How to Take Care of Goats Horns

SAFETY FIRST even in goat keeping! As a goat farmer, it’s important to protect your goats and people from the dangers posed by their horns. While there are goats that are naturally hornless (“polled”), Most male (bucks) and female (does) goats in the US have horns. This article is to hone your knowledge and skills on goat horn care for enhanced safety at your home farm.

taking care of goat horns
Taking care of the goat horns enhances safety

Goats with horns can pose great risks to other goats, themselves, and even their handlers including yourself. Your knowledge of how to take care of goat horns is therefore paramount. Goat horn care procedures include the following:

1. Trimming the Horns: This involves skillful cutting off of a goat’s horn or scurs. Great care should be taken since a goat’s skull is attached to its skull and is enriched with blood vessels. You are to only trim 1-inch section at any given time.

2. Disbudding the Horns: This is the procedure of using a hot iron heated to about 600°C for the removal of goat horns. It ensures the horns don’t grow by destroying horn-growing cells. There are two main methods of doing this: the hot iron method or the chemical paste option.

3. Dehorning: If the buds are left on kids to develop into horns, their removal is dehorning. It’s not a pleasant procedure. If you’re not well trained on doing it, let an experienced veterinarian or goat owner do it for you.

It’s advised that you avoid dehorning unless it’s very necessary. If you’ve to, it’s highly recommended that an experienced veterinarian do it for you.

Other Horn Removal or Dehorning Methods

  1. Caustic paste: Use of chemicals to remove horn buds.
  2. Rubber band Method: Bloodless but may leave scurs on your goat
  3. Sawing: Occasional cutting of the horn using a saw. It’s important that you cauterize exposed blood vessels using a disbudding iron in order to deter infection
  4. Gouging: A suitable tool can be used to remove the bud. This tactic is not commonly used on goats.

The above methods are not highly recommended due to the risks involved. We shall expound on the most popular procedures later in this article

Goat Horn Care-Why Horn Removal?

Removal of horns on goats remains controversial. However, if you keep your goats in the backyard there are reasons why you need to consider it a necessity.

 Reasons for “Disbudding”

1. To protect other goats in your herd: Goats with horns get carried away with their ‘power horns’, and will start bulling or hurting others. Disbudding is like withdrawing their fighting arsenals for their peaceful coexistence.

2. Market Value of Your Goat: Some goat buyers prefer goats that are disbudded.

3. Avoiding Personal Injuries: You as a goat farmer or your herdsman can get hurt by an unpredictable wild goat with dangerous horns.

A playful goat may decide to sharpen its fighting skills on you using its sharp horns! Can you imagine the extent of injuries if “champion” goat below had not been disbudded? Could you have predicted its illegal-clinical-back-trike-knockout-punch?!

No matter how gentle your goat is, there will always be risks associated with its horns. To avoid such unforeseen risks, horn trimming, disbudding or dehorning is the best practice.

4. The danger of Getting Stuck: Ensures that the goat is free from vulnerable conditions like having their head stuck on the fence or between trees.

goat horn care to deter head stucking
Head of a goat stuck in a fence

This can make them easy prey for predators, or subject them to either injuries or strangulation.

5. For Safety during Goats Show: If your goat is for the show, the requirement is that it’s disbudded. This is for the safety of other goats as well as their handlers

Note: Horns is definitely not in the list of the benefits of goat farming. If you feel they’ll subject your herds and people to risks, get rid of them in the best way possible

Importance of Keeping Your Goat Horns

While “disbudding” is goat horn care linked to safety, keeping there are some advantages of your goats having their horns. These include:

1. Self-Protection from Predators:

Horns may not protect your goat from a lion attach or other powerful predators. However, provides your goat with a chance to fight back. Some predators, therefore, have to put in an extra effort to overpower them.

2. To Regulate Body Temperature:

Goat horns are connected to many blood vessels that help in controlling their body temperature during hot weather. Because of this, goats with horns are more tolerant of hot weather conditions. They don’t have to pant in order to cool off.

3. Avoidance of Disbudding Risks:

Disbudding procedure calls for skills to ensure that your goat remains in good health. Since the procedure uses hot iron, holding it for too long during the process may cause damage to your goat’s brain.

Holding it for a shorter duration than necessary, a scur may form or start growing.  You may need to contact a vet to help with the proper removal of the scars.

4. Horns Align a Goat Head & Acts as Shock Absorbers:

Goat horns help in ensuring that the goat’s head is well aligned. It also acts as shock absorb by spreading impacts on the head to the skull, and the rest of the body. This ensures that your goat’s neck and spine are well protected against impacts while fighting

5. Easy Handling

If your goat has horns, handling them may be much easier especially when your goat is not aggressive. This is because their horns can be easily grabbed as handlebars when directing them to move to a particular place

6. Horns Add Charm to Your Goats!

Outwardly, your goat will look natural and more captivating with their horns. If your goat is well behaved with no risks or hazards associated with its horns, there is no harm in letting them just be natural goats with horns! Just remember: there will always be risks associated with your goat horns.

Goat Horn Care-Trimming & Disbudding

Imagine keeping goats that are naturally hornless or “polled” goats! You will be saved from having to trim their horns or disbudding procedure.

There’s however a valid reason for not breeding “polled” goats. Hornless goats give birth to infertile goats. The infertile offsprings will also be “hermaphrodites”-having male and female reproductive organs. As a goat farmer, you’re, therefore, advised NOT to breed two naturally hornless goats.

Trimming and Disbudding Requirements:

For successful disbudding, you need to be first well trained. The following will be required for  a successful procedure:

  1. An Assistant
  2. Disbudding Iron
  3. Safety Gloves
  4. Eye Protection Wears
  5. A sharp heavy duty knife
  6. Disbudding box
  7. Clipper
  8. Antiseptic Spray
  9. Blood Stop Powder
  10. Pain Reliever Banamine to deter inflammation ( all provided in their food)

Goat Horn Care Procedures

a.      Goat Horn Care- Trimming

Just like fingernails, you may need to simply trim your goat’s horns instead of dehorning.

 Since the horn is attached to your goat’s skull and full of blood capillaries, much care is needed during trimming to ensure your goat is not harmed.

 You will need to engage an experienced person. If you’re already trained in trimming, you may still need some assistance.

When your goat has scurs or partial horn growths, they’ve to be carefully trimmed using a bone saw. To ensure that you don’t cut your goat’s blood vessels, ensure that at a given time, you only trim-off 1inch sections.

There is a special electric disbudding iron that you can use to trim your goat’s horns. It’s very important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Consulting your veterinarian is necessary to avoid possible dangers or risks linked to improper trimming.

b.     Disbudding

There two methods you can adopt for the removal of horns from your goats which are:

b1. Caustic Paste Method:

This is a chemical method where the caustic paste is used to chemically burn the buds. When adopting this method, ensure that the kid is separated from its mother as well as other animals. During the procedure, ensure that your hands are well protected and you’ve all the right tools.

The kid should be kept away from rain since this might wash the chemical paste from its buds into its eyes or other body areas.

b2. Hot Iron Method:

This involves the use of an electric hot iron with a tip diameter of ¾” to 1”. The instrument has to be hot until it turns to cherry red before being used for disbudding. The hot iron is then pressed on the kid’s horn buds for some seconds to destroy horn-growing cells. 

For good results, ensure that the hair over the kid’s horn buds is well clipped before you commence disbudding. After being trained, you can disbud your goats on your own or contact an experienced goat-keeper to do it for you.

The disbudding process can cost you from $ 5 to $10. For more on disbudding

Goat Horn Care-Removing Horns With Disbudding Iron

1st Step: Heat the disbudding rod until it’s red hot

2nd. Clip the area around your kid’s buds

4th. Place the kid in a disbudding box for easier restraining when disbudding

5th. Hold the hot iron on the kid’s bud while rotating in a clockwise direction for approximately 3 to 5 seconds then lift. It should leave a copper-colored circle. If the color is white or not well-formed, repeat the process. Be cautious not to harm your goat’s brain.

6th. Carefully brush off the buds

7th. Repeat the same procedure on the remaining bud

8th. In case the area is bleeding, apply blood stop powder on the affected area.

9th. To deter any potential infections, spray the horn with antiseptic as this will facilitate the healing process.

Read more on how to disbud a baby goat

c. Dehorning

Dehorning procedure is undertaken on goats whose horns have grown. It’s never an easy undertaking and can be dangerous if not skillfully done.

Due to the dangers involved, it’s highly advised that you contact a veterinarian to undertake the procedure.

Before your goat’s horn can be removed, an incision of about 1cm to 1.5 cm is to be first made right at the base of your goat’s horns. It’s then that a dehorning saw and obstetrics wire can be used for the horn removal.

The other simple dehorning technique is cutting the horn at approximately 2 cm from its base. This can be done periodically since the horn will continue growing.

Important Note:

Before dehorning your goats, it’s necessary that they are first vaccinated with tetanus toxoid. Therefore, when planning to dehorn your goats, contact a veterinarian to arrange for the required vaccination. At the time of dehorning, the kids should be given a booster vaccine.

Other Important Links:

  1. How to disbud a baby goat (Kid)
  2. How to Trim a Goat’s Horns

Meshack Sewe

Meshack, is a tech-savvy Creative Copywriter, Poet, a Blogger, and a proud owner of few locally bred cows and goats. He first trained in Agricultural Engineering & later in Business Information Technology (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology). He has served both as Program Officer and Program Manager with two NGOs focusing on Agricultural & Humanitarian Programs targeting local communities.

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