Sunday, March 20, 2011

Goat D-Day

If you’re a keeper of goats, you can probably guess what the “D” stands for (no, not the ultimate D, but the other D). 

Disbudding box, clippers and dehorner (i.e. disbudding iron).

Today was disbudding day for Nettie’s triplets.  This is my second least favorite park of keeping goats. 
Most goats are horned, although some are naturally polled - meaning hornless.  Unless you raise meat goats (which normally keep their horns), or morally object to the disbudding, you will probably have your goats disbudded.   I’ve heard the pros, I’ve heard the cons, but in our experience we feel it is best for the goats (and us) that they be disbudded.  Technically, horns can be removed after they have grown in, but it requires a vet visit, the goat to be put under and basically sawing off part of their skull.  No fun there.
Before we got goats I had read several books and done my fair share of online research, but were still unsure if we were going to let our goats keep their horns or not.  Personally, I really liked the look of a goat with horns.  When we got our first goats, Nettie & Chop Suey, they were both already disbudded, so we didn’t have to really worry about it until Nettie kidded.  Before she was due, we decided to buy a disbudding iron so we could keep un-horned goats.
Since our first disbudding experience five years ago, we’ve disbudded eleven goats with no problems.  Although we’re not as nervous as we were the first time we did it, it never really gets any “easier”.  It’s not a nice thing to do.  And the smell of burnt goat hair seems to stay in your nostrils for the rest of the day.
Two years ago we kept three wethers for butchering later on.  For whatever reason, we didn’t get around to disbudding one of them.  He was constantly getting his horns stuck in the fence and I’d have to pull his head out a half-dozen times a day.  You’d think he would have learned.  Well, I learned.   No more goats with horns – even if they are going to end up in the freezer. Also, if you are going to show your dairy goats, they will have to be polled.
We disbud our kids anywhere from 3 days to one week after birth.  Shortly after birth (or right after for some male kids) you’ll feel a hard pimple-like bump on the top of their heads; that’s the beginning of the horn.  You want to destroy the horn bud underneath before it starts to grow horn.
I’m sorry I didn’t get pictures of the actual procedure, but it takes two of us to do it and I didn’t want to screw it up just to post a picture.  If you want to see some pictures of the disbudding process, let me know and I’ll list a link or two with information on it.
Anyhow, the kids get a quick haircut around the horn buds.  This allows us to clearly see the area that needs to be burned and it also prevents a lot of smoke from the burning hair.  Then they get plopped into the box with their head sticking out and I’ll straddle the box & hold their head securely while Paul does the actual disbudding.  The tip of the iron is round, but you don’t just press it on the skull, you have to kind of “roll” it around on its edge.  I’ll slowly count to ten out loud while Paul holds the iron to the kid’s head.  He’ll remove the iron & I’ll blow on the skull to cool it down a bit.  The skin underneath will turn a copper color and look like an “O”.  Then he’ll take the tip and burn the little nub at the center of the ring.  Same thing for the other horn bud.  Obviously, this is a painful procedure and there is loud goat-screaming, but after the nerves are burned the kid will sometimes stop yelling.…which is kind’a weird. 
Actually, there is much yelling even before we start the actual disbudding.  They yell when we take them out of the goat yard – Oh my gawd, where are we going and where is Mom???  They yell when we shave their head – Oh my gawd, what is that buzzing and where is Mom???  They yell when we put them in the box – Oh my gawd, what is this thing and where is Mom???
But when it’s all over and I take them back to the goat yard, they jump right to their mom, have a comforting snack & bounce around like nothing has happened. I’m in no way insinuating that they feel no pain, but I think that they recover very quickly.

Looking out at our little hornless herd, I am glad that we’ve decided to go this route and feel that it is worth the extra effort on our part and worth the twenty seconds of pain on their part (easy for me to say, I know).

1 comment:

  1. I'm still torn between horns or no horns. I just don't know if I could do it. lol