Wethered Goat: What Is It and Why Are Some Goats Given This Treatment?

Have you ever heard of the term: a wethered goat or a wether? Perhaps you’re looking to buy your first goats and stumbled across this term. Or, maybe your vet has suggested this process to you, and you’re not entirely sure what it involves. In any case, understanding the question of “what is a wethered goat” is a crucial concept as a goat breeder, and our friendly experts are on hand today to help you understand a little more. After all, wethering – for the most part – is a pretty simple procedure and is very common for goats, and it might just be the right option for your beloved four-legged friends, too.

What is a Wethered Goat? 

A wethered goat is a male goat that has had its testicles removed by castration. The wethering process in goats will vary depending on where in the world you live, but many different processes can do it. Be sure to discuss wethering with your vet before choosing a method to ensure that you’re not putting the goat at risk.

What Does the Process of Wethering Involve? 

As we’ve mentioned previously, the wethering process requires your goat’s testicles to be removed. Depending on the procedure used, this process can either be bloodless or surgical.

Bloodless Wethering of Goat Kids (Banding)

During bloodless wethering or castration of a goat kid, a small rubber band is secured around the top of the scrotum, with the testicles hanging beneath the band. This band usually cuts off the blood supply to the testicles, causing them to fall off a few weeks later. The process is called bloodless because this is a non-invasive procedure that doesn’t cause any bleeding or incisions in normal circumstances. It’s potentially less likely to result in infections if done correctly.

However, it’s important to check your local regulations regarding “banding” castration; for example, here in the UK, the breeder can band a kid up to seven days of age on-site themselves if appropriately trained. However, above this age, any castration must be done by a vet.

Surgical Castration / Wethering of Goat Kids 

Alternatively, the testicles can be removed by surgical methods if banding is not used. Surgical castration is more invasive and may have a greater risk of complications and infections. It’s also worth noting that a goat wethered by surgical means may still appear to be entire, as the scrotum itself will be left (even though it will be empty).

During surgical castration, the vet will usually give the goat anesthetic and painkillers before making incisions in the base of the scrotum, allowing the testicles out. Then, the testicles are removed, and the blood supply is tied off. 

In our experience of surgical castration, the vet left the incision open to drain rather than stitching it up. As such, keeping the wound clean and hygienic is vital to prevent infections.

You could also use a burdizzo tool to clamp the blood vessels into the testes. This procedure is very similar to banding in that it cuts off the blood supply. However, it is potentially a lot easier to get wrong than other methods, and it’s not a method I’ve tried myself.

Does Goat Wethering Need to be done by a Vet? 

A veterinarian can do goat wethering; this procedure should ideally always be done on a vet’s advice. However, depending on your local rules and regulations, it may not always be necessary to involve a vet during the wethering process (i.e., if banding a goat kid under seven days of age in the UK). However, as mentioned, this will depend on where you live, so contact your local authorities for further advice on your specific laws.

We should also point out here that (even if it’s legal to wether your goat without a vet’s help in your area) if you’re not confident, you should never attempt to wether a goat yourself. Wethering a goat incorrectly can cause a great deal of pain and distress. The process could also go wrong, or the goat could end up getting ill. As such, don’t take the risk unless you are 100% confident in what you are doing. 

And, of course, if it’s not legal to wether a goat without vet support in your area – never attempt to do it yourself. Wethering is invariably a medical procedure and must always be done in line with legalities and regulations.

What are the Side Effects of Wethering a Goat? 

After your goat has been wethered, it may experience discomfort for a short while (that’s not really all that surprising). So, your goat may be a little quieter or off-feed, but this will usually pass quickly if they express this at all. Your vet may prescribe your goat anti-inflammatory drugs to help alleviate these symptoms; discuss this with your vet to determine the most suitable approach.

It’s worth considering that some people believe early castration of goats may increase their chances of suffering from urinary calculi (which can be fatal).

Is Wethering Reversible?

Wethering with a rubber band may be reversible in the immediate moments after applying the band. However, this will be irreversible once the testes have begun to dry up. In addition, as soon as the burdizzo and surgical procedures are complete, you will find these cannot be reversed.

What are the Alternatives to Wethering a Goat?

If you aren’t 100% sure you want to wether your goat but don’t want him getting his pen mates pregnant, you could attempt to use a “buck/billy apron.” Buck aprons theoretically prevent him from successfully mounting a female, but it’s worth noting that these may not be 100% effective.

Final Thoughts

As a goat breeder or goat keeper, ensuring you’ve taken steps to ensure the health and safety of your goats is crucial. One such management procedure you could consider in this regard is wethering – a relatively quick and simple procedure that shouldn’t cause too many side effects for your male goats but could offer many benefits. 

However, it’s important to discuss wethering with your vet before deciding whether it’s the right process for your goats. And remember: wethering is irreversible, so if you think you might want to breed from your goat down the line, be sure to make appropriate preparations.

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