their horns hung into fencing, trees, and other impossible things that goats shouldn’t get into but do anyways. Listen, goats try to off themselves daily. If you think I’m joking, ask any goat owner the amount of times they’ve had to rescue their goat from something stupid. When you add horns into the mix, it is just easier for them to die.
Bella has gotten her horns hung up in the hay bag/net thing so many times, she has finally figured out how to get herself out. It took her two days to figure out how to get her head in and out of the fencing. But if a coyote was around when she actually got stuck in fencing, she would have been a sitting duck… well goat.
If you are looking to show your goats, they have to be disbudded.
Cons of Disbudding
Bella is the easiest goat to catch because she has a collar AND handles. But like a bicycle, those handles will hurt when jammed into your face.
Goat horns are awesome looking. As a matter of fact, I have a goat skull on my wish list and it wouldn’t look nearly as cool without the horns.
Another big con is that the horns protect from predators. Well, that and they has to have enough attitude to use those horns against a predator.
The disbudding can cause rejection. While this doesn’t happen a lot, it can happen. When Finn and Bash were disbudded, Oakley rejected Finn and we had to take care of him for several days before she finally took him back. The burning of the horns and hair can cause rejection.
It’s traumatic for the baby and for the humans. The reality is that you are taking a hot iron and pressing it into the skull of that baby. One slip and that baby can die. One jerk and you have 3rd degree burns. Not to mention screaming kid. It’s hard to handle.
Lastly and probably the most important, disbudded goats don’t cool down as well as horned goats. The horns have blood vessels that help keep the goats cool in the summer. We live in Georgia where it is hot and humid 7 months out of the year. I fill waterers several times a day because they go through it.
We Disbudded…. Until We Didn’t Anymore
When we got into goats, we drank the kool aide when it came to disbudding. It’s safer. It doesn’t hurt them. It’s fine.
But I really struggled with watching my babies in that box, panicking and screaming. Before I made the decision to “let them” keep their horns, I really paid attention to Bella. The arguments of horns getting stuck, while valid, hasn’t been a problem. The argument about safety? Yes, I’ve been popped by a goat horn…. a lot. It hurts, but not enough to relive the disbudding box.
The risk of serious injury or death from disbudded babies is a real thing. The shock of it can kill a goat kid. If you go too deep, you can puncture the skull.
The reality is that we aren’t going to be showing our goats. They are for milk, pets, and a way to make an income. That’s it. Plus I really like the way horned goats look.
Pros And Cons Of Disbudding Goats
At the end of the day, you have to make the right decision for you and your herd. There is no right or wrong answer here. I do think that disbudding paste is more dangerous than a disbudding iron but again the choice is yours. All I ask is that you make the decision based on facts. There are a ton of pros and cons to both sides and you have to live with those choices. The 104 Homestead has this to say when it comes to disbudding.
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