Goats, as a breed, are naturally horned animals. A goat can be 'polled', meaning born without the possibility of horn growth, but that is usually not the case.
De-horning goats is not a topic that many like to discuss, but it is a decision you need to make if you are going to have goats.
There are 'two camps' those believing that a goat should be horned and those that choose to de-bud.
Why would someone want to keep a goat horned? That is an future blog. Due to our strong belief in de-horning goats kept as livestock, we will have a view presented by someone who has horned goats - we feel that we are too bias to fairly present the pros of keeping a goat horned. We feel that both views should be covered to give you the information, so you can make the best choices for you and your herd.
Why would someone want to de-bud or dehorn a goat?
To prevent accidents: Horns can become caught in brush, fencing, and other obstructions and to avoid the sad loss of an animal. Because a goats sinus cavity grows up into the horn, a goat can bleed to death when a horn is broken.
To prevent conflict: Goats, being herd animals, tend to have a pecking order. Goats need to have others in their herd, this is a natural and normal herd mentality. But having a mixed herd can cause more conflict than normal. A herd with horned and dehorned animals can bring out more aggression from one goat over another, leading to injuries that wouldn't happen if everyone was horned, or everyone was hornless.
Methods of de-horning/de-budding
Later when we de-bud, we will blog in detail about this first method and the one we use.
Using a de-budding iron.......
Young goats can be de-budded as early as 7-10 days old. This is usually done as soon as the horn bud are felt. Looking at a new born kids head, you will see a swirling pattern to the fur in two spots on the head. This is where the horn buds will grow. Before the horns actually break through the skin, you can feel little bumps. The kid needs to be restrained. Many use what is called a 'de-budding box' others are able to restrain the kid without it. The dehorning iron is heated for the manufacturers' recommended time. Shaving or trimming the hair around the horn bud makes it easier to see where to place the iron. While restraining the kid, place the iron over the horn bud, rocking it around, for 3-5 seconds. No more than the manufacturers' recommended time, ours say 5 seconds. This is the part we hate the most - but with the iron, the temperature is 800-1000 degrees, it cauterizes the horn bud. Repeat this over the other horn bud. We then repeat the procedure again over both buds, usually for 5 seconds. Once done, you should have a nice orange ring. Take the tip of the iron and place it on the actual horn bud, 1-2 seconds is all that is usually needed, the horn bud should pop off. Your done. Not pleasant, but safer than other dehorning methods. The kids can be returned to their dams, or back to the herd. One to two weeks there may be a scab, this will eventually heal and fall off, or come off as they are playing. At that time, when the scab falls off, it can bleed. Watch this, you can apply a cream to help keep the dirt out and prevent flies from being a problem.
Using a dehorning paste............
The cattle industry has a caustic paste for dehorning. They recommend using the paste from 1 day to 3 weeks of age for better results. Though this is used on cattle, it is sometimes used in dehorning young kid goats, anywhere from 3 days to 7 days of age. You feel around for the horn buds, once you find them, you shave the bud and around the bud for better coverage. You must wear protective gloves - this paste is caustic - it will burn! Using Vaseline, make a protective ring around the horn bud. This step is important to protect the kid from other harm. Use a small wooden stick, tongue depressor, or other disposable applicator to apply the dehorning paste to the horn bud. Cover it completely. Leave the paste on, a scab will form after a few days. Within one to two weeks, the area will be completely hairless without sign of bud. There are some cautions: the kids need to be separate from their dams and other kids to prevent burns when nursing or just being kids and playing. The kids can't be out in the rain for 2 or 3 days, the paste could run and burn them, or worse - seep into their eyes blinding them. Because kids are just that, kids, they play by butting heads, etc. We don't use the paste for this reason. It is very difficult separating each kids for that length of time.
De-Horning young goats.........
Young goats between the ages of 1 month to 4 months of age, usually are too old to be dehorned with an iron. You CAN, however, re-do a de-budding with the iron prior to age 4 months if there is horn growth or scurs. But if a kid was not de-budded and has horn growth, surgery is the only option. A vet is needed to sedate the young goat, and the horns are surgically removed. The skull must be scraped clean of the horn or re-growth is guaranteed. Because of the sinus cavities growing up into the horn, after surgery the sinus cavities will be open. The sinus' will be packed tightly to allow it to slowly heal from within. This can take up to 8 weeks. The openings will need to be kept clean and packed periodically to assist in healing. The sinus cavities will have to slowly close as they heal. It is best to keep the goat separate from everyone else in the herd. Infection can be a high risk at this point, flies during the summer can also cause health issues. This procedure is very traumatic, a long term process, and quite expensive. If this procedure is not done correctly, you can have a life time of problems with weak horn growth that easily breaks or is knocked off on a regular basis.
De-Horning adult goats........
There really is no safe way to dehorn an adult goat. There are some things that people do but we do not recommend them, nor will we promote them here.
Needless to say...............
Remember, we are having someone blog very soon who believes in keeping goats horned........please come back for Eric's blog - it is very worth your while to have both perspectives. Be informed. Then decide. What is best for you and your herd.