Sunday, April 10, 2011


Howdy gang! Tug out a kitchen chair and I`ll grab the pot, it`s just about done perking.

I hope everyone has been enjoying their weekend so far? It`s been gray and rainy here in the Laurel Highlands but at least not snowing *Peeks out window quickly* at the moment. It`s been a hectic couple of days but overall pleasant, aside from our yearly chore of disbudding the new kids. Of all the jobs that go with having goats disbudding is my least favorite.

It never seems to get easier emotionally but it is a necessity, at least on this farm. I will not have goats with horns for many reasons. They are dangerous not only to the goat but to its barn-mates and to anyone else who may irritate said goat. Also our county fair does not allow horned goats into the show-ring unless they`re meat goats.

I thought I would take y`all along with us via photos as we disbud our kids. For those of you with tender constitutions do not read any further. There is usually no blood involved, once in a great while we`ll have one that weeps slightly but Mister cauterizes it with the hot iron and that solves that. But aside from the lack of blood it is not for those who have delicate tummies. So with that warning let`s get into how we yodeling goatherder`s disbud our kids. The sooner it`s done the sooner we can get back to our coffee!

First I`ll show you the disbudding box that Mister built for us a few years ago.

We found the plans online and it works very well and cost much less than buying one from a supplier. He did a very nice job on it and it`s held up nicely over the years.

This is also one of my husband`s ingenious inventions. He made this little contraption to hold the torch and the iron.

In the second picture you can see what we have at our side when we disbud.

A towel in case we need to add some padding around a kids head to help keep them in place while in the box, two different cans of antiseptic spray and wire plumbers brushes to clean the iron between each kid done.

I know other`s that don`t use anything after they burn the horns but we like to spray the hot area with a veterinary astringent. We like to think it helps cool the burn while also aiding in cleaning the freshly disbudded area. As with any kind of farming procedure this is only the way we do things here, others do things differently and as long as everyone is happy Feral is happy too!

Okay so we have all our accoutrements ready and waiting. The iron has been in the fire and is ready to go. When the copper end of the iron changes colors as you turn it that is how we know we`re hot enough to proceed, I don`t think this picture captures the rainbow coloring well and I apologize for that.

If in doubt you can apply the iron to a block of wood and it should burn a nice dark ring. We`ve done that on occasion but after ten years of disbudding a dozen or more kids each spring we`ve learned the color trick and feel confident in our ability to gauge that the iron is ready.

Enter the first goat kid. This is Hawke and he was a real trooper!

After Hawke is tucked into the box Mister then sits on the lid and tucks those long Nubian ears back safely out of the way. He is the deed-doer for this since he has much more hand strength than I do. I assist by keeping the iron hot and cleaned and handing him the astringent spray before he has to ask for it. Miss Yodeling is the kid rounder-upper for this procedure. Disbudding can be done alone but we feel that since this is a family project that all here should aid however they best can. The burning itself is a simple matter.

Due to the heavy air yesterday and the acrid smoke all the images I snapped of the burning itself weren`t useable. I can explain the best I can though. With a firm hand on the kids head you place the iron around the horn-bud and push and roll slightly in a circle to ensure you burn a nice neat ring. That SHOULD kill the horn growth. Should is a big word for sometimes we do get scurs that appear later.

Scurs are small bits of horn growth which tell you that you didn`t get all the horn area burned well. Our bucks seem to be more prone to scurs than the does and buck kids seem to grow more massive horn more quickly than the girls do. Scurs can be a nuisance since they`re still living horn tissue and tend to be rather loose. You get two guys doing the head-butt, the scur gets knocked off and then they bleed, sometimes quite liberally. Not a nice thing especially in summer with all those nasty flies. So trying to do a thorough job when disbudding eliminates the scur problems down the road, but if you do get those scurs don`t despair, we sometimes have them too despite our best efforts.

This is what the kids head should look like after the first burn.

You can see the nice round rings around each horn bud. We burn each kid twice to help make sure the job is a good one. After the second round Mister then flicks the dark end of the burnt bud off to show these white circles.

Then we give both freshly burned areas a nice spray of antiseptic. That is not blood I want to point out, it`s the red veterinary spray. There is little to no blood when disbudding goat kids.

Sometimes we use blue tinted but this year we used the red since we had a full can left over after we had the Holstein calf dehorned. And that`s that! Hawke goes back in the barn with his mom and we move onto another kid. We did eleven of our twelve kids yesterday in under an hour. One doeling just didn`t have enough growth yet so we put off doing her for another week.

Here`s a couple shots of Mister demonstrating how to clean your iron. We use ½ inch plumbers brushes made to clean copper and they do an excellent job. Keeping your iron clean and hot during disbudding really does make the job run better and gives you a neater finished disbud when you`re done.

As I said earlier this is my least favorite job. I don`t mind castrating as much as I do disbudding although Mister seems to feel the opposite. (It`s a man thing I`m sure.)The kids bounce back amazingly quickly, faster than they do from the castration to be honest! Soon as they hit the ground they`re back with mom having a drink then off to play. I`d be looking for a few Tylenol after that procedure but then again my head isn`t as thick as a goats I don`t think. *Ignores comment from smarty-pants husband* I hope that was somewhat interesting for y`all.

Allrighty, now we can have us a sit-down, a fresh cuppa and a good round of gossip!


Michele Stefanides said...

I'm getting brave, although I didn't deeply read the post, I did skim through the whole thing and even looked at the pictures. If I'm gonna be a country girl, I need to look and learn. Thanks for the lesson! Oh, and I thought debudding was another name for castrating, so I really learned a lot!

C and C Antiques and Animals - What a Life! said...

Yes disbudding is my least favorite thing to do also. When I was raising boer wethers for the fairs they should be disbudded. At our county fair you can show wethers with horns but had to be cut down. We never disbudded the does or kids we were going to keep as bucks because if they are shown in major shows they had to have horns. We used an electric disbudder. And yes it is amazing to see them run off and get a quick nursing from mom then off to play!

Melodie said...

Ahh..the many joys of farm life! I am glad to say we have the little dwarf goats and don't disbud less thing for me to do! We did do a couple of bandings this week though...I think if they got to choose they would have chosen disbudding,lol!

Mary Ann said...

Thank you, thank you. I didn't write about it, but last week, I stopped at my neighbor's the goat lady with the dairy, just as she finished disbudding 18 kids that day. Some were in a state of shock... it made me realize that that might be the ONE thing that keeps us from having goats, when we live just down the road from a dairy selling milk and cheese. She told me that day that after 20 years of goat-keeping, it was still her least favorite day of the year. I appreciated your writing about it, and the pictures were very helpful. She sprays too, by the way... so each kid had a yellow head, but hers are taken from their dams after a day.

Nancy said...

Very interesting! Love learning new things in a simple, easy language I can understand. You did beautifully. :)

John Gray said...

so interesting!
can youpost a videoI love the way you write and i suspect your accent is adorable!

Rina ... also Chester or Daisysmum. said...

I looked but still dont think I would be able to do it myself.

Willard said...

That it is interesting procedure and I like how the animal is controlled by the box. We didn't have goats, so I never saw this done, but I saw a lot of bulls get dehorned and that was a messy job--or at least the way my dad and grandfather did it was. The animals could be hard to control at times.

♥ Sallie said...

Wow! I had no idea!

I love learning new things! Thank you!


Feral Female said...

Glad to hear it was an informative post. We`ve only had to go through the dehorning process once for our Holstein steer and it was far, far worse of an ordeal!

My daughter and I are working on learning how to post video`s and once she has that figured out hopefully we can see some action, and hear that accent of mine! *Winks*

small farm girl said...

I haven't done this yet. But, since I'm getting into the goat business, I am going to have to. I'm not looking forward to it at all.

Many Hats said...

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for the post. We had dairy goat kids for the first time this year and I bought a X-30 with a half inch tip. The first two were born 20 days before the second two. We didn't fully do the job on the first pair, and they were over two weeks old. They are both showing buds growing. Both bigger on one side than the other. The second two, we did at one week, and held it on for five seconds each bud, twice. All four we looked for the copper ring. Now it is three weeks later and one of the second pair has knocked off the scab and it is bleeding slightly. Did we not do a complete job for the second two either? I'd think that there would be no blood supply to the area if we'd done it properly.
Thanks for the post,

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said... - [url=]site[/url] site