Easter Sunday March 31, 2013 - Mike and I have been married 23 years today. So what special thing did we do today? Disbudded 9 newborn Nubian dairy goats.
Why should you get your goats disbudded? and at an early age?
Disbudding - by Jackie Clay
Very few goats are born naturally polled (hornless from birth). Yes, horns are natural, but goats used to be wild animals and roam in herds. They needed the horns to protect themselves from predators. Today, goats are not wild and they are milked and otherwise handled by people. And they are kept in fences, led with collars, and otherwise domesticated. Horns are now a danger to goats and their handlers.
A horned goat can always squeeze its head through a fence square (field fencing or welded stock panel), but very, very seldom get back out. Sometimes they will strangle in the attempt to free themselves. I've seen a horned doe hook a kid and catch its front leg in the V of her horns, breaking its leg--even her own kid! A horned goat can catch its horn in its own collar or one of another goat, choking it to death. A horned goat doesn't fit into a keyhole manger or an average milking stand.
And, of course, a horned goat can hurt you. It may not mean to, but when it swings quickly around to bite a fly, it can smash your face in a heartbeat. Or when you are leading it and it doesn't want to go, a twist of its head and your knuckles are bleeding.
It is very difficult to dehorn an adult goat, so it's best to disbud the kids soon after birth. This is done with a disbudding iron that heats up like a branding iron and fits down over the horn bud, burning the skin down to the skull. This sounds horrible, but minutes afterward the kid is playing with you and nursing its dam unconcerned.
When using the iron, make sure it is heated up well; if it is not you won't get a good disbudding and the kid may grow scurs. These are little, misshapen horns that the goat will spend a lifetime catching on things, breaking them off, bleeding, and looking untidy at best.
The kids are best disbudded between three and four days. The longer you wait, the more chance you'll have for scurs to grow, as the horn buds will have started to grow. Place the kid in a tight disbudding box or have an assistant hold the kid snugly in their arms, restraining the kid's head with a gloved hand. (Occasionally the person doing the disbudding will slip and touch the assistant's hand with the iron; the glove is necessary protection! )
Only a few days old, young kids venture outside for the first time.
Repeat to yourself, "I'm saving your life... I'm saving your life..." as you press the hot iron down on the trimmed hair over the horn bud. Keep pressing down firmly and don't breathe. It stinks! Slowly rotate the disbudding iron so that all of the surface of the skin is burned. Then lift the iron. There should be a white ring completely around the horn bud, with the "fried" horn bud sticking up. Flip the black cap off it with the iron and apply the iron again for a shorter time. Repeat with the other side.
I like to have a bucket of snow or shaved ice handy to slip on the kid's head when I'm done. At the time you disbud, it's a good idea to give the kid its first tetanus vaccination. While it isn't common for a kid to get tetanus after disbudding, it can happen and it pays to be safe.