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Disbudding Goats: 3 Helpful Ways on How to Disbud Goats

disbudding goats

Do your goats fight against each other and injure other herd members with their horns? Do you struggle milking and handling them because of their aggressive tendencies? In these situations, disbudding goats may be the most common suggestion you’ll ever hear from experienced goat farm owners.

But what is disbudding, and how can you and your goat benefit from it?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss:

  • how to disbud a goat and the tools you need to perform it
  • when to disbud a goat and when to dehorn baby goats
  • how long does it take for them to heal and what you can do to help ease the pain

But before we dive into that, what is disbudding?

What is Disbudding of Goats?

Disbudding is the process of removing the “horn buds” or “tiny horns” of goat kids to prevent their horns from growing.

There are so many debates surrounding the disbudding of goats since it can be a traumatic and painful procedure for goats. But why do goat owners go through this route despite the risks?

reasons of dehorning goats- why disbud goats

Why Do You Disbud Baby Goats?

Most goats develop horns, and it’s critical for protection against predators and heat dissipation.

But goats’ horns can be detrimental and bring about many problems. That’s why some owners prefer to disbud them at a young age. Here are why disbudding Nigerian dwarf goats and other breeds is necessary.

1. Horns can get the goat stuck in things like fences and cause dehydration or injury to themselves.
2. Goats enjoy playing butt each other, and sometimes they fight to establish a social rank among the herd using their horns. And it makes them at a higher risk of injury because their horns are pointed and robust.
3. They may also hurt you or their handler using their horns when milking or doing other routine care and children who may want to play with them.
4. They may also damage the fences, barns, and hay mangers with their horns.
5. Some people prefer hornless goats because they’re more valuable, and some shows require goats to be disbudded.

disbudding nigerian dwarf goats

When to Disbud Goats

On average, goat owners disbud kids at the age of 16.3 days, but generally, they should be disbudded between 4 to 14 days.

It will be considered dehorning, not disbudding if it’s done after the age of 14 days. If you have male goats, know that their horns tend to grow faster, so they need to be disbudded sooner than females.

There’s also a slight discrepancy regarding the average age of disbudding between various goat productions.

Goat owners who raise goats for meat disbud the kids at an average of 20.2 days. Those who grow dairy goat kids at an average of 14.6 days, while others disbud kids at an average age of 13.9 days.

That means meat goat breeds are usually disbudded later than dairy and other types of goats.

Disbudding Goats 3 Helpful Ways on How to Disbud Goats

How Long Does it Take a Goat to Heal from Disbudding?

It may take seven weeks for hot iron disbudding wounds to re-epithelialize.
The damaged tissue is more sensitive than newly re-epithelialized tissue, which means that wounds are painful during the healing process.

So, you need to provide remedies to mitigate the pain and lessen healing time and sensitivity.

Do your goats need analgesics?

Analgesics or anesthetics are essential to alleviate pain during the disbudding process.

30.4 percent of disbudding surgeries on goat kids utilize these analgesics or anesthetics like local anesthetics, nerve blocks, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs).

How can these medicines help your goat?

Local anesthetics and nerve blocks can help goat youngsters feel minor discomfort during the disbudding process, while NSAIDs help goat youngsters recover from surgery by reducing pain.

how to disbud a goat

How to Disbud a Goat

So, the big question is, “how do you disbud goats”? This time, let’s explore how to remove goat horns or cut goat horns and prevent them from growing.

There are two common ways to disbud a goat, and the tools you need will vary depending on the following methods.

1. Electric dehorner or goat disbudding iron

According to a survey in 2008 in the United States and Canada, 97% of veterinarians. Last 2019, 95.8% of dairy goat producers and 93.3% of meat goat producers prefer to use this method.

Pros & Cons

Pros of using disbudding iron
  • Fast and easy method
  • It can’t be rubbed off, unlike paste
  • Some analgesics can alleviate the pain
Cons of using disbudding iron
  • Needs some training to ensure correct and consistent application
  • Carries a risk that may damage the brain when done wrong

There are two ways to use a disbudding iron, so let’s explore them both to help you find the best option.

Traditional Method of Using Goat Disbudding Iron

This is how goat owners have used disbudding irons before, and although there’s a simple and newer way to do it, you can still go this route if you’re comfortable with this.

Tools and equipment needed when disbudding goats:
  • disbudding iron
  • disbudding box
  • knife
  • wound kote
  • cold pack

If you don’t have the tool yet, you may find this disbudding iron for Nigerian dwarf and other goat breeds handy and efficient. It gets the difficult disbudding job done and heats quickly.

Many goat owners find the tips for measuring 1/2″ and find them fast and easy to use.

You don’t have to worry about hurting your hand because the perforated housing keeps the handle cool even if the dehorner’s temperature rises to between 900 and 950 degrees.

Rhinehart Electric Goat Dehorner or Calves Dehorner 1/2 inch Inner Diameter
  • No blood loss or open wound
  • This electric dehorner maintains a steady temperature between 900 and 950 degrees
  • The X-30 recovers between applications in seconds, making it perfect for fast and easy use.
  • Perforated housing keeps handle cool. 200 Watt, 100 volt AC with 3 wire ground cord.
  • Works great on Standard Goat and Calves
Step-by-step procedure of disbudding goats:

Here’s the first method of using electric disbudding iron.

1. The first step is to check if the horn bud has the proper size. It shouldn’t exceed 5 to 10 mm long.
Disbudding baby goats when the horn buds are too large or starting to erupt through the skin can develop scurs or abnormal horn growth. And the scurs can break off or become embedded in your pet’s skin or impair its vision.

2. Give your goat kids one cc of tetanus anti-toxin if they haven’t received a CDT shot the month before the freshening. Giving them a 0.05 ml shot of Banamine will also help reduce inflammation.

3. The next step is to clip or shave the hair around your goat’s hair buds to visualize the buds better when disbudding using a burning iron.

4. Then, preheat the disbudding iron for 10 minutes.

5. Now, you need to place your baby goat kid in a disbudding holding box and get a helper to keep them still and prevent the risk of burning yourself, your pet, and the helper.

Kindly make sure its head is on the u-shaped slot, and the board is on top with the helper sitting.

6. Before you start disbudding, try to test the iron if it’s hot enough on a piece of wood. If it burns a good ring in 2 seconds, it’s ready.

7. Then, position the heated iron around the goat’s small bud. The open circle encircles the bud’s tip. Allow the iron’s weight to act as your pressure. Then progressively rotate the pressure for 3-4 seconds clockwise. Burn for 5 seconds if it’s a male goat.

Did you know? 

Research regarding cautery disbudding on goat kids showed that 15 seconds or more of iron application time could increase the risk of brain injury.

So, it would help if you were mindful of the application time.

The goal is to have a colored copper ring around the base of the bud. If you haven’t achieved it yet, you may need to re-burn the area. But you need to ensure there’s no heat buildup. Otherwise, the kid will get hurt and die out of it.

8. Cut the bud off with your knife now. Make sure you get all the way down to the bud’s base.
The bud’s base will either bleed or not, and you don’t have to worry if it bleeds.

9. Burn the base of the bud with the side of the horn. To obtain a decent burn on the top, you have to move the iron around.

This angle makes things more challenging, but don’t get too worked up. Take your time and concentrate on creating an excellent top seal.

10. Follow the same process on the other horn side and cut off the bud.

11. Then, use the horn to cauterize and seal the top.

12. Check the burned buds again to see if you didn’t miss any spots. And if it’s all good, you can return the kid to its mother or bottle feed him to comfort him.

13. You may put a gel ice pack on the burnt area to help it cool down and prevent damaging the kid’s brain. It’d help too if you’d apply Wound for wound dressing.

They may cry out of pain during the disbudding process, but they’ll be back to average about 10 minutes later.

And there you go! You got a horn-free goat.

Now here’s the newer method used in disbudding baby goats.

how to remove goat horns

New Method of Using Disbudding Goats Using Disbudding Iron

Here’s the other method you can use in disbudding goats.

Tools and equipment needed when disbudding goats:
  • towel
  • gas-powered disbudding iron
  • wound kote
  • cold pack
Step by step procedure of disbudding goats:

1. Before you start cutting the horn buds, ensure that your goat has Tetanus prevention and a Banamine shot, just like the previous method.

2. Then, wrap your kid securely and comfortably on a towel with their legs tucked beneath.

You can do it by wrapping one side of the towel around the kid, then covering the other side around him again. Fold the excess towel in the back below the kid. The towel should form a tight cocoon around your young goat, holding them in place.

3. The next step is to shave the hair around the horn buds for better visualization.

goat disbudding iron4. Make sure the iron is hot by preheating it for 10 minutes, just like the previous method. You can test it on wood to see if it’s ready.

5. Then, it’s time to apply the disbudding iron around the horn buds. It’s best not to exceed 5 seconds to avoid injuring your kid goat.

6. Apply a cold pack to the area to help it cool down.

7. Then, make sure there’s a copper-colored ring around the horn bud.

8. If you can see the ring, pull the horn bud gently with small pliers.

9. If your goat is bleeding, use the hot iron to cauterize bleeding areas by slightly touching the edge of the iron to that part.

10. Repeat the same process for the other horn bud.

11. Lastly, spray some Wound-Kote to protect the wounds from infection and expedite the healing process.

After this, you can now return the kid to get a milk drink from its mom or feed them with milk.

If you’re anxious and untrained in using disbudding iron, this option may work better.

2. Disbudding Goats Using Caustic paste

3.2% of meat goat producers and 1.2% of dairy producers use caustic or dehorning paste, which shows that it’s less commonly used.
But, which chemical is used for disbudding baby goats?
Goat owners commonly use dehorning paste. But what are the disadvantages and advantages of this method?

Pros & Cons

Pros of using caustic paste
  • Simple application
  • Less acute pain
  • Some analgesics can alleviate the pain
Cons of using caustic paste
  • . It may cause burns when rubbed off onto other goats or other parts of their body.
  • Causes prolonged pain

Tools/equipment you need when disbudding goats:

  • Vaseline
  • Dehorning paste
  • Udder balm

Step by step procedure of disbudding goats:

Here’s a step-by-step guide that’ll help you disbud goats using paste.
1. First, trim or shave the hair around the horn buds like the previous methods.
2. Then, using a wire brush, lightly brush the horn buds on both sides.
3. The next step is to apply a Vaseline or Udder balm around your goat kid’s horn buds, extending over the application area.
4. Then, it’s time to put a thin film of dehorning paste on the horn buds.
5. Lastly, keep your kid protected from rain or wet weather and other goats because it can burn other animals and the goat if the paste gets into their bodies.

dehorning older goats

If you couldn’t disbud your goat when they were kids, and you need to get rid of their horns for safety purposes, there’s a solution. It’s more challenging than disbudding, but here’s a guide on dehorning if you need it.

How to Dehorn Goats

Dehorning adult goats with long horns is more painful than disbudding them as infants. So many prefer disbudding their goats at an early age. However, their horns may grow faster than many owners realize.

So, there are some instances where dehorning is the only resort.

Dehorning goats with bands

Dehorning pygmy goats and other breeds with bands like c-bands or castration bands are one of the less traumatic, stressful, and cost-effective dehorning goats. However, experts don’t recommend it.

It would help if you also watched out for signs of infection after dehorning older goats.

Here are tips on how to dehorn a baby goat and older ones.

1. Place the goat securely in a goat stand, ensuring its head is immovable.
2. Then, clip or shave the hair around the horns.
3. Find the ridge below the hairline. You need to lay the band 1/4″ below this ridge. Use a marker to mark the incision line.
4. Furthermore, you need to clean and sterilize your tools.
5. Then, dip the castration bands in water or solution to make the application much more manageable.
6. The next step is to inject Lidocaine, an anesthetic that’ll help deaden the area.
7. Then, cut through the skin using a scalpel or sharp blade to hold the band in place. It’s best to cut 180 degrees around half the horn to prevent the band from slipping on large horns.
8. Finally, put the band over the horn and into the incision. It’d be best to put antiseptic like Scarlet oil to keep the flies away and watch them out until the horns fall off.

It may take weeks or longer, so you’ll need to be patient with this option when dehorning Boer goats and other breeds.

Who Performs Disbudding?

75% of owners perform the procedure in the meat and dairy goat industries. Veterinarians only compose 16.5% of the total operations.

Data shows that many small and medium-sized businesses ask veterinarians to disbud goat kids more frequently (18.5 percent and 18.2 percent, respectively) than in large operations (1.7 percent).

However, the owners usually disbud the goat kids of large companies (89.8%) than small and medium-sized businesses (71.0 percent and 74.8 percent, respectively).

Frequently Asked Questions About Disbudding Goats

Does disbudding a goat hurt?

Cautery disbudding is a painful procedure for goat kids that may even result in brain injury if done the wrong way.

There’s a risk of causing thermal damage to the goat brain’s cerebral cortex. It may also cause neurologic issues.

Is disbudding suitable for goats?

It’s one of the most disliked chores on goat farms, but goats should be disbudded between 4 to 14 days to prevent them from injuring other herd members and handlers.

Goats use their horns to defend themselves against predators and fight against other members to establish a social rank.

Is disbudding cruel?

Disbudding goat kids is a painful process, and although researchers have been looking for strategies to mitigate the pain, they haven’t found a safe and practical method yet.

It can be pretty traumatic, although it’s necessary for most goats.

How is disbudding done?

Disbudding includes the removal of horn-producing cells in the goat kid’s horn bud using caustic paste or hot iron. At 14 days and below, the horn buds are still free-floating.

So, they’re not yet attached to the frontal bone of their skull.

What is the difference between disbudding and dehorning?

Disbudding is the destruction or removal of horn-producing cells before the skull attachment. Their horn buds only measure 5 to 10 mm long at this stage.

On the other hand, dehorning refers to the excision of the horn after the skull attachment.

How much does it cost to disbud a goat?

Most people charge around $5 to $10 per kid for goat horn disbudding, but others can go as high as $12 per goat.

Can you disbud a 3-month-old goat?

Disbudding is done when the goat kid is 4 to 14 days old. If it’s performed after the skull attachment, the procedure will be called dehorning, not ‘disbudding ducklings or goats.’

It’s a more invasive and painful procedure than disbudding and brings more significant risks to the goat.

Should I dehorn my goat?

There’s no rule that all goats need to be disbudded or dehorned, so the decision is yours.

Some owners do it to prevent injuries to other herd members, while others keep the horns intact to help the goats defend themselves against predators.

Others are just against the procedure.

dehorning goats

Disbudding Goats Final Thoughts 

So those are the three ways goat owners use to disbud their goats.

The first method uses a disbudding box and a goat disbudding iron, while the second will utilize a disbudding iron and towel to keep the goat still.

The process is almost similar as both options have the same goal: to create a copper-colored ring on the horn buds.

They’re the fastest way to remove baby goats’ horns, but it risks injuring the brain. So, if you’re untrained and a newbie goat owner, using a caustic or dehorning paste may be the safer option for you.

However, you have to know that it’ll still be painful. But since dehorning in goats with grown horns is more painful, disbudding at an early age is still better.

So, what are your thoughts? Are you willing to take risks and try disbudding goats?


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