Goats can fall into two categories: those that are polled and those that are not. A polled goat is naturally born without horns, a recessive trait. These babies have a soft spot on their heads where the horns would otherwise be. When your kids are born with horns you need to consider dis-budding. Usually, it’s best to dis-bud at the first week of life. This is done by destroying the horns with a hot iron so that they don’t grow.
This may sound cruel, and horns CAN serve as a heat release for the animal. However, it is often best for the goat to dis-bud. This is especially true if the goat is NOT in open range, and is kept on a smaller homestead. Here are some reasons why you should consider dis-budding your goats when they are young kids:
The horns can get caught in mangers, fences, or trees.
Since they are notorious for getting into as much trouble as possible, getting their horns caught can be a regular occurrence for a horned goat. Sometimes, in their struggle to break free they will destroy whatever their horns are caught in. The horns can also break off, and the injured goat will require a visit from the vet. Sadly, they can also struggle enough in this type of situation that they break their necks.
Horns can be a weapon.
Truly. When two goats are butting heads, they use their horns. When this happens, the attacked goat can suffer much harm. Of course, there is that goat that will come after YOU, or a child. Even when playing around, the horns can HURT. De-horned goats are easier to handle for that reason.
Horns can rip clothing rapidly.
I had several favorite sweatshirts that my girl ripped with her horns. That was when we decided no more horns in our herd. Each kid after would be dis-budded. I just couldn’t afford to have more shirts and coats destroyed.
Dis-budding a goat is easy to learn. I would suggest that you work with an experienced homesteader who will help you the first few times. Often, the hair around the horn buds is clipped close to the site, allowing better sight and access. The hot iron is carefully placed around the horn buds, burning them. Gloves should be worn to protect you from getting burned in the process.
Sometimes a dis-budding box is used with a kid, especially if they are unruly. This handy aid will keep them still, allowing you to work much more quickly. For the experienced dis-budder, just holding the kid between your knees may be enough.
To provide a bit of relief, a topical antiseptic spray or solarcaine can be applied to the area to help it cool and heal. We like to use a combination of coconut oil and olive oil for this. Infections may occur after dis-budding, so it is important to keep an eye on the wound and have the topical spray on hand at all times.