Goats: To De-horn or Not To De-horn…..

By | April 14, 2016

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Goats with horns.

Some of my goats with horns for protection.

That is the question…… My sister texted me a couple weeks ago asking to borrow my band castrator because she had a young goat to de-horn. I said “you mean castrate right?” She assured me she meant de-horn and sent me the following link from GoatWorld so I could read up on it myself.  I had never heard of this method to de-horn goats before.

Of course, we argued over whether she should de-horn her new babies or not.  Years ago when I had my first goat babies I attempted to use the standard burning method to de-horn or more accurately de-bud young goats.  I hated it and swore my goats would go “natural” from then on.  So being a wimp in that area may have had more influence than my following list of pro’s and con’s.  I discovered that they had already bought and used an electronic burning de-budding device.  The problem occurred with one of the older babies that already had horns growing in.  You will notice in the pictures below that the little horns are flat on top.  That is because they tried to burn them but it didn’t take and the horns continued to grow, hence the need to try the band method.

My Con’s for De-horning (or Pro horns)

  1. Protection =  My Homestead is located in the boonies and is surrounded by hills and grassland.  There are packs of coyotes and plenty of fox around (not to mention some disobedient ranch dogs).  Since my goats are in essence “free range” (not much luck in keeping them penned up LOL), then I feel they need any extra defenses that nature gave them.
  2. Handy Handles =  Yes, I confess I often catch or hold a goat by it’s horns.  My sister tells me that is a big no-no in the show goat and dairy world.  Well sorry, this is the Off Grid Homestead world.  In other words the Real World.  Plus I always seem to get wild goats given to me (if they were tame they could sell them).  It is hard enough to catch these semi wild goats if I don’t have a collar on them.  One of my does was de-horned before I got her and she is the dickens to hold since I don’t like choking her with the collar.
  3. Goats are weird about their horns =  I don’t know how to describe it.  Try dragging a goat on a rope where they don’t want to go.  They are rearing, jumping, and choking themselves out, but grab their horns and their whole demeanor changes.  It is like they get a bit submissive.  Maybe some goat psychologist can explain it in the comments.   Also if you use a jerry-rigged milking stand, then the doe with no horns will surely pull her head out faster and sooner than a goat with horns.  Just watch a goat with its head stuck in a fence, it will stand there for hours waiting to be let loose.
  4. No burning or screaming baby goats =  Okay I am a sucker for baby goats and their cry (screams!) distress me.  Plus the burning smell as I struggled to hold the goat head still must have brought back the traumatic memories of the Army dentist trying to get my wisdom teeth out.  He literally was kneeling on my chest at one point trying to pull them with the pliers.  Finally giving up on one he got a mini circular saw thing out to cut the tooth into sections for removal.  Of course that location got infected and that side of my face swelled like a chipmunk and sported beautiful purples, greens and then sickly yellows.  Ugh!  Bottom line, no burning goats for me.
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My sister’s Pro’s for De-horning

  1.  Expected Standard = She has registered dairy goats.  She hopes that my nephew will show some of the goats just born in the future.  It is a breed standard (or at least VERY expected) that the goats are de-horned.
  2.  Easier and safer handling =  Dairy goats are often in small and confining areas whether it is a milking parlor or a stall or a group of does waiting to be milked.  The same reason that dairy cows are usually de-horned if they aren’t a polled breed.  You don’t want the animals injuring each other or their human handlers.
  3. Horns won’t get stuck in fences =  Okay I admit she has a point there.  Goats can drive you crazy getting their horns stuck in the strangest places.  You rescue them, turn your back, and they are often stuck again…ugh.  But I will live with that at my place.

Banding Technique for De-horning:

Details and tips are at the Goat World link, but here is the method she used.

She didn’t think putting tape over the bands to hold them in place would work with her batch of rambunctious babies.  So she used a knife to gently scrape and cut a small holding notch around the horn so the rubber castration band would not roll up the horn.  You can see in the below picture that one small spot on one of the horns did bleed a few drops of blood while trying to hold the baby still.

Goat de-horn close-up

Close-up picture of horns with rubber castration bands applied.


Goat de-horning with bands.


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This is a picture two weeks into the process.  My sister just called to say the horns dropped off the next day.  They can now try to reburn the area to stop any future regrowth.

Goat de-horn two weeks into the process.

So it is working but I doubt the outcome will be as clean or neat as a baby goat de-budded at an early age.  I hope to get an update picture in a couple months to see how it all turned out.

Lessons learned are that if you are going to de-horn, do it very early.  Make sure you have a debudder/dehorner ready and handy if you plan to have baby goats that must be de-horned due to registration or show requirements.  That was my sister’s problem, their de-horner had not arrived at the optimal time for the first kid to be debudded.  Just a few days made a big difference in the sucess of the process as you can see above.  The other baby kids were disbudded with no problems with the electric device.  If you don’t, banding is your best bet.  Of course I choose not to de-horn.  I don’t have registered stock and I don’t plan to show.

Who else has tried this method?  Do you de-horn your goats?  What pro’s and con’s did I miss?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Author: WMH Cheryl

I am living off-off grid with horses, goats, chickens, meat rabbits, llamas, dogs and too many Feral cats. Learning things the hard way and hoping my mistakes may help you avoid them while we prep for the future with a goal of being self sufficient.

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