Disbudding Your Kids
Before: When those bundles of joys are born on your farm and you are enthralled with their bouncing, fluffy, cuteness do not forget the all important thing of making sure they do not grow horns. Unless of course you are raising Boer or Spanish meat goats or Angora goats you probably don't want to have your kids growing up to have horns. Horns can be helpful if you plan to have a completely feral herd as they will come in handy for protection from predators, but most homesteaders and breeders are not going to want the added problems of horns getting stuck in fences, or miscarriages due to being head-butted in the belly by another goat with horns. That being said, I will give you the steps to disbudding your own kids and how to do it properly to make sure your kids don't end up with those unsightly scurs.
1st: First and foremost you need to buy your disbudding iron. There are a few different types you can buy. I personally use a Rhinehart X-30 electric dehorner for disbudding my kids. These work very well and are normally reasonably priced. There is also the Rhinehart X-50 which isn't a whole lot different than the X-30 but is made for larger animals. Some breeders prefer this one though it is a little more costly than the X-30. There are also more inexpensive ones than these but I recommend the X-30 over them all as you can also purchase smaller tips if you have dwarf or pygmy goats. It also has a piece available that also hits the scent gland of the bucklings which is located right behind their horn buds.
2nd: It is important that all kids getting disbudded should have a tetanus shot. There are two types of tetanus shots. Tetanus toxoid and tetanus anti-toxin. The toxoid is a vaccine and will provide long-term protection whereas the anti-toxin is for immediate, short term protection. If you choose to vaccinate your goats against over-eater's disease you will be giving this vaccine in a few weeks. I recommend giving the kids a dose of the anti-toxin for short term protection before disbudding and then when they are being weaned a shot of toxoid for long term protection.
3rd: You will need to trim your kids hair around the growing horn buds so that you can see how well you are disbudding and the color of the ring. It also eliminates extra odor from the burning hair.
4th: Check your disbudding iron to make sure it is hot enough to do the job without re-heating. In order to get an accurate idea of this, you should find a piece of wood and practice making a ring on it with the iron. If the ring is very light after counting slowly to ten it is not hot enough. If it makes a deep, dark ring then it is ready. I would let it sit for another 2 or 3 minutes after your practice on the wood.
5th: Secure the kid. You may need an assistant for this step until you get used to disbudding. With one hand hold the iron and with the other hold the kids head. Your thumb holding the top of the kid's head and ear down if necessary (so not to burn it) and your other fingers across his face. Be careful not to block his airways! When you are satisfied that he is secure, position the iron over the horn bud and start burning a ring around it. Count to five slowly (not too slowly) and pull the iron up. Give that side a break. Count to five on the other side. Then check your rings. If there is not a complete, unbroken copper ring around his horn buds then you need to repeat the burning with another set of counting to five. Ten seconds on each side should be sufficient to get the proper color on the ring but if you are nervous and not holding it to his head well then it may take longer.
6th: If you want to relieve the kids pain there are a few options. One is to put him back with his mother and she will soothe him, another is to give him a shot of banamine, If you do not have banamine you can also give him children's tylenol at 2cc every 4 hours.
After: In about a week the caps of the horn buds should come off if they didn't already when you disbudded. The horns buds will begin to heal and hair will grow around them until the area is no longer visible.
Keeping your goat's hooves trimmed is a very important thing that needs to be done on a regular basis. Goats that do not have regularly trimming of their hooves are more susceptible to going lame, having foot pain, and if left too long it can give them a permanent awkward gait when they walk. Goats should have their hooves trimmed every 2 months especially if they do not have large rocks on which to climb. Having large rocks to climb on helps to keep their hooves trimmed down naturally and some goats can go as long as 3-6 months with this type of terrain to climb on. Regardless, being observant of your goats hooves is a must. If the edges of the hooves are laying over then its time for a trim. Now to the steps of trimming hooves.
1st: You will need a pair of hoof trimmers or pruning shears (I use these as the ends are not pointed and sharp but curved which prevents stabbing yourself while trimming). You can purchase these items at various places. Many farm stores always have these on hand but if you buy the pruning shears I recommend not buying the least expensive ones as you want something that will last a while. Prices range from around $15- $25 for hoof trimmers to between $7 and $15 for pruning shears. I bought pruning shears on sale at Sears 6 years ago for $7 and I just retired them last year.
2nd: You will need either an assistant to hold the goat steady by the neck and head or a milking stand/stanchion to keep her secure. Start with the front legs as they are easier to manage and by the time you get to the back legs she will have gotten the idea that you aren't trying to hurt her and will likely not kick as much.
3rd: You want to trim down both sides of the goat's hooves until it is flat all the way and even with the middle (frog) of the foot. Do not cut into the white part of the middle(frog) as this area is very sensitive and not meant to be trimmed. You will need to gently scrape out any mud or debris that is in the frog area so that you once again see the frog. The heel of the hoof occasionally needs trimming but do not trim it down as much as the sides.The goat's hoof when standing on it should look square. You don't want the heel to be lower than the front, this is not good for the goat legs when walking.
Hoof Trimming Video
Scurs: The Leftovers Of An Unsuccessful Disbudding
Scurs are small, stunted horns or growths left over from a disbudding that wasn't done well enough. This is what happens when you don't get a full copper colored ring around that horn bud when you are disbudding. Scurs come in varies forms. Some are just stunted horns that have veins in them and if cut off could cause your goat to bleed to death and be in a lot of pain. Other scurs are more like finger nails. They may be soft and somewhat pliable and have virtually no vein at all except at the base of the head where they are attached. These are real scurs and I will give you the steps in taking these scurs off your goat. I would not recommend cutting stunted horns off unless you have a vet do it surgically. It puts the goat in a great deal of pain and the blood loss can cause death in a short amount of time. True scurs are pretty simple to get off a goat and you want to do this when you see them starting to curl under or if they are becoming too large. Some scurs curl under so much that they put pressure on the goats head which is not good. Here are the steps.
1st: You will need a pair of pliers for gripping the goats scurs, a bottle of Wound Kote, or Blood Stop just in case there is some bleeding and possibly an assistant if the goat is not in a stand or stanchion.
2nd: When the goat is secure, grip the scur with the pliers and just hold on tight. The goat will start yanking its head around trying to get lose and this should pop the scur off. It might take a few tries and you may have to twist a little bit if it doesn't want to budge, but it will pop off.
3rd: Once the scur is off, if it is bleeding put your Blood Stop powder on it and continue to add it until it stops bleeding.
4th: If you want to give something to the goat for pain you can give him 2cc's of children's tylenol or banimine from your vet.
If you have a goat that has longer, hard scurs or stunted horns there are other ways you can trim down the ends so they are not putting pressure on your goat's head. You can use a wire saw (o.b. wire) or even a small electric handheld saw. Cut small bits off the end at a time and watch for bleeding. If you start seeing blood you need to stop. You will then know how far you can trim down every time he needs trimming.
Trimming A Hard Scur
Jill Hart from Weston, Idaho on September 25, 2014:
very good description of how to disbud and hoof trimming for goats.
Daniel Bixby from Stottville, New York on January 16, 2014:
This is very informative and interesting great job Ms Butler and keep up the fantastic work. I always enjoy your hubs!