Cosmetic or necessary?

Horns on a goat serve a useful purpose. However, horns are also hazardous – both to humans handling the goat as well as to the goat at times. I’ve had goats with horns and without and have lost more than one goat to breaking its neck when it has gotten caught in a fence. I’ve had to cut fence to get other goats loose. I’ve been caught by horns which have broken skin when trying to vaccinate or putting a doe on the milk stand. Crackerjack injured himself a week or so ago when he evidently caught a front leg between Sunny Ray’s horns and couldn’t get it out again. I prefer goats without horns. However, I hate the process of removing horns.

With my first kids, I hauled them up to Albuquerque for my goat mentor to disbud with a disbudding iron. It was unpleasant to say the least and both kids ended up with scurs. The next set of kids I tried to disbud using a disbudding paste. I was successful with one, not with the other. This past summer I missed the very narrow window of time that disbudding paste can be used and ended up banding the horns on the kids. Partial success – but that was mainly because I didn’t replace the bands as I should have.

This year I vowed to make sure I used the disbudding paste timely so yesterday over lunch I went out with the kid holding box and disbudded the little one.

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It is easy enough to do but requires the paste to be left on for 20 minutes and for the kid to be kept from rubbing its head during that time. When I first researched alternatives to a disbudding iron, I read a lot of information about how cruel it was to use paste and why it was more humane to use an iron. I reserved judgment on that since I had seen an iron used and had not tried the paste. I believe that some of the people who felt pasting was inhumane were focused on the kid’s crying and felt it was painful. In observing the buckling yesterday I think his complaints had more to do with being locked in the box and away from mom more than anything else. When I cleaned off the paste after the requisite time and put him back in with Thyme, he did not immediately try to nurse her and I have never before had any lamb or kid that I banded, vaccinated or did anything else to that did not immediately run to mom to nurse when I gave it the opportunity. I am hoping that this was successful as I would much prefer to paste than have to use a disbudding iron.

A friend asked if I was going to name him in keeping with herbs and spices (Thyme is a daughter of Nutmeg) and I told her I was keeping Sage and Parsley for use in naming future doelings so she suggested Garfunkel. I don’t usually use people names with animals but this seemed to fit okay so the new buckling (to be wethered) is now Garfunkel.



  1. Yes, a disbudding iron (usually electric) gets extremely hot and burns off the horn bud. You have to be careful to limit the amount of time the iron is held on the skull as it can burn through bone or overheat the brain which is why I dislike the iron.

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