Not our image.
Monday was my least favorite day during baby season. On Monday, most of the now twenty-seven babies we have were old enough to be disbudded and banded if they were little boys. Disbudding is the removal of their horns, and it is something both myself and The Bibbed Wonder hate to do. Banding is when a small rubber band is placed around the boy goat’s scrotum, and the testicles eventually fall off. Banding seems to bother The Bibbed Wonder more than me…insert eye roll. Although we hate to do this, it is a necessary evil for our goat’s safety and our safety.
You may ask why we remove our goat’s horns? We remove their horns for several reasons. First and foremost, horns create a safety issue. If a goat has horns, they have built-in weapons, and they aren’t afraid to use them. They use them on each other, their human caretakers, and their environment. I have personal experience with a billy goat with horns that would charge and hit me every time I went outside at my aunt’s house. He was a nasty creature. I also have friends who are bruised from the front to the back of their legs because of their goats with horns. Goats don’t always mean to hit you with their horns, but if you are in their way, they think nothing of doing whatever it takes to get around or through you. Eric and I have both been accidentally caught off guard by our girls with horns. It doesn’t happen often, but a hungry, pushy goat with horns can be a menace.
Goats with horns are also in danger of getting stuck in fencing, boards in the barn, and even feed troughs. We have a friend who does not disbud his goats. One of his does got her head stuck between boards in the barn. This terrible situation happened overnight; when my friend went out to do the morning chores, he found his doe dead. The doe who had gotten her head stuck had been beaten to death by another doe. It was a gruesome find. We also have friends who have had goats with horns get their heads stuck in fencing and end up breaking their necks trying to get free. For us, it isn’t worth the risk. Our barn was built in the 1880s. There are nooks, crannies, and wooden stanchions constructed in the center of our barn. These obscure little areas are perfect for a goat with horns to get her head stuck. We feel it is best to remove their horns when they are babies for us and our situation.
The disbudding is usually done when the horn buds develop. This usually occurs between a week and two weeks of age. The sooner it is done, the easier it is to remove the buds. We place our babies in a tall wooden box that has an opening for their little heads to stick out. This stabilizes the baby and makes it safer for them during the disbudding process. Once the baby is locked into place, their little heads are shaved in the area of the horn buds. Eric then takes the disbudding iron, which looks like a hollowed-out curling iron, and places it on the horn bud for eight seconds. Eight seconds of pure hell. In that eight seconds, a copper-colored ring develops around the horn bud. Once this copper-colored ring develops, the process is over, and the baby is returned to its mom.
We struggle with this process. So much so that we even chose to leave the horns on our babies two years ago. However, the choice was a poor one. We have three girls with horns, and it is a choice we regret. One of the girls is a wildcard. She was one of The Bean’s favorite babies, but she is almost feral in her behavior unless we have grain. Belle acts like a goat in a petting zoo if we have grain. I guess that makes her an intelligent wildcard. Anyhow, Belle has hit several of our girls, leaving lumps on two of them. We have decided that the girls with horns must find new homes. They are too much of a menace to the herd and us.
It takes approximately two weeks for the horn scabs to heal and fall off. Once this occurs, the process is complete, and hopefully, the horn base has been destroyed. Every once in a while, a scur of the horn will continue to grow, but it usually falls off entirely without having to be burned a second time. It is not a long process, but it is traumatizing for the babies and, if I am honest, for us as well. I don’t typically help with the disbudding process because I make it worse for Eric. I have been known to cry and ask silly, annoying questions like, “Oh God, can’t you go faster?” I don’t try to be annoying or make it harder for Eric; I just can’t stand to see them in pain, and I don’t hide my empathy well.
Banding the little boys is not quite as traumatic for the goats or us. The little boy is held with his underside facing out; a bander tool spreads the band wide open, it is then placed around the base of the scrotum, and then the device gently releases the band. The babies don’t even cry when this is done. The blood flow is cut off from the scrotum in a few minutes, and the area becomes numb. It is best to band the little boys as soon as their testicles drop. This usually occurs within a week or two of age. Eric compares banding to the circumcision of baby boys. Every once in a while, a little goat will act like a drama queen, but for the most part, the babies sleep for a day or so and, within twenty-four hours, are back to acting completely normal. Eric tends to fuss more about this process than the baby goats. Men and their testicles! (Insert an eye roll)
On Monday, we successfully traumatized all our little babies and stressed ourselves out. Although I love baby season, I hate some of the things we have to do to ensure the safety and well-being of our farm family. I kept repeating to the babies that this was the worst thing that would happen to them. The only other unpleasant thing we have to do is vaccinate the herd, including the babies, for CDT and give the babies a coccidia treatment. However, they have a few weeks before this must be done. This is merely a sub-q shot and an oral drench.
I am relieved that the disbudding is over. Now, the babies are acting as though nothing happened. Everyone is healing and comfortable, which is good. The babies are bouncing and playing with each other, and they aren’t afraid of us. That is always my concern, but they are resilient little cuties. Sometimes we must do difficult things to ensure the safety and well-being of those we love. It isn’t pleasant, but we won’t regret it in the end. As always, dear reader, stay safe, be smart, know you can do hard things for the good of those you love, and keep washing your hands.