How-to Disbud a Goat Kid

Dehorning or Disbudding?

Knowing how to disbud a goat kid is an important part of owning and showing goats. It is pretty simple, although not something that you ever enjoy.

Disbudding is a simple process. Using a special iron you cauterize the horn buds before they erupt. Dehorning is a difficult and bloody process, that should only be undertaken by a vet who is experienced in the process.

A long blood vessel runs almost the entire length of the horn and cutting through it during disbudding causes blood loss if not done right. Once the horn is removed the head is completely open into the sinus cavity and easily infected. The wound must be watched, cleaned, and cared for the entire healing time, up to one month.

You can see why it is better to disbud a goat kid!

Image (c) Marye Audet 2008 Disbudding a goat kid should be done early, before it is two weeks old.
Image (c) Marye Audet 2008 Disbudding a goat kid should be done early, before it is two weeks old.

How to Disbud Goat Kids

Get the best disbudding iron you can afford. I use the Rhinehart X-30 and like it very much. If you raise Nigerian Dwarf, or Pygmy goats you may need to get a special size tip. They also have special tips for the bucks because their horn base is larger.

The kids should be done before they are two weeks old. After the first two days check the head daily and as soon as you can feel the horn buds plan on disbudding. The smaller the bud is the easier it is to get all of it.

You will want to clean the tip with some steel wool after each disbudding session.

You will need either a kid holding box or an assistant to hold the kid firmly. Your assistant should hold the kid gently, with the back legs between his legs and the nose pressed down.

  1. Shave the area before attempting to disbud. This will make it easier to find the horn buds.
  2. Heat the disbudding tool up for fifteen minutes. You want it to be very hot. Test it on a piece of wood. When held to the wood it should make an immediate ring.
  3. Spray the kids horn buds with a spray anesthetic to cut down on the pain.
  4. Carefully but firmly hold the hot iron on the horn bud for about 15-20 seconds. You should see a good copper colored ring, and the blackened remains of a horn that you didn't see before.
  5. Make sure that the copper colored ring is completely round.
  6. Spray furazone on the area and comfort the kid before giving it back to it's dam. Even if you are milking it would be good to let it nurse for the rest of the day.
  7. Keep watch for the next couple of weeks. If the horns start growing back you may need to repeat the process.

Before

Image:(c) Marye Audet 2008 Here you can see the horn buds, after the area is shaved.
Image:(c) Marye Audet 2008 Here you can see the horn buds, after the area is shaved.

After

Image:(c)MaryeAudet2008  Here is the way it looks right after disbudding.
Image:(c)MaryeAudet2008 Here is the way it looks right after disbudding.

But Why Do It At All?

Disbudding is a requirement for many registered breeds of goats, and is wise for all of them. Most Breeder's Associations and 4-H clubs do require that a goat be disbudded for showing.

A goat learns to use it's horns early in life, and can seriously hurt another goat, another animal or even a person without even meaning to. Two bucks in a pen, both with horns, can seriously damage each other or even kill each other especially during rutting season.

Goats with horns can get them caught in fences. They can literally hang themselves by the horns. More than one breeder has gone out to a field to find a goat that has been killed this way.

The key is to do it when the goat is young.

Why Would You Want A Goat Kid?

No one likes to disbud but it is one of those things that needs to be done, and done well. Learn to hold the disbudding iron firmly so you can get it done right the first time and not have to do the process over again.

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Comments 38 comments

angela 4 years ago

when disbudding can u go too deep..


wilma ruhnau 4 years ago

my baby goat has been dehorned for about three weeks, just noticed the covering came off to expose raw flesh, what do i do


Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 4 years ago from Lancaster, Texas Author

Obviously there are as many ideas about raising livestock as there are about raising children. :)


sleepy48 4 years ago

Interesting conversation. I don't enjoy disbudding, but I do it, I think its the safest thing for all involved. I found the statements by Good Rancher rather disturbing. No vaccinations? No wormings? Castration causing toxins to build up in the body? Toxin retention build up in the body due to no horns? Seriously?? I hope folks realize this is hogwash!!


Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 4 years ago from Lancaster, Texas Author

Lori - I understand. It really isn't all that different from circumcision on baby boys... and people generally dont take issue with that. I think it is horrifying. :) We do what is right for our situation..and that is all anyone can do.


By Lori profile image

By Lori 4 years ago from USA

No offense meant, and I don't mean this in an argumentive way but my own opinion is I'm glad I'm a vegetarian. Just reading these stories by the readers is a good reason for anyone to consider going meat-free. Pain and death for animals is the reality of using them for food. My mother was around baby goats in her childhood and said how sweet they are by nature. I can't imagine hurting one or eating one. Animals are so defenseless. Because they don't think like we do doesn't mean they should be used for whatever purpose we want them for. And I read a comment about circumcision on human babies and how you feel dis-budding is similar--but circumcision is also a controversial subject. Not all people agree with it. And the fact that some people do circumsize does not justify what is done to baby goats. Anytime that pain or death can be avoided for any living thing, you know ? seems like the best option to me. One thing I can say, this article at least seems to want to help people do dis-budding the right way so there are as little problems as possible and that could only help the goats if you are dis-budding. And Marye you don't hesitate to tell people to ask a vet about anything and that is excellent advice. I do wish pain medication was available though for these little animals.


andrea 4 years ago

i was wondering i have just brought my first goat who is a british alpine goat and he hasn't been looked after properly for his first 2 months of life. he is a weather but his sag hasn't droped off yet and the lady i got him off wasn't bottle feeding him enough but said she got him off a lady not long before i got him and said he was skinny then. but my question is she said the lady who she got him off had put the iron on his horns but that it wasn't hot enough and he has buds growing now (i doult the story but wanted to no) is it possiable that this story is true.? i grew up on a dairy farm and i believe that dad put acid on calves horns at birth to stop them growing. and also remember any cows that had them they were chopped off which was very cruel in my eyes and memorys of blood shooting everywhere. also i have had the goat only a week almost and she said he was ringed at birth and the sack is still there but all dried and def dead so how long till it drops off? the ring is still there and he is 13 weeks old now i guess


Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 4 years ago from Lancaster, Texas Author

You should have your vet check it out


Julie Roberts 4 years ago

We just burned our first baby goats with the help of an experienced person in the area. I am really concerned as it's been 2 weeks and I am seeing on of the babies with a horn tip and swelling on one side. It's a little red around the base of the horn but not bleeding and the eyes are not bulging. The area does not seem warm or soft. He seems fine otherwise (playing, eating etc) but I am worried that this is the start of brain swelling. Is there anything more I can do?


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

Marye- Thought you might want to know that I linked this hub to one that I wrote titled, Things to Consider Before Getting Dairy Goats.

http://hubpages.com/animals/Things-to-Consider-Bef...

This article tied in very well with that one.

Yours is a very good article, and your comments have also been dead on. I spoke to a women this weekend. She gives her husband the privilege of accomplishing this task on their dairy herd. She shared that the kids are complaining at the restraint before the disbudding is even done, and their complaint does not increase during the disbudding. The cauterizing effect is so quick causing the pain to be minimal. In your pics, the kid is being held in someone's lap. If it was terribly painful, I don't think this would be possible. Thanks for a great article.


Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas Author

And yet it is required for showing


Angry Goat Enthusiest 5 years ago

@ Marye Audet

I Liken your logic to that of chicken farmers who debeak Their chicken who live in close quarters so they cant hurt each other. If your goats live so close to one another that they risk hurting each other than you have too many goats. The line of reasoning of the O.P. is antiquated and the practice is inhumane.


jay 5 years ago

good info..glad i came across this..


Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

Miss Lil' Atlanta 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Wow, this hub is really interesting. Like I had no idea that goats could be disbudded.

~ Miss Lil' Atlanta


MonaVieAileen profile image

MonaVieAileen 5 years ago from New York

This is great information. I never knew this had to be done, but it is good to keep them safe from any accidents with their horns. I would not have the guts to do it. Would need to have a man do it or something. I enjoyed reading this hub. Thank you for sharing it. Up and useful.


Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas Author

Cathy, you are very late but give it a try. If you dont have experience try to get someone who does to help you


cathy 5 years ago

I have two kids born Feb 8/11 I need to do something about horns. They are just starting to pop up. Do I disbud or am I too late and have to get a vet to dehorn?


Sadhu 5 years ago

Disbudding never attracted me but I have adopted the practice. There are pro's and con's to the issue but in either case it is important to stick to the facts. The notion that the practice of disbudding, if properly performed, is cruel, is simply not true. As long as the goat kid is at the right age for disbudding (7-14 days), the nervous system is not developed enough in the bud area to feel much pain, if any at all. The evidence can be easily experienced by watching a goat kid go back to play the very second after it is disbudded. They show zero signs of being disturbed, and they don't hold it against you at all.

If someone wants their goats to keep their horns, fine. It's as much responsibility to see to it that there are no unwanted accidents caused by the horns, as it is to properly disbud a kid. Either way is legitimate for its own reasons, but both practices have to be done professionally.


goats rock 6 years ago

We disbud all of our kids. No one keeps every goat forever. A goat with horns will more than likely end up at a sale barn or slaughterhouse before their time. 10 seconds of discomfort is better than getting stuck in fences or hurting someone. Not everyone is as attentive to their horned animals as some of the people that commented here.


johnnysommona profile image

johnnysommona 6 years ago

I don't think this is something ic ould handle doing.


first time 6 years ago

I stopped by to visit a friend and she asked me to help disbud her goats--this was her first time; I've never done anything with goats before. She told me to just burn over the buds with the iron until we got a copper ring, but not too long. We went about 5-7 seconds each. I should have researched before agreeing; now I see sites that recommend burning the top of the bud (we didn't; we just did the ring) and some that say go 10 or more seconds, or 2 or 3 burns each, or go until it feels like we hit bone. And some say to knock the nub off. We didn't do any of this; we just made the copper ring (rocking it around in a circle a little to try to make contact everywhere, and burning again on spots where it didn't look copper). Now I've seen pics of scurs and such, and I worry, did we do enough? Should we go back and do the center (or do it longer?) As I said, we saw a copper ring on each, but how do you know what's enough, and is it necessary to burn the top of the bud? I was thinking of getting goats, now I'm not so sure I want them--these aren't even mine and I'm worried!


Catskill Mama 6 years ago

Thank you all for posting my sentiments NOT to disbud! Does anyone know of an Organization that opposes this horrific and painful disfigurement? I'd really like to join. Shame on the 4-H Club for mandating such a disgraceful practice.


Goat Rancher 6 years ago

Been raising Boer meat goats and cross for 6 years now. Could care less about showing. Animals are organic raised. Pasture grazed on 5 acres. Zero vaccine. Zero meds. No disbudding or dehorning ever, though some came to me disbudded from prior ranches. In that time, I have had two goat incidents of being caught by the horns in a neighbor's fence with larger squares. In both cases, the goat was smart enough to just scream and stay still until rescued within the hour. Had a confined small nanny two days ago get her head stuck in a gate. She just waited patiently. Another stuck head in a gate about a year ago. Each time, the animals have waited to be rescued and their incidents help identify overlooked areas needing upgrade to prevent that. The animals are not penned and I actually have 3 big bucks out here at the moment. They all get along or play fight at worse. Some have had bloody heads among rough play, but no broken horns or wounds as the fights are play. Grandfather, father, son...so they know their pecking orders. One nanny did lose a horn awhile back of unknown reasons. It bled out some and healed. We call her Monohorn now. Never been gored by a goat and they wouldn't dare! Primary reason we don't disbud is ease of labor and leaving the animals as-is as much as possible.

Raising organic involves studied neglect which eases labor in some areas and adds in others. With no vaccine and meds, the fresh generation of goats are absolutely more robust against all illness compared to all these tampered with and overly "cared for" goats -- to the point that we don't even bother buying outsider goats anymore. They're all too weak and frail, though looking healthy. With more goats and pasture being grazed low now, normal worms have started to impact the weak ones but not our naturally raised ones. We use natural remedies on that in treating anemia and dehydration. You lose some, but, overall, the herd is stronger and with less labor and costs. To date, 100% of our adult animal losses by winter have been from the weaker ones taken from outside ranches. The issue of robustness against parasites and upkeep of good health untainted by any vaccines, meds, and immunity compromises is the singlemost health priority here while horns are not even a consideration. Electric fence about 1 foot inward of conventional fence solves most horn hangups. Fighting is not ruthless where the goats are happy and roaming with ample women to romance. They all normally have a degree of worms, but, when you drop their resistance through damaged immunity, medicine-induced chronic disease, Mercury and human fetal tissue loaded vaccine, etc...all you wind up with is a subtly frail, chronically ill animal that won't survive a few winters out here. We find that kind drops like flies under winter or parasite stress while the goat left as God made them is much stronger. We also do not feed grain other than in rare treats when handling since that makes basically diabetic goats. By our way, you trade more work done to keep water, barns, and pasture clean for less spent on medicine and doctoring. The animals come out leaner and less plump. Weight gain is excellent. We also do not castrate our bucks. Worm load is asymptomatic. Horns are handy in catching them. Good for body temp regulation by summer and winter, along with predator defense. Overall the job is easier and keeping very healthy goats while clearing a profit is work enough!

I have often wondered where all that horn matter goes in the body and how that impacts the overall animal if the horns are not allowed to grow. Does it lead to more Calcium buildup in the body and make Magnesium levels a bit out of balance? More toxin retention in the body than excreted? I don't know. One would have to do a trace elements analysis study over many goats and many years to answer that question. Things that grow out from animals and people are always a mixture of nutrients and wastes shed. The liver filters much of that to the stool and urine while a degree winds up in the hair and horns. I just wonder if anything is shed in the hair and horns that wouldn't otherwise be shed in the stool and urine. If so, that material -- nutrient or toxin -- naturally belongs in horn growth and, in restricting that secretion, it will remain in the body longer. Maybe just as a slightly higher blood Calcium level until the body passes by other means, but when you elevate just Calcium, the Magnesium and other nutrients also change in balance. A great deal of animal vitality can potentially be altered by just snipping the horns I think, though I suppose most DVM's and ranchers consider that trivial or nuts. Is it so, though? When you castrate cattle and goats, not allowing their testicles to grow naturally tends to confine that energy, the hormones, nutrients, and toxins into the body. You wind up with a plump, fat, docile, sterilized bull rather than a lean, strong, aggressive, fertile one. We know that leaner meat is better for human consumption. If you make severe changes to an animal's mentality and health by cutting off its testicles....is it so far a leap to consider that cutting off its manly horns might also lead to greater tendency for urinary calcium in bucks? If that Calcium is not going to horn growth in bucks, then it must be shed in the stool and urine, I'd think. Add some excess grain feeding and dehorning and it makes sense to me you're probably creating conditions better for losing a prize buck.

I find that ranchers often focus on everything other than the overall vitality and strength of the animal. Nannies are weaker and weakened by kidding while we haven't had parasite problems in a single buck. In fact, every single buck raised here beyond 2 months kidding age has been essentially perfect, unblemished, and highly regarded meat produce from kid to adult years. Life is harder on the nannies. Vitality isn't something you can easily measure with conventional instruments, but its something you see, feel, and know. When you see your kids skipping and hopping about at just a couple days age while the orphaned and bottlefed ones take weeks to get there....that's the vitality difference. Getting that high vitality in the first few hours of life and when kids is so important for long-term robustness. I wouldn't disbud them as kids if only not to cause them stress or potentially make blood nutrient alterations in early stages which can impact adult years and development greatly. Happier goats are healthy goats and I don't care what anyone says: Cut off my horns or testicles and I won't be a happy goat!! If only for not wanting to get kids bloody and infection prone or dealing with trauma while so young...disbudding just makes no sense to us here. Benefit does not outweigh the risks and added labor for our situation here. In cramped and unhappy conditions with improper fence, then disbudding is sensible but cramped conditions and too much messing with animals is far worse than anything else.


Mel 6 years ago

Goat need their horns to shed heat. They are also useful for catching purposes. We've had goats a long time and never had anyone get hurt with the horns, nor do we know any breeders personally who have had injuries in their herd.


Chris 6 years ago

Sorry about your Nanny. If your nanny is a pet then try to get vet help. I raise goats so if she is having great pain and trouble moving to stay with her herd, then you might have to consider putting her down. Sounds horrible but part of life on a farm.

As for debudding, I have both horned and debudded. RESPECT THE HORNS!!! I am very careful around the horned goats. The Buck can be a little aggressive but he was a rescue and so I left the horns on him. The biggest problem is when they come up to you and try to rub against your leg. If they move backwards quickly.....well. To the hospital you will go. So if you do not like to debud then get a dog. Good article.


chris 7 years ago

I NEED HELP. HAD YOUNG NANNY GET HEAD STUCK IN FENCE. VET SAYS NOT BROKE. NECK REAL BENT, GETTING WORSE. GAVE STEROID SHOTS FOR SWELLING. IS THERE A NECK BRACE I CAN BUY OR MAKE. THANKS CJOYCE@NTIN.NET


farmerjoe 7 years ago

We keep are goats from getting stuck in the fence with a short pvc pipe we cut two large holes in the pipe to fit on the horns slide the pipe about middle ways down and screw a small wood screw into the pvc pipe and the horn to hold it on so they can not get their head in the fence holes anymore, and a lot less curl than cutting there horns off


krissie 7 years ago

how do you feel about using rubber bands on grown goats? I hear that it works.


Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas Author

Mindy you can try but usually by now the horns are too well established.


Mindy 7 years ago

My kids are 2 months old now. Is it too late to debud them?


noas ark 7 years ago

good read, i pay my vet to do mine, i never bothered up to a couple of years ago. but my weather got caught in some fencing, ripped his horn and blead to death, it broke my heart id hand reared him and he was a member of the family, its not cruel its necessary.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

Great hub regards good info


Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas Author

It is not fun, but a goat with its horns stuck in a fence all day that dies from dehydration is cruel, this is not cruel. I liken it to people who have their sons circumcised. Not fun, but they feel it is necessary.


nicko guzman profile image

nicko guzman 7 years ago from Los Angeles,CA

Sounds cruel and painful.Agriculturists are working on new alternative methods.Great hub though.


Cal. Co. 4Her 7 years ago

Disbudding is a very nmoprtant thing when i comes to 4H shows. Unless your goats and sheep are dehorned you aren't showing unless they are purebreeds!


Christina 8 years ago

Sorry, don't agree. I find dehorning/debudding cruel. I have had horned goats for years and with proper management and care have never had problems! Give them room, proper fencing and housing, and they do just fine. Horns are on the goat for a reason. We raise pasture fed goats, they need their horns for protection since they are sprinters and can not out run predators for long periods of time. They also act as ways to thermoregulate the animals body temperature. Don't modify the animal, modify your practices.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Marye! That's always been the job I hated the most. After a while I got smart I called the farmer and friend from down the road do the dehorning for me. I traded feeding his animals for 'weekends away' for it.

Great hub regards Zsuzsy


monitor profile image

monitor 8 years ago from The world.

I had 7 goats when I was 5 years old. I sold them all by the time I was 8 but for those 3 years I milked and cared for them. That's a lot of work for a 5 year old but I have very find memories of it all. EXCEPT getting butted. I 100% can assure you this article is worth a read. Mon.

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    Marye Audet profile image

    Marye Audet4,737 Followers
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    Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.



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