Disbudding is the removal of a young goat’s horn buds before the horns get a chance to grow. This is done by burning the buds with a hot iron. Dehorning is the removal of a grown goat’s horns. Both are a much debated subject among people who raise goats because both are painful and stressful for the goats to undertake. Some goats even die from the shock or blood lose that occurs from the procedures.
Many argue that the problems associated with goat horns outweigh the cons of the procedures. Goats being curious animals will stick their heads through fences trying to reach better grazing, and if they have horns they’ll often get their heads stuck in the wire. This can pose a serious problem for people with larger herds on large pieces of property who can’t keep a close eye on their herd at all times. If the stuck goat isn’t rescued in time they can die from dehydration or even strangulation. The horns can also be problematic because goats, especially the males, love headbutting each other, and if they have sharp horns they can create deep gashes that can get infected or even take out an eye.
Since I have a small herd of mild-mannered Nigerian Dwarfs that I see everyday, I chose to let them keep their horns. Which they love to scratch their backs with. They do sometimes get their heads stuck in the fence wire, but for me it’s not an issue.
But I did have one buck that was problematic enough with his horns that I had to do something about them. This goat had long horns with impressively sharp points and would fight others (including me) non-stop. He would constantly slash and headbutt the other male in his enclosure. Never giving the other goat’s wounds a chance to heal until the wounds eventually got infected.
Not wanting to dehorn the buck and missing my chance to disbud, I had one other option to take. Dulling the sharp tips of the horns down so he could no longer slash and stab with them. Dulling goats horns comes down to two things, clipping off the tips until you see a pin prick of blood and then filing out the edges until smooth.
Things you’ll need:
• One well endowed, crotchety goat
• Hoof nipper, or something that can clip the tips of the horns
• A farrier’s rasp file
• Tape measure
• Clean cloth
Horns consists of three layers. The horn, the bone, and the tissue. One of the reasons people feel dehorning goats is so cruel is that the tissue inside has a lot of nerves in them which when damaged is extremely painful for the goat. The tissue is also prone to heavy bleeding.
Measure out ¼ inch marks on the horns.
Only clip ¼ inch at a time until you’re satisfied with the amount cut or you see a pin prick of blood.
If the horn begins to bleed apply the cloth and compress until the bleeding stops. Then take the rasp file and file down the edges. Do the filing gently, you can easily go too far if you’re filing hard, and never continue lengthwise once you see blood.