Everyone has an opinion on the subject. So here is our two cents....
Should you Disbud? Like anything else to do with livestock, Disbudding or not really comes down to personal preference/ choice. We are not opposed to disbudding and do disbud our goats. and these are our reasons WHY we choose to do this for our animals:
#1) Better Quality of Life...
Most people looking for pets want disbudded goats. And since we sell registered goats that can be shown, having them disbudded allows them to participate in activities other than chewing cud. Goats with horns are hard to sell, hard to house, and most people don't want them with horns... and those that do, may rope them, butcher them for their horns, or want to use them for animal sacrifice (yes, we have had people ask!).
Every-other person I know that has owned goats, has at some point been gored (intentionally or by accident) by their goats that had horns. Goats will use their horns against other goats-- sometimes baby goats, and after we experienced this, we made sure all our goats were disbudded for the safety of the rest of the herd. Goat horns can also cause a lot of problems when a goat sticks its head through a hole in a fence...but then, just cant get their head back in! Resulting in a dead goat with a broken neck hanging on a fence.
Is disbudding cruel? NO-- no more than having a mole, birthmark, or skin cancer removed (usually by burning) off of your own body. The NERVES in the skin and around the horn bud are killed/cauterized within seconds. But like anything else, if done WRONG can cause damage. Disbudding is a medical procedure, not a pedicure.
Don't goats need their horns? There is some debate about goats needing horns to regulate body temperature--. and while horns do help--EARS are also just as effective. Horns do NOT regulate hormones (as some people have suggested), and not having them DOSE NOT make a goat sickly or un-healthy... if that were the case, more than half the goats in the US would have all dropped dead by now. Goats are born with horns, I am sure they can find a use for them, and do. But, if having a goat with horns is not an option for you, and disbudding really isn't appealing-- goats are also sometimes born POLLED--which means they are naturally horn-less. If disbudding seems 'unethical' buy polled goats, then you wont have to disbud.
Why do the babies cry? Does it hurt? Aside from being restrained in an uncomfortable/ unnatural position to prevent the animal from being injured-- I think its safe to say yes there is some initial pain involved at least until the nerves are dead in the skin. Then, there is the heat of the iron as it contacts the skull under the skin. To prevent the skull from 'burning' and heat damaging the baby beyond just removing the horn bud, the iron should NOT be applied to one horn bud/area longer than 8-10 seconds.
Can you use any pain reliever? Many dairy cattle farmers use an injection at the base of the horn bud to numb the area before bud removal. Goats however are very sensitive to many medications, and can even die if overdosed. If you do not feel comfortable disbudding with out a pain reliever, or local anesthetic-- talk to your vet about what options may be available.
How do you disbud with an electric Iron properly?
To disbud a baby goat, you must first shave (with a pair of clippers, electric ones work best) the baby's head and around the horn buds. This is to help prevent excessive burning, and keep their hair from catching fire that can cause serious injury outside of the horn bud area. (picture A)
Then, with a pre-heated Iron (usually takes 10 minutes to get to temp) rest the iron on top of the horn bud. Gently/slowly rock the iron around the bud to burn evenly without lifting the iron. You want to maintain an even pressure of just the weight of the iron-DO NOT PRESS on the animals head with the iron!
After 10 seconds remove the iron. You should see a bright copper colored ring around the horn bud. If the color is even, you did a good job. (Picture B)
Next we apply a thin layer of AluShield to help protect the area from infection. Then, we let the baby rest for 2-3 minutes and have a few sips of their bottle before we do the second bud. The second is done in the same way-- then more AluShield. (Picture C)
After a few days the horn button falls off and the cauterized area begins to heal. (Picture D)
And several weeks later... the disbudding is completely healed (Picture E)
+++ This was a picture that we found online, and did a remarkable job of demonstrating the stages of the disbudding process.
Are there alternatives to the electric Iron?
YES! Surgical horn removal can be done by a vet. OR... there is disbudding 'paste.'
I personally will not, and do not, recommend the paste. Disbudding with the Iron only takes 20 seconds. The animal is not in much pain very long. However with the paste... the animal must be restrained, and suffer through a chemical burn for 5+ minutes. And if the paste gets on the skin, the eye, or any other animals (other than the horn bud) it can cause blindness, sores, and severe chemical burns. I don't think this product is ethical OR SAFE for livestock, and believe there are alternative methods that are quicker, and less tormenting.
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