To be honest, I can’t answer that. This is very much a question that you need to ask yourself and really understand the pros and cons. You have to understand what it means, what it entails and what that looks like for your farm. There are also financial implications depending on what your goals are for your farm and goats. So before you jump to your answer let’s ask some questions. After that, do your own research on disbudding, techniques, etc and make your own decision.
What Is Disbudding
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.
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 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 were stillborn.
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 we have 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.
The biggest pro disbudding argument is this: Bella is our only horned goat. She has bullied and hurt almost every goat that we have. Which is why she is going to a new home in a few days. Horned goats know how to use their horns.
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 the has to have enough attitude to use those horns against a predator.
We Disbud Our Goats
We have made the decision to disbud our goats for safety reasons. I’m not going to lie, I was on the fence until I had to pull two beautiful stillborn babies out of my favorite goat. When we saw what Bella did to Champ on the cameras, it was game over. Had Bella not been pregnant she would have been sent to freezer camp.
I was still trying to wrap my head around this when I took Stella and BeeBee get disbudded. I don’t want to hurt my goats. And I want them to be able to protect themselves. But I remember all the times that Bella has hurt us, the goats, or herself and it made the decision an easy one.
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.
We will always disbud any goat kid on our farm. We will only buy goats that are disbudded. But that is our choice based on our experience.
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