Dehorning older goats
The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to
replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding care of your goats must be made considering
the unique characteristics of each location and each Goat.
Before we begin to explain how to band horns on goats who were not disbudded as babies I'd like to explain why this is sometime necessary.
As a whole we disbud the baby Pygmy Goats at about 3wks of age. However, over the years people have brought me older goats who have full horn growth such as the ones I have used in this information demo. Upon first glance you may think this cruel and unnecessary but once I explain the reason behind this process I believe you will understand that it is done only when necessary and always with the best interest of the animal and its owners in mind.
Pygmy Goats are small and cute. As a result they are most often owned as pets with children being their owners. Although the Pygmy Goat would not deliberately gore a child; goat are not aware of safety and most of the time neither are children. This being said is is easy to understand how a child could be gored in the face by a Pygmy Goat with horns. There is no possible way to watch the children and or the goats closely enough to always avoid tragic incidents. Removing the horns is not only the safe thing to do, it is the responsible thing to do. Removing the horns not only make the goat a safe pet for your children but it also assures the Pygmy a longer healthier life with a family that will love and care for it.
I've always said, " If you want your Pygmy Goat to be a mean little dickens, let it have horns." Pygmies are cute and can be very loving but they are goats and will manage within a herd of goats the same as it would if it were in the wild. It doesn't take a Pygmy long to realize that he/she is the only one in the herd with horns. Not only will he/she possible be a danger to yourself and your children but the Pygmy can also become a danger to other goats in the herd. At first they might start to butt the other goats, then they will realize they can literally bully the other goats out of the food and become a Pig-a-Me. In time I have seen one solitary horned goat put his/her horns under another goats belly and lift them off the ground. I don't think I need to say how dangerous this can be.
The first time we ever had a horned Pygmy on our property she became a bully almost at once so I put her in a pen by herself until I could figure out what to do. In spite of the precautions I had taken by penning her by herself; she began to play spear the Pygmy through the fence and would jab her horns through the chain link fencing to try to poke the other goats. Sadly she succeeded in her attempts and poked one of my favorite Pygmy Does in the eye rupturing the eye and costing me thousands of dollars to have the eye removed to save the Does life. Another problem with horns on Pygmies is that 4H does not allow children to show their Pygmies with horns. If your child wants to be a 4H member her/his Pygmy will have to be dehorned.
I have been successful in removing horns with this technique form Does. However the Buck's horns are much larger and I recommend that you have a Veterinary remove them for you.
To begin you will first need to gather the materials that will be needed so everything is at your fingertips.
To begin secure the Goats head so you can maintain good control while working. A milk stand or other head stanchions are perfect in this situation.
With the electric clippers, carefully shave all the hair around the horn base to make it easier to place the wire and bands.
Cut two pieces of electrical wire which are long enough to go around each horn and be twisted snug. I make two lopes which are ready in advance to drop over the horn and then I twist the wire as low and as tight as I can get it. Placing the wire below the base of the horn is very important . You should see some compression of the horn base and tissue if the wire is tight enough. The purpose of the wire is to form a secure boundary which will keep the bands from sliding out of position once you have them placed.
Now you are ready to begin. Drop one of the loops over the horn and as low as you can get it ( preferable down onto the skin of the goat. ) Once the wire is in position pull and twist and pull and twist until you have this wire extremely tight and can see it indenting into the horn base a little . It sometimes helps to hold onto the other horn while doing this to keep the head steady while you work. Once it is secure you can bend the twisted end up as show in the demo so the twisted part of the wire is out of your way when you place the bands. It is sometimes necessary to tap the twisted part of the wire a little to get it up and out of the way. Twist the wire very tightly on each horn. If it comes off while you are working it isn't tight enough. Sometime you need to get some thinner wire. or take the plastic wrap of the outside of the copper wire to give it more cutting power.
Once the the wires are set well and the end is tapped out up and out of your way: the next step is to place two bands below the wires you have already placed. This is not always as easy as you may think so try not to get frustrated if it doesn't go easily. Sometimes the bands will break and sometimes they will fly off the castration tool. When you place them do your best to get them entirely below the wire. If the band crosses above the wire anywhere use your crochet hook to pull it below the wire. I try to set two bands below the wire on each horn. This way if one breaks the other will continue to do the work intended. I paint the bands with Iodine before I place then to help avoid any infection.
Once you have two bands set securely on each horn you will want to wrap each one completely with electrical tape so the goat can't rub the bands off or push then out of position. The success of the banding is dependant on the bands remaining in place for the duration of time required to completely sever the horn.
It can take up to five weeks for the horns to fall off. It is painful at first so do have some Banamine or Baby Aspirin on hand to give to your goat and help keep her comfortable. Watch the horns closely for any sign of infection or fly strike. I've never had one get infected but there can always be a first time.
In time you will see the horn fall over. This happens because the band has worked its way through the flesh and is about to completely sever the horn. At this point you will want to pull them off.............do not do this. As the band works it way through it shuts off the blood supply a little at a time. If you pull it of prematurely it will bleed badly. You will notice your Doe moving her head with caution to avoid the discomfort she may feel if the horn moves around to much. Eventually the tissue will become dried out and the last of the flesh will break away allowing the horn to fall off. Sometimes the goat will knock them off prematurely and you will see a lot of bleeding. Although it is hard not to think your goat is bleeding to much. No harm has ever come to any of the goats I have banded horns on. Once the horn falls off I usually put some Blue Koat on the wound to cover it and protect it from flies.
I've had people ask me if the horns will grow back after this procedure: None that I banned ever grew back.
Good Luck. :O)