Breeding · Farm life · goats · Nigerian Dwarf Goats · Wethers

An inflammatory post about horns and disbudding

Ok, I’m not being inflammatory deliberately. It just seems that every time this issue comes up anywhere, it gets heated. My plan is to talk about our horns this year why we did what we did, and (as always) how CUTE the babies are.

First of all, lots of people disbud and lots of goats live their lives with amputated horns and seem to do ok (we have no real way of knowing whether they miss them or not but the ones I have don’t appear to be suffering for it – except maybe in the back scratch department).

 

I also want to say that I understand some of the reasons people disbud. The most compelling reason for me is not my safety, it’s theirs. I have had a gorgeous Icelandic ram caught by his spectacular horns in the fence. Fortunately I’m a frequent checker on my animals and found him before he’d died.

 

Now, years later, most of our fences are smaller and there is far less likelihood that anyone would get a horn caught (dairy or fibre animal). The one place we haven’t yet redone is the boys run therefore, all of the not polled boys now are disbudded. The girls run should be all super small no climb so Gita is remaining horned.

 

She is a bit of an experiment but as I was looking at pictures of horned Nigerians, I realized that their horns look very much like my horned Icelandic ewes. And exactly like the horned Icelandic and Norwegian goats I covet. So, we left her intact.

 

My issue with disbudding is how quickly the horns start on some kids (but not always – more on that later). If the horns start in right away, then you’re having to make decisions about them before you really know what the animal will look like. Why does it matter? Simple -why disbud an animal you’re going to eat? I won’t sell a pet quality intact male and I won’t sell a pet quality doe in most cases. This requires me to decide on their horns way too early (in my opinion). Anyway, my other feeling was that I had some 4H people interested and I know they need disbudded dairy goats to show. So, I did disbud. And then I disbudded the one horned, wethered pet we’ll be keeping in case he ends up in the boy run with the more open fence.

 

I have to say that contrary to what people suggest, I had the vet do it. When it comes to animals and injury/pain and vets, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding out there. And it’s easy to believe them – especially when taking an animal to the vet comes with a bill. I admit that although I felt that I wasn’t in any way over charged, it is a tough thing to swallow. For me though, it’s just part of caring for my animals. Anyway as a result of the vet visits (yep, plural), I’d love to debunk a couple of those myths.

 

First of all, the fact that anyone (animal or person) who receives a huge burn to their head and a few minutes after is playing isn’t proof that it’s not causing them pain. We know that in moments of huge, life threatening pain (and I would say two 1000 degree burns would be included in that) the higher and mid level functioning of the brain literally shuts off leaving all of the energy for the lower level functioning. This is the primal part of the brain that keeps us alive when we are in danger. It’s the part of the brain that can watch a grizzly chomp on your arm, not feel any pain, and think “as long as he doesn’t get the artery, I should be ok.” It’s the same part of the brain that can, after a traumatic injury like a bear eating your arm or a fall resulting in a catastrophic pelvic fracture, have you walk out of the bush, seeming to be unharmed. It’s the same thing that happens when a deer who has been hit by a car and now has two visibly broken legs will start trying to get up and run on the stumps (yep, a gross visual but even worse in real life, I assure you). There is no time to think about the pain, the brain has shut down everything except ‘this is what I need to do right now to be safe’ primal response. It’s also why people will involuntarily urinate in an emergency – the brain is making sure all systems are 100% online for survival. It’s also the same part of the brain that allows a mum to lift a car off of a child or do other things that the body just wouldn’t do except that it has to.

It’s not until your brain gets the message “it’s ok, you’re safe” that the pain and immobility will start. I could get into a whole big discussion on the whys and hows (it’s the kind of thing I work with a work) but I think for most people, it wouldn’t be that interesting.

Suffice to say that simply seeing an animal get up and walk or play after such a burn isn’t evidence that the burn didn’t hurt.

Now I want to be clear. I don’t think people who DIY disbud are cruel. This is new information and lots of people who don’t work in my field don’t even know about it. Those who might don’t necessarily buy it. Also, people are swayed by myth two…..

 

Myth Two – the vet. I encountered two myths about the vet. The first is that the needle to sedate the goat is far more traumatic than the quick, at home disbudding. And the second is that the vet can’t possibly be competent at disbudding.

To address the first myth:

 

No death grip, just chillin'
No death grip, just chillin’

 

Well, I have no taken a bundle of goats to the vet for castration and/or disbudding and I have participated in both myself as a DIYer. I can say, without a doubt, that no, the goatlings didn’t have more stress at the vet than the DIY ones (see the above picture). The only really stressed one was the one who is a bit wild and didn’t want to be touched by yucky humans. He was going to be stressed whether or not he went to the vet or had the DIY treatment.

Not a lot of stress here
Not a lot of stress here

To address the second:

I have had goats disbudded by vets in the very distant past without any problems. And now, we’re a month in with no signs of scurs. And there is no question that they’re neutered (unlike when we banded and hoped we got everything but…). So, while it could happen that they’ll scur, so far so good. And, there are no shortage of DIY scurs in the world as well too.

 

There is kind of a third myth and that is that the goats don’t do well with the anesthetic. I learned that the generally used anethetic for goats isn’t a reversible one and so you have a long waiting period for the goats to come out of it. If you didn’t know that, you could be really worried that literally, hours later, the goat is still out.

All of mine did just fine – although they slept for a good long time.

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If you are going to disbud, please do consider your vet. Of course, whether it would be a good choice for you and your goats depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is the quality of your relationship with your vet. With my vet, he’s pretty straight ahead and we have a great relationship. He told me he does few disbuddings, why he was doing things the way he was, and pretty much every step of the procedure (both for the disbudding and castration).

 

I also feel really strongly about pain relief. Not only were the babies knocked out but they were given a bolus of pain relief that would last 24hrs – long enough to get healing started.

 

Overall, I was entirely happy with the disbudding by the vet. Yep, it cost me something but it was so very worth it.

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