Should You Disbud a Goat Kid: Pros, Cons, and What to Consider

As a goat breeder, there are numerous different management procedures that you may need to consider to find the most effective options for the health and well-being of your beloved goats. However, it’s not always clear which procedures are necessarily right to do. With this thought in mind, today, we’re looking at whether you should disbud a goat or not. Hopefully, this will help you determine once and for all if disbudding your goat is the right option. After all, no single management strategy is right for everyone (or every goat), and considering this is crucial.

Should You Disbud a Goat? 

Whether or not you should disbud a goat is an incredibly complex question since it depends on the goat’s position in the herd, whether the herd is disbudded, and so on. There is no requirement to disbud your goat, per se, but it may be a valuable and safer management practice in some cases than leaving your goats horned.

What is Disbudding? 

The disbudding process is a relatively straightforward procedure that serves to remove or kill off the horn buds from a young goat’s heat. This prevents the horns from growing since goat kids are not already born with grown horns. However, one important distinction to make here is that you’re not necessarily removing the horn, per se; usually, disbudding simply serves to kill off the horn, so it does not continue to grow. Any area of the horn that is not treated will continue to grow as normal.

Why do People Disbud their Goats 

There are numerous different reasons why people disbud their goats. Of course, there’s the aesthetic perspective; many people simply prefer to see goats without horns. However, the main motivation to disbud a goat is usually for safety purposes – both for the goat and its handler!

Injury to People

As someone who has a roughly 100-strong herd of horned Boer goats, let me tell you – the horns can do a lot of damage. This damage doesn’t necessarily mean your goat is aggressive, of course, but a horn to the leg during regular management and feeding can be pretty painful. That’s before considering giving medicines, dewormers, and other such treatments; in these scenarios, it’s very easy to get caught or sideswiped by a goat’s horn. I always joke that my legs tend to look like a dalmatian’s skin if I’ve been giving boluses to the goats (which we do every six months in our herd for mineral supplementation).

However, the issue naturally becomes worse if you’ve got an aggressive goat. An aggressive horned goat can potentially do even more damage than a disbudded goat, especially if they’re the sort of goat that “knows how to use its horns.” As such, if you know a certain bloodline can be aggressive, it’s worth considering if you should disbud the kids. However, breeding aggressive goats can be dangerous, so it’s important to consider if this is worth the hassle.

Injury to Other Goats

In addition to the risk to people, and perhaps even more significantly, it’s worth considering that a horned goat may be able to do a lot of damage potentially to their herd mates. After all, we only spend a few hours a day with our goats, but they live with each other 24/7. As such, the potential for injury to each other is potentially greater.

If you have an aggressive goat in your herd that’s horned, it will often have a tendency to use its horns during fights and gripes with others. This can easily cause a leg to get hooked or trapped between the horns, risking significant damage. Even more concerningly, a horn swipe to the mammary tissue could cause a serious injury for a dairy goat with a very large udder.

As such, if you have aggressive goats and are concerned about their behavior, you may want to consider disbudding them at birth to reduce the risk. After all, goat horns can be very sharp.

Pros of Disbudding Goat Kids 

There are many benefits of disbudding goat kids. Some of the most notable include:

  • Reduces the risk of injury to handlers and people
  • Lowers the chances of injury caused by fighting goats
  • Allows your goats to put more energy into other bodily functions
  • Some people prefer the aesthetic of disbudded goats

Cons of Disbudding Goat Kids 

While disbudding your goat kids can seem like a good option, it’s not always ideal. Some of the main drawbacks of disbudding goat kids include:

  • It can be expensive; in some regions, disbudding goat kids can only be done by a vet
  • Attempting to disbud a goat kid without the proper skill and experience could cause injuries
  • Disbudding is a potentially distressing procedure for your goat kid
  • Disbudded goats may not be able to hold their own against horned goats
  • A disbudded goat’s horns will never grow back; the decision is irreversible
  • Disbudding a goat kid poorly can result in small “spurs” of loosely attached horns growing

Aftercare for a Disbudded Goat 

After your goat has been disbudded, you should always take care to follow normal aseptic procedures, keeping the area clean and free of contaminants at all times. You may potentially need to apply an antibacterial or antimicrobial spray to the affected area, especially if your goat kid is distressed and scratching at the area. Follow-up painkillers may also be necessary. However, you must always discuss this with your vet and obtain a prescription and professional guidance before attempting any medical treatments with your goat.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been considering how to manage your goat kids, it’s first important to ask: should you disbud a goat, or is this unfair on them? In the end, it really comes down to your personal situation, the temperament and personality of your goats, and the like. However, it’s always important to be very cautious of putting disbudded goats in with horned goats; while it can work if there’s a good dynamic in your herd, the hornless goats will often get bullied far more than the others. 

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