Is Disbudding Goats good for them?

The most common question we receive when we attend events and take the babies,  is about the disbudding spots on the top of the kids’ head.  Many assume we cut the horns off and others believe it is the area where the horns are starting to grow.  In actuality, it is a scab from disbudding the babies.

Goats with horns can also get stuck in the fence and break their neck trying to escape. In this situation, they are also a ready meal for predators.  Horns can be very beautiful, however they can also be very dangerous to the farmer, other goats and the goat itself.  Even pet goats with friendly, sweet natured temperaments can accidentally hurt another goat or even a child.  These goats often end up in auction barns where their future is questionable. If a goat is going to be used in a 4 H program or otherwise shown, horns are not allowed.

We believe in the ethical treatment of all animals and do believe that disbudding goats is the most humane way of protecting the goat and anyone who may handles the goat.  This is our opinion, but it is based on experience and there will be those that do not agree. In total, the procedure takes 5 – 10 seconds.  Afterwards the kids run back to Mom for a quick milk snack and seem forget it ever happened.

When a kids is a few days old, they develop horn buds on the front of the skull.  When we feel that hard, pimple like bump, we know it is time to disbud.  For some that is 3 days after birth, for others it may be up to 10 days.  We don’t want the bump to get too large because any cells that escape can grow into scurs (malformed horns).

A disbudding iron has a circular tip and gets red hot.  It is applied to the horn bud for 5 – 12 seconds and rotated. The result is a copper colored ring and the bud typically falls off.  We will spray cold lidocaine (sunburn relief spray) on the ring for the kid’s comfort.  In a few weeks, the scab falls off and hair regrows.  Disbudding is a far more humane method than cutting off mature horns (bloody & traumatic), using a dehorning paste (can be rubbed on other animals causing them pain and injury) or banding (long term discomfort until the horn falls off).

We certainly don’t enjoy disbudding goats, but it is the responsible thing to do for the goats safety and future well being. A prime example of short-term pain for long term gain and a long, productive life!