Dehorning a goat (also known as disbudding) is a common practice among farmers that want to make sure that their animals don’t get injured for no particular reason. If you’re considering taking up goat farming, we suggest you check out our recent post as it contains important information with regard to goat feeders, for example. We have a variety of others that might interest you if you’re interest in the topic.
Getting back to the topic of this article, let’s see what are the pros and cons of disbudding, whether it is a practice that might have risks or not, and whether it is recommended by veterinarians. Take the time to read the info below and you’ll learn how to make an informed decision in this sense.
Different types of goats
First things first. Did you know that there are goats that are born naturally without any horns? These are called polled goats – and it’s a recessive trait that saves farmers a lot of headaches. The babies have a soft spot on their heads in the area where the horns should be normally located.
The baby goats that are born with horns should typically be dis-bud during their first week of life. This is done by destroying them with a hot iron so that they no longer grow. However cruel that might sound, the truth is that there are many advantages to dehorning goats, and one of the most important ones is the fact that the practice can actively keep the goat safe, especially if it lives on a small homestead and doesn’t have access to an open range.
What do the horns do?
If you are considering getting rid of what is basically an anatomical part of an animal, you need to know that very few organs are made without a purpose. As is the case with the liver, the feet, or even the intestinal appendix in rodents, the same goes for horns in goats. It goes without saying that wild goats use horns to protect themselves from other goats or even predators. They are, in a nutshell, their best weapon.
A goat that has horns has the means to protect herself from predators. While it might not have much of a chance if it is up to a coyote or a mountain lion, it’s true that the horns can give a goat a change to at least fight back.
Then, there’s an important part that horns play and that few people are aware of. They are capable of regulating the goat’s body temperature. The horns are equipped with plenty of blood vessels, which means that temperature regulation can happen through them instead of the goat having to pant to be able to cool off. Goats that have horns and that live in areas with hot summers are capable of tolerating high temperatures a lot better compared to those that were dehorned.
Last, but not least, horns have an advantage for the goat farmer, too, and it consists of the fact that they can act as a handle. If you have ever tried convincing a goat to move from one place to another or just try and move it into the pen, you know that grabbing the animal by the horn makes the whole task a lot easier.
Horns can get caught in many places
This is, without a doubt, an issue that all goats have to go through at some point in their lives if they were not dehorned. Of all of the types of ruminants you might want to keep on your farm, goats are by far the most impetuous ones, so they’ll go to extreme lengths to do whatever they like. Unfortunately, this also means that they can often get in trouble, and if they still have their horns, that kind of trouble could mean being stuck in a tree, fence, or mangers.
Sometimes, the struggle of breaking free can destroy the goat’s horns anyway, but the problem in this case is that it doesn’t happen with veterinary supervision, so the animal will, in other words, be injured – therefore, requiring some type of treatment, whether more serious or not.
Why are people concerned with goats’ horns?
There are several reasons why one could consider getting their goats dehorned, and aside from the obvious one that we have written about earlier (that they can get stuck in fences and the likes and can, as such, injure the goat by accident), the truth is that there are concerns regarding the safety of people, too.
Goats with horns can be a little intimidating, and while a tame goat that constantly has a sweet disposition is nothing to worry about, there are wild or scared goats that could have unpredictable behavior. While goats avoid butting the people they usually interact with (especially those that feed them), some bucks can become aggressive toward some people and as such, they will try to head butt them. While some female goats can be unpredictable, too, the truth is that males are much more.
Even though many farmers might say that handling goats with horns makes the whole situation as easy as pie, if you have just brought a number of new goats in and they have horns, they can actually be dangerous to the ones handling them. There are many instances where people were almost stabbed in the eye by a goat’s horns while trying to move it around or tend to an injury it had or trim the animal’s hooves. If you just happen to be at the wrong time and in the wrong place, you might be unlucky enough to be injured by a goat’s horns.
A dehorned goat is safe for other goats
Goats function based on a hierarchy, and because many will try to be the head goat, that means they have to challenge each other constantly. If they weren’t dehorned, that could be a serious problem as they will display aggressive behavior toward one another from time to time. However normal this behavior might be considering their type of social structure, some injuries caused by horns can be very severe.
Let’s consider that many people who keep goats do so because they produce milk and other dairy products. All of us know how sensitive the goat’s udder can be, so just think of the implications of getting it injured by another goat’s horns.
Mixed herds aren’t a good idea, either, because the goats that still have their horns will try to get the best food by attacking the others.
So, what should you do?
The type of farming that you do has a lot to say when it comes to making your decision. If you are one of those people that lets their goats roam free and they come home whenever they want (yes, that’s a thing), it might be a better idea to leave their horns be as they can defend themselves from predators.
On the other hand, if you have a herd on your farm that you care for and you don’t let your goats free (and risk losing them), you should consider dehorning all of them.