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Tough Choices When Raising Goats: Disbudding, Tattooing and Meat Animals


| 6/5/2020 10:18:00 AM


Freshly disbudded kids rest 

Bouncing baby goats! There’s no more joyful sight on the spring homestead. We stand around watching them for hours. They are full of vitality and energy, the best advertisement possible for drinking lots of goat milk. But before you rush out and breed goats — or buy some new ones — I want to tell you about the less delightful kid-rearing tasks. Some may not apply to your goat-keeping situation, but they are all worth knowing. I have a 4-doe home dairy herd, so that’s my perspective.

Disbudding Goat Kids

When kids are a week old or so, there are horns to consider. Most goats, male and female, are born with patches of fast-growing cells on their skulls that turn into horns. These cells can be felt as small bumps well before they are visible through the hair on the goats’ sweet little heads. This is the one time in the goat’s life it’s easy to prevent horns from growing. Full-grown horns are actually part of the skull and are sheathed in blood vessels — not something you can just chop off. But taking off this little patch of cells now means no horns for the rest of the goat’s life.

Another consideration: Most goat shows only accept hornless goats. If you plan to show, or sell goats to people who do, research your breed and decide whether or not to take off horns.

Many goats do just fine with horns. Pack goats, for instance, or fiber goats who are going to need some convenient handles when they are shorn. But a dairy goat that is going to be waving her head near my face twice a day for years — well, I had enough casual near-eyeball-misses when I had a horned goat to make me grit my teeth and take off their horns at a young age.



“Disbudding” is the term for taking off these little bumps. I use a cauterizing tool that gets red hot, which I consider the safest and surest method. Some people use a caustic paste, but I don’t like the risk of that goop running into a goat’s eye. I would rather put on my leather glove and be careful for four seconds while I press the iron to the horn bud.





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