Disbudding a Baby Goat

There is nothing more traumatic than disbudding a baby goat only a few days old. I dreaded it all during Pan’s pregnancy because I knew if she had a daughter, we’d be keeping her. And if we kept her, she’d have to be disbudded.

For the uninitiated, disbudding is the term for burning off the horn buds. It has to be done while they’re very young.

A couple of months ago we attended a goat workshop at an agricultural college. We met some very experienced goat breeders who were going to demonstrate various techniques, including disbudding. The first part of the seminar lasted way longer than expected and I was anxious to get home since we still had an hour and a half drive ahead of us.

I mentioned my disappointment at missing the disbudding when one of the presenters (Carol) said she’d be happy to show me how it’s done on my goat when the time was right. I warned her that we lived far from the college but that didn’t faze her a bit.

I emailed her when the baby was born (now known as Patch) and good to her word, she came to our home with the disbudding equipment.

Now I’ve watched disbudding on YouTube. It is NOT for the faint of heart. This is as traumatic as it gets, especially when you’re inches away from the baby.

The only blessing is that it is very quick. Ten seconds on each bud and it’s all over.

I was as anxious as a cat, but we watched (and filmed it) so we could refer to the process later.

Carol talked through the whole thing, showing us what we want to see in a good disbudding. Part of me couldn’t help but think how awful it was, but if you’ve ever been gored by a goat, disbudding is the only remedy.

With dairy goats, which we’re now switching too with Nubians, it’s almost mandatory to disbud the babies before you can sell them. Most dairy goats are disbudded.

Patch, who is a full blooded Boer was disbudded because we are keeping her to breed with Captain Jack. It doesn’t pay to have one horned goat among a herd of disbudded goats. The horned goat will almost certainly cause a lot of damage. It’s just better for everyone this way.

Next year, when the Nubian girls breed, I’ll be faced with disbudding again. Carol promised to show us again. She’ll do one, but it’ll be up to me to do the others–with her supervising.

Disbudding. This is as graphic as I’ll show you.

I definitely don’t want to do it, but I’d rather be the one behind the hot iron than allow a stranger to do it. There are a couple of local people who do disbudding, but I’d much prefer Carol’s steady hands. Sadly, I can’t expect her to do all my goat babies, so it’s up to me to learn how.

I have a whole year to work up the nerve.

I deliberately haven’t talked about Patch since the disbudding. I wanted to get past the critical stage where she might pick up tetanus, always a lurking shadow when you have open wounds.

Patch saying good morning.

She’s never had a moment of health issues. You have no idea how keenly I watched her these past three weeks though. I was afraid to mention her in case I jinxed her good health.

Because mom is the herd queen, Patch has been well protected and respected by the other goats. Captain Jack yowls all the time for treats and food, but not Patch. She’s hugely independent–as long as mom is within earshot. 🙂

Patch is a delight, curious, and enthusiastic about everything.

She’s really been the nicest goat baby we’ve ever had on the farm. So please welcome Patch, the newest and permanent member of our herd.




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  1. “Not for the faint of heart indeed”. I have always loved baby animals of all kinds but a baby goat is just like a baby horse in the fact they are easy to enjoy watching their energy and antics.

    Of course not so much fun when the goat has horns for sure, glad you had a good teacher and glad you have a year to not worry about doing this yourselves.

    • Mike: It’s a little like circumcision. No guy remembers his circumcision, but the clues are all there. 🙂

      She’s actually the happiest little goat I’ve ever seen. When I put her back with her mother, she got a quick nuzzle and that was it.

  2. ‘No guy remembers his circumcision’ I was intrigued to learn that most males, Jew and Gentile alike are circumcised in America. No one, or very few are circumcised here except those specifically bound by religion.

  3. Pingback: State of the Homestead: May 2017 | Maria Zannini

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