Please respond to my essay on the methods and problems of goat horn removal

Discussion in 'Dairy Goat Info' started by wloucks, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. wloucks

    wloucks New Member

    All comments and criticisms are welcome.

    Please see attachment the essay.

    [attachment deleted by admin]
  2. KJFarm

    KJFarm Senior Member

    Will, I don't want to offend you about your essay, but there is no need for goats to keep their horns in a domesticated setting. If they are in the wild and are at the mercy of predators, then yes, they need their horns. But for family herds, show herds, dairy herds, etc., horns are dangerous and are a real problem. Fencing with holes large enough for a goat to get their heads through, sets them up for injury from being hung, and from predators being able to kill them while being held by their horns. I have seen major injuries to other goats in the herd, and if you have never been "hooked" with one, then you don't know the danger they are to humans.
    As far as methods, in all my 50+ years of being around dairy goats, we've have never had one "pass out" or even come close to it, with a disbudding iron, and have never "killed" a kid from overheating the brain. Yes, there is pain involved for a short while, but pain can be managed. Even if a scur grows, they can be easily dealt with. If knocked off, bleeding is not usually a major problem.
    We have never used the caustic paste - it is dangerous!
    Elastrator bands work well on mature horns - again some pain until feeling has gone (maybe an hour or so), again, the pain can be managed, but when the horn falls off, there is generally very little bleeding.
    Surgical dehorning can be done without anethesia - my vet uses a local to deaden the head.
    Pain is part of life for animals and humans. God alone knows the pain that I personally had to deal with, going through cancer treatment. I had to endure many things at the hands of doctors and nurses, but they were trying to help me and it was for my good.

  3. New Member

    Methods and Problems of Goat Horn Removal
    Goat domestication began about 11,000 years ago in the Near East and continues today with goats being kept as pets, as well as for their meat and milk (Hirst). Throughout this long relationship between humans and goats, it remains the responsibility of every goat keeper to take care of their animal’s welfare and protect them from injury, pain, and suffering. Dealing with goat horns is the most pervasive issue that faces people who keep goats. No other issue is common to all goats, no matter what their breed or location in which they live. There are many means of goat horn removal, all of which are fraught with consequences and problems. To foster the goat’s welfare and protect them from pain and suffering, I believe that goats should not have their horns removed by any method.
    Goat’s horns are solid shafts of bone, which grow up from the skull and are covered in keratin, the same material that is in human fingernails. Most goat keepers remove the horns. Horns are removed by either disbudding or dehorning. Disbudding takes place when the kid is a few days old and the horns have just started to form; it is done in three different ways: thermal disbudding, caustic paste disbudding, and surgical disbudding. Dehorning occurs when the goat is already grown and has its horns in place and is accomplished in two ways: surgical dehorning and elastrator band dehorning. All methods are painful and/or dangerous. In fact, in the United Kingdom all forms of horn removal must be done by a veterinarian (Animal Welfare).
    The most common method of disbudding is thermal disbudding which uses a hot iron applied to the kid’s skull to burn the horn bud away. This is also the practice with which I have personal experience. The kid is restrained to keep it from moving. Some people use a box designed to hold its head down; I used to wrap the kid’s legs and body in an old blanket to hold it. There are many different heating devices people use in thermal disbudding. The original method employed a copper soldering iron with the tip cut off flat. The iron was then heated in a flame until red-hot. Modern electrically heated irons as well as 12-volt car cigarette lighters are now used (Al-Sobayil). The heated iron is held against the horn bud and moved in a circular manner for about five to ten seconds per horn until the horn bud is burned away and a slight depression is visible where it was. The sheer pain is obvious, and the sound the kid makes during this process is indescribable. It starts out as a bloodcurdling scream when the iron first makes contact and starts to burn but it gets weaker when the goat nearly passes out. The only real way to understand it is to hear it, which, for many, can be done by viewing the YouTube video (Dehorning). In some instances, thermal disbudding can be fatal to kids.
    The major issue with thermal disbudding is that it can cause meningoencephalitis, a highly fatal condition, which is the inflammation and infection of the covering of the brain, called the meninges, and the brain. In one study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, over ten percent of goat kids developed meningoencephalitis caused by disbudding. More than half died and the rest were left seriously retarded (Sanford). Disbudding isn’t one hundred percent effective; if the kid’s horn bud isn’t burned long enough a small piece of horn, called a scur, can still try to grow. These scurs can be a problem for the goat. The most harmful effect is that scurs can start to grow back into the goat’s skull. Also, when goats crash their heads together while fighting the scurs get broken off and are very bloody.
    Another method of disbudding is the use of a caustic potassium hydroxide paste, which slowly eats away at the skin and the horn bud (Oltenacu). The detriments with the caustic paste method are easy to understand. First, it is painful having a caustic paste eating away at the top of the kid’s head. Second, goats live in herds and therefore bump up against each other. One form of play for kid goats is to have mock fights and butt heads; this activity would cause the paste to rub off on other kids and possibly get in their eyes causing blindness (goat-link).
    In the third method, surgical disbudding, the kid is anesthetized and the horn buds are surgically removed. This operation must be done by a veterinarian and in most instances it is cost prohibitive. The typical charge for this procedure is $200.00 per kid (Veterinary). Since most goat keepers have several goats, and each goat has two kids every year, it is clear to see how surgical disbudding could become extremely expensive.
    Disbudding a young kid goat is the usual way that people render a goat hornless; however, if a goat makes it to adulthood with its horns intact, the most widely practiced method of dehorning, at that time, is surgical dehorning. In this procedure the adult goat is first given a local anesthetic to numb the horn area then the horns are cut off using a small saw. This process involves a large loss of blood. Another detriment to this practice is that it leaves holes open straight from the skull into the sinus cavities, which take a long time to heal (Oltenacu).
    The elastrator band method of dehorning uses a very stout rubber band normally used for castrating. In this method the band is placed at the base of the horn against the skull. Sometimes a notch is filed into the horn to keep the band in place, other times a piece of wire is twisted around the horn above the band to keep it in place. As the horn tries to grow the band slowly constricts the base of the horn shutting off the blood vessels; at a certain point the weight of the horn is greater than the strength of the base and it flops over to one side. Then, if all things go well, the band remains in place squeezing until the horn finally falls off. Often this doesn’t happen; the horn breaks off before it is ready, which causes a bloody mess and of course, a great deal of pain for the animal.
    After all this evidence one may ask, “ Why remove the goat’s horns at all?”. People remove goats’ horns for ease of management. When in captivity, most goats do not need to defend themselves against predators any longer, so their horns are useless weapons. Goats can injure other goats and people with their sharp horns. The fear is a little overrated, but I know that goats do use their horns. Goats that have horns but don’t need them to protect themselves should have their horns blunted in a painless manner. There are several methods to do this. Archery blunts, inexpensive, three inch long rubber caps used on the front of arrows for safety in competition, can be attached to the horn tip with strong glue. Another simple method is the use of horn tip tape, specially designed for wrapping around the horn tips, which forms a lightweight ball (Hoegger). A third method is horn tipping or trimming, which is the practice of filing off the tip of each horn (Australia 4). Care must be taken not to reach the live horn tissue, so it is recommended that no more than an inch be filed off for an eight inch horn (allexperts). When blunted, the goats’ horns do not pose much of a hazard to other goats or people.
    From my personal experience, goats are better off with their horns left on as nature intended. I had a lovely big doe, my pet goat, who had a nice set of horns. When my family and I had to be away an elderly Italian gentleman agreed to keep her for the two years until we returned. He did not want her to keep her horns because his entire herd was hornless, and he was afraid that one goat with horns would be too dominant. When the choice came down to having my pet killed and eaten, something my ten-year-old self couldn’t handle, or being dehorned, I agreed to let him remove her horns. The dehorning worked well enough but the stress was hard on her; she miscarried that year and also developed a serious sinus infection, which needed veterinary attention. When we got her back she was all right but she wasn’t her old vital self.
    I used to disbud my goats because most of the goat care books recommend it for the reasons previously stated. The kids I’ve encountered that have been disbudded all seemed to be duller goats than the horned ones. This would probably have something to do with the fact that they get red hot metal put very near the brain. I had one little doe, Sweet Gale, who seemed to be very intelligent and healthy as a newborn kid. After we disbudded her she lacked the intelligent alert characteristics she previously displayed and failed to thrive, never reaching the size she should have attained. She died at about a year old and was the last goat we disbudded. We decided to stop disbudding bucks the previous year mainly because of problems with scurs. Try as we might, the bucks’ horns would always scur. Sweetie’s twin brother therefore, kept his horns and is a huge beautiful buck.
    When goats are disbudded or dehorned there is a significant possibility of a large loss of blood, a severe infection, or even death. From observation, it is evident that goats are healthier and more intelligent if they have not had their horns removed. No matter which method is used to either dehorn or disbud a goat the animal suffers a great deal of pain. Based on the medical research, personal experience, and humane consideration, goats should not have their horns removed by any method.

    Works Cited “Horn Tipping” Goats 14 Jul. 2008. Web. 16 Sept. 2009 <>

    Al-Sobayil F.A. “A new simple device for dehorning in small ruminants” Small Ruminant Research, 67.2-3 Feb. 2007: 232-234. Science Direct, University of Idaho Libriary Moscow, Idaho. 6 Sept. 2009 <>

    Animal Welfare: Codes of recommendations for the welfare of livestock – Goats. 3 Aug. 2009, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 6 Sept. 2009, <>

    Government of Western Australia. “Code of Practice For Goats in Western Australia.” Department of Local Government and Regional Development Western Australia. Mar. 2003. Web. 16 Sept. 2009

    “Dehorning a baby goat” 9 March, 2008. Online video clip. YouTube, accessed 2 Sept. 2009 <>

    Goat-Link. “Disbudding Baby Goat” 12 Apr. 2008. Web. 16 Sept. 2009 <>
    Hirst, K. Kris. “ The History of the Domestication of Goats” Goats., 2009. Web. 16 Sept. 2009 <>

    Hoegger Goat Supply. “ Dehorning :: Horn Tip Tape” Hoegger Goat Supply. 2007. Web. 16 Sept. 2009 <>

    Oltenacu, Dr. E. A. B. NEW YORK STATE 4-H MEAT GOAT PROJECT FACT SHEET #9 DISBUDDING. Revised April 1999 by Dr. Tatiana Stanton. Cornell University, Ithaca , NY 14853 2 Sept. 2009. <>

    Sanford, Ernest S. “ Ontario: Meningoencephalitis caused by thermal disbudding in goat kids” Canadian Veterinary Journal, 30 ( October 1989) 832. PubMed Central <>

    Veterinary Technician, Kamloops Large Animal Veterinary, Kamloops, BC. Telephone Interview 16 Sept. 2009
  4. Caprine Beings

    Caprine Beings New Member

    First off I would like to welcome you to DGI. It is nice to see a U of I student on here! I live in Clarkston and am always looking for others in the area with an education on goats:). Now to begin!
    Is this an MLA, APA, or Chicago style paper? References are sited in parenthesis but no dates so that would be why I ask.
    "Disbudding takes place when the kid is a few days old and the horns have just started to form; it is done in three different ways: thermal disbudding, caustic paste disbudding, and surgical disbudding." Run on sentence, could be broken into two separate sentences or reworded into one.
    Count the word "and" in your paper. Just a suggestion:)
    "In one study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal," do believe year and issue number needs to be sited despite which ever writing style you use but I could be wrong.
    I thought that in a paper such as this personal context was a no-no. Is this an essay or an actual paper?
    All in all I feel that your paper describes your opinion very well and with some minor sentence adjustments and punctuation changes that you have a very interesting point.
    Not that I totally agree with you:) Imagine being in a wheelchair and having a goat with a full set of horns coming at you:) Not in my or my daughters barn yard:) Tammy
  5. New Member

    I posted it here, and will remove it after the discussion if you ask me to, because I know that several of our members can not open word formats (the format my contract comes in :)

    Technically of course your essay is correct in all it's points, but to get to the points you have made, they are grossly overstated. We only have our life experience in which to base our opinons on, with yours having such poor outcomes from disbudding etc...I can see where you would have formed the opinon of this that you have. As a vet student I think it would be wise to perhaps now write a paper on the pros of this, because you will in large livestock be disbudding or dehorning goats and calves.

    I know for me, (23 years of goats from a very large herd of 60 or so to now) that having horned goats around was simply an aggrevation, I was never injured by them but we did remove goats from fences, and when does aren't being milked, or yearlings growing out in the woods pen, who are not really seen everyday (and why I count at feeding time) not found at feeding time means a dead goat in our weather.

    In a true pet home, yes goats can have their horns (remember this is a dairy goat forum) and any kind of horn removal should be done with anesthetic, not for the welfare of the goat but that of the owner. Your points are much more of the sensitive pet breeder than that of someone with livestock. Reality on the farm is usually nothing close to what happens in a lab or what can be deduced from books....we wonder alot of the time if the studies really did include goats at all.

    I have disbudded thousands of goatlings of mine and others over 23 years and never had a case of thermal menengitis, the one time that comes to mind was when we grabbed a yellow can of screw worm spray instead of furox and sprayed the heads, causing debreeding of the area and weeping liquid from the skull...but my you should have seen how nice those kids heads turned out ;) I would think that alot of your information on the horrors has to be coming from vets, who because they never disbud the amounts of goatlings that a breeder does, has very poor outcomes with this procedure. You can read on here the recounts of new folks who take back kids over and over for disbudding at vet offices, yes that is very cruel.

    Texas A&M dose surgical dehorning and it's right at $65 a goat now, they also pull skin on the head over the incision holes that are caused by complete removale of the horn bud. It's not the blood and gore of the past. If you hit them at a time they are in class you can get it done for just the cost of the anesthetic.

    We aren't England and hopefully with the move to more natural food, and folks really wanting food from farms and not factory farms, we will never adopt any of Englands very PETA type efforts of controlling farmers and actually making it more expensive to sell our products.

    Reread your first several sentences about goats being domesticated, yet your arugement ends with your feelings about it not being "as nature intended". We domesticated these goats to live in a barn, even in a large area like mine they still come home to a barn each day, walk through a 4 foot door onto a milkstand, are milked, must stand in a small area while the rest of the herd is milked....most of the above is harder with horns, does are rougher to each other with horns and there isn't anything natural about any of this. That has got to be the key thing learned in breeding livestock and also for you, is that there is no nature running it's course. If we did our goats would be dead long ago. We worm, we disbud, we prevention treat for coccidiosis, we feed minerals, we copper bolus, we trim feet, shave their hair, push production with grain, use CIDR's and hormones to have kids when we want and then lutelyse so the kids are born into intercommed barns when we are here. Our milk is our business, our families milk in some cases, the babies are our cash crop and food for the table.....there is a happy medium between natural and intensively raised livestock, but it's up to the owner of these animals to choose which side they will gravitate towards.

    Your family had this bad outcome with this, putting the blame on the prodecure rather than the person doing the procedure incorrectly is odd to me you being a vet student. I choose to disbud because I never have had a prodecure go bad, and even when I did have a problem I always put the blame directly where it needs to my feet. Vicki
  6. Bernice

    Bernice Member

    Hi Will!

    Very interesting paper! I just want to add my humble opinion here.

    Another function of horns is to regulate temperature .

    I am thinking there may be some confusion about terminology regarding dehorning and surgical disbudding. I say this because in my only experience with these two terms the vet surgically disbudded or removed horn buds Dehorning to me and my experience with what the vet did and called it, dehorning is the surgical removal of scurs or horns. If you can clarify and distinguish betwen the tow that would help your argument about this.

    As for surgical removal, the horns are not cut off with a saw, but scooped out. At least that was my experience when yrs ago the vet came to dehorn a buck I had whose scur was growing like a ram's horn around and into his neck. This was a buck I bought this way. Yes, it does leave a gaping hole, but that was back in the day before what Vicki mentioned using a flap of skin to cover.

    Most goat folks use banamine for pain or an ice pack. Please don't be offended by this statement, but it's the only thought that came to mind: like circumision, it's soon forgotten by the baby male, disbudding is similar.

    With the use of an elastractor and your mentioning a bloody mess, if that should happen you can cauterize it again to stop the bleeding. Thats the best way. If you can't use blood stop powder if you have it on hand or even good ole' cobwebs!

    With the lack of growth with one of your gaots after disbudding, what breed do you raise? In Nubians G6S causes the failure to thrive.

    There is a special method to disbudding the bucks with an iron to help stop subsequent scur growth, you have to get the iron near the scent gland on the head, then do a figure 8 type burn with the iron.

    To avoid any problems with getting poked with a horn (S) some breeders drill a hole into a tennis ball and stick that on the end of the horn. "Tennis anyone?" :)

    I think what would substaniate your paper is more research and ask key questions in a survey format to the group. Such as, "Have you ever experienced a goat who seemed dull after disbudding? etc. It's always important to back up your hypothsis with good data.

    Overall, nice job Will!
  7. kuwaha

    kuwaha New Member

    As a scientist I would say your essay is too personal and not factual enough (I was trained in another country though so maybe American institutions are different). I would strongly urge a trip to the library rather than just relying on the internet. I am surprised that you only found one scientific study on this issue? Whether or not anyone agrees with your opinion, your paper will be made much stronger if you back up your conclusion with scientific data.
    I would have some sentence in the opening paragraph about why people want to get rid of horns - you don't explain that which leaves it sounding as though it's just an arbitrary decision without any reasoning.
    Also if you're wanting to be totally accurate - don't forget there are some polled goats (my first 2 kids were, thankfully!!! I had no idea what to do about this issue then, so was grateful not to have to make any decision!)
  8. Bernice

    Bernice Member

    Hi Karen and welcome! I too live in Virginia, not too far from Amherst, about an hr and half away. Nice to meet you!
  9. SallyMcD

    SallyMcD New Member

  10. buckrun

    buckrun New Member

    Well everyone has pretty well covered the issues with the paper but I want to say that I hope you stick with this and learn as much as you can about goats from GOAT PEOPLE and not from books or articles. We have a serious deficit in knowledgeable professionals who can actually be helpful with dairy goats which are quite obviously the animal of the future. Hopefully you will visit lots of farms and get real input from real live people working with the animals you hope to treat.
    Best luck- It's a long road and takes terrific dedication but we need you!
  11. dragonlair

    dragonlair Active Member

    I will never own another horned goat. I have had several horn related injuries caused by my horned Boers and the 2 dairy goats that came with horns...totally accidental but injuries just the same. I had one goat die from getting her horns stuck in the fence. A friend has lost several horned goats that way.
  12. dragonlair

    dragonlair Active Member

    Now that I had the time to read your report, I agree that it contains too much personal opinion that does not belong in an essay or report. I have had goats for 34 years, at one point i had 65 milkers and all the young stock. All kids were, and are, disbudded. I have never lost one to death, I have never had one with any problems from the heat, nor are they dull witted. The kids scream bloody murder before the iron is even applied, they just do not like to be restrained. I have never had one "pass out" while disbudding them.

    Seconds after applying the hot iron, the nerve endings are killed, so there is no pain at that point. Ever have a third degree burn? No pain. That's what disbudding does.

    I hvae never had a hornless goat seriously injure another goat. However, I have had many serious injuries to other goats and myself due to horns.

    My buck has a ruined hind leg he got form his previous home when a horned doe attacked him. His stifle is displaced and the ligaments and tendons that held it in place were torn.

    I have had horned does cause miscarriage in other does after headbutting and hooking them in the right side.

    I got my leg between a does horn and her back as she jumped off the milk stand. Her horn impaled my upper thigh, damaging muscle. That was my first dealing with a horned goat, and except for Boers, a rescue or an occasional scur, my last.

    I almost lost an eye when I bent down to pick up an empty grain dish at the same time a very friendly young Boer doe came to be petted. She swung her head and the tip of the horn caught my left eye right at the outside corner. Caused a huge bruise and a deep cut right at the outside corner of the eye. A fraction closer and I would have lost my eye.

    I've had fingers and hands pinched and jabbed when leading horned goats. Heads get stuck easily with horns in fences, feeders, branches etc. If they don't suffocate, another goat can come along and head butt the stuck goat, breaking her neck. Happened to one of the boer does I sold.

    When I have witnessed horned goats defending themselves against dogs, they don't get the dogs with their horns, it's with their forehead area, so the horns are not doing them a lick of good anyway. If horns are such great protection, how does a single dog manage to attack and kill several horned goats?

    Personally, I would feel much worse if one of my horned goats accidently poked out a human kids eye than I do when disbudding a kid. A few seconds of pain to a kid, who forgets within minutes, or a life time of pain and humiliation to a human child who would never forget?
  13. ellie

    ellie New Member

    I just want to make a few points. I'm in the middle of writing a book for Penguin Books called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Raising Goats" a part of their Complete Idiots series. In it I had to cover the subject of horns and so I gave both sides. I tried to keep opinions out of it until the end, when I just stated I've had both and prefer no horns.

    The thing about heat dispersal through horns comes up a lot and everyone repeats it but there is no research to back it up. It's just repeated ad infinitum. I suggest that if excess heat is dispersed through horns in the summer heat then it is also dispersed through horns in the winter and that's clearly NOT something desireable.

    I just returned from talking to the Kiko goat people in Eastern Tennessee at their annual conference. I was talking about marketing, not goat management, so horns were not my perview there. But Kikos all have horns. The promoter just lost their buck (imported from New Zealand) because he got his horns caught in an electric fence and was electocuted to death.

    The stories abound of goats strangled in fences when their horns get caught, or eaten alive by predators when they are stuck in a fence. Dog attacks on herds with horns does not protect goats, they still get killed. I'd think one experience like any of those would be enough to cure the preference for horns, but it doesn't seem to, at least not in some circles. In dairy goats, horns are out.

  14. hsmomof4

    hsmomof4 New Member

    Wow. That essay should have come with a warning: "Beware, obvious bias ahead." I'm all for hearing the arguments against disbudding, but that essay makes no effort whatsoever to be objective, it reads like a bunch of personal opinion and anecdotes with the occasional citation chosen for the purpose of confirming the author's position. For example, the statement, "The kids I’ve encountered that have been disbudded all seemed to be duller goats than the horned ones" might have a place in an op/ed piece, but does not belong in what purports to be a scientific paper. Similarly, you state: "From observation, it is evident that goats are healthier and more intelligent if they have not had their horns removed." Based on what? Your own personal observation of what must be a very limited number of goats? When you already believed that disbudding was a problem? This is about as far from scientific as it gets. You need to get yourself out of the essay and go do some real research. Heck, you could design some questions to ask on this board (and others); you probably would get lots of good information from people who have been doing this for ages.
  15. goatkid

    goatkid New Member

    I remember back in college, we had to write what the instructor called a "persuasive paper". This is what your essay reminds me of. Structurally correct, but definately boased.
    Around here, I disbud all kids. Like others who responded, I've had a few goats with horns or bad scurs and they were trouble in my herd. My otherwise sweet Boer doe would scoop up the dairy does with her horns and left a big hemetoma on one right before a show. They also got their heads stuck in fences. I have never brain damaged any goats I've didbudded. It hurts while I'm doing it, but then they are usually off playing when returned to their pen. The few that still hurt were given a dose of Banamine and went back to playing like baby goats. Banding bucklings seems to cause more discomfort over the course of 24 hours than disbudding does.
    The only time I've heard of problems with disbudding was when a freind took her Nigerian babies to a vet to have it done. He apparantly did it with a bigger dehorner meant for calves and they had burns that had to be treated. The next year, she had me disbud the kids. Kathie
  16. KJFarm

    KJFarm Senior Member

    Ellie, LOVE the title to your book!!!! This subject about horns being a goat's "thermostat", is certainly a new one on me. I have seen this statement several times, in the past year or so, and I have to chuckle every time I come across it :rofl
  17. New Member

    I suggest that if excess heat is dispersed through horns in the summer heat then it is also dispersed through horns in the winter and that's clearly NOT something desireable.

    Ellie I like how your mind works! Excellent point. Vicki
  18. Rose

    Rose New Member

    Has this paper been turned in yet? There are grammar and punctuation errors.
  19. Odeon

    Odeon New Member

    forgive me for being blunt....

    totally biased and not based on any factual information. I would be embarrassed to turn it in.

  20. megan

    megan New Member

    "dull goats" - you should check out my newly disbudded spunky kids running and jumping and having tons of fun just minutes after burning horn buds off.

    in my experience they are way more uncomfortable getting shots and banding bucklings than disbudding.

    yes, they scream and fuss some when being disbudded but as soon as the iron comes off the head they stop and as soon as I let them up they go back to life as if nothing happened - literally within just a minute or two.

    no horns at my place.