by Debby Riddle
Dehorning Goat Kids, Old West Style
There is also a lot of support on our own Kinder Goat Yahoo Group, these gals will share both their knowledge, and their moral support, which is 90% of the battle. Goats are very forgiving, and very sweet , for the most part. There seem to be wide margins for error, or else I have been extremely lucky.
Here's how we roll.....I like it best when I have a strong, muscular, but also very tender hearted son to help. I find it extremely difficult to touch a burning iron to a tiny little goat head, that I have been kissing affectionately for a week. It has to be done with a great deal of cuddling, before, an after, and extra pair of arms helps.
We have a kid goat restraining box....it isn't very big. We have managed to squeeze an older goat kid in it, but it's tricky.....
experience with this difficulty helps me not to procrastinate. If you do find yourself trying to get an over sized kid in , it helps to hold them up under their front legs, with their body stretched out, while your helper guides their lower extremities in, lower slowly, stuffing only at the end:) :)
It is easierst and most effective way is to heat the iron, in the camp fire, or the wood stove. I have heated over a propane stove, but it takes forever. And the results were not good. I keep meaning to make a day of it, and plan a campfire meal around the event, but that requires a more nonchalant attitude, than I have yet to attain.
I don't rush. I brace myself the day before and prepare mentally. The fire is kindled early in the day and the restraining box set up close by. I also have ice cubes, in a small cooler, with some clean cotton socks to put them it. They go on the site after burning. Blue Kote spray and a clean pen knife with a little glass of alcohol to dip it in, complete my supplies. With a helper and a pair of sturdy, but trim leather gloves, you need to feel what you're doing. I want to use fireplace gloves, but they are too clumsy. Be careful and aware of each other, ready to lift the iron, or move a hand, on a second's notice.
When the hand iron glows red, and leaves an even, burned ring, on a 2 x4, it is ready. You need to work fast. It is helpful to have two of them, but I have used just one.
Test the iron on the piece of lumber, it will smoke, it will also show you, where your weak, or uneven spots are. I press the horn-bud area, and turn 1/4 turn, press ,turn , repeat, until I see an EVEN, copper colored ring.
Try to be thorough, A gloved helper holds the little one's nose down on the head piece, keeping little ears out of the way. Make sure you don't restrict breathing, or the goat will struggle unnecessarily. When you are sure you have a good burn, and you have pushed the outer shell off, use the side of the iron, to cauterize the wound. The first side is done in less than 5 minutes.
Place the iron back in the coals, while the helper applies ice, to the burned area. Repeat when the iron has heated up sufficiently, to leave that nice dark ring on the 2x4 again. It should smoke. I reheat briefly ,after testing, and before applying it to the horn bud. Maintain a healthy bed of hardwood coals.
The knife can be used to help remove the outer scale of the bud, but we just use the side of the iron.
How we do it summerized..........
Close it and have them hold the head down on the rest, at ear level, with their hand arching over the top of the kid's head.
Remove the iron from the fire and burn the horn site until an even copper ring appears, rotate the iron several times to accommodate slight irregularities in the iron's base.
Push off the horn's outer scale, cauterize the area with the side of the iron.
Apply an ice pack, reheat the iron, test, and proceed on the other side. Reheating is important.
Apply ice on the second side.
Spray on the Blue Kote, while using your hand to shield their eyes. avoid touching the burn site. Release the kid, cuddle, let them find momma, or offer a bottle.
'Pros' for using this method
- It makes dis-budding possible in an off grid situation; With some study and experimentation, it is possible to monitor the degree of heat more carefully, like hand milking, you are more in touch with the animal and the process.(my opinion);
- The cost is only a fraction of an electric or butane iron;
- It revives a lost skill;
- It works best for doe kids, at about 8-10 days , because of its size.1/2" diameter.
'Cons for using this method
- Failure can occur, if you wait too long (I have a horned buck). Which is true for any iron, it is more about the timing;
- The tip is a little large for a week old kid, smaller buck tips are available for electric dis-budding irons, and may be adapted to the non electric iron, by someone who is clever ,and has a welder, that is on my to do list, to locate such an individual;
- It seems to require a more aggressive mentality, than I am accustomed to , this takes some adjustment, a firm confident hand does the trick.
I am not advertising for Hoeggers, that's where I got mine. I saw them once at my feed store , but not when I went back for it, they were sold out. Evidently I am not alone in this venture. It wasn't a totally wasted trip though, as I got a full description of how to de-horn a cow, with a "spoon", and a hot piece of rebar, Lord have mercy! I felt so much better about my method, after getting a sneak peak into a cowboy's view of the matter :) whew!
P.S. In the case of trying to remove a stuffed, over sized kid from the restraining box, gently lay the box on its side to redistribute the kid's weight, open and pull gently from under the front legs.