Friday, April 15, 2011

The Horns Of A Dilemma

Before the goats freshened this year, I bought a ‘de-horning’ iron. I never dehorned goats as the horns weren’t much of a problem for me before. They were always in the same pen, in plain sight and unable to get their heads stuck. Now I have much larger, Nubian goats, who not only could have their heads stuck and be dispatched by predators in their unfortunate condition, but could easily use them to injure my pups, or worse, one of the visiting grandkids, so off they must come.

Randyman and I steeled ourselves for the pitiful crying and the guilt that comes with this dreaded job of burning the horn buds off the baby goats when they were a few days old. I shaved their little heads around the horn buds, and stuffed them in a little box to help keep them still. Randyman did the ‘iron work’ while I held their little heads still with gloved hands. There was almost no crying, in fact, they were more vocal about the shaving than the burning. The good news is, that much like when branding calves, after the initial burn, the area is deadened as the nerves in that area are destroyed, so the pain isn’t as brutal as one might surmise. I complained that we needed to keep the iron on for 10 seconds or so, but he insisted we had a good copper ring. The tops of the buds weren’t burned off either, in our inexperience and ignorance. Several weeks later, I noticed we had 5 horned baby goats…well…4 ½ actually. ONE out of 10 horns burned successfully.
I re-burned the horn of the one little doe we sold and I hope that was successful.

The little bucks I decided to just leave horned as they will probably be ‘party animals’…that is to say, they will likely be invited to a BBQ somewhere. The does, however, I have attempted banding. We put the same kind of bands at the base of their growing horns that we use on the buck goats and lambs to wether them. Again, this method doesn’t seem to be as uncomfortable as one would think. The bucks tend to walk funny for a few minutes until the area goes numb and then it is business as usual until the offending body parts just fall off a couple of weeks later. This also works great on lamb tails, which are quite long at birth, but pose a danger of fly strike and maggots as sheep get older. They have to be docked for health reasons. The bummer lambs will get banded soon, likely as not, next week. Samby’s tail already detached and it looks great! One day he was wagging a long tail, and the next he was waggin a short one! If only I could eliminate my own ‘excess’ so easily.

Anyway, the two girls have their horns banded and I am hoping that will get rid of the offending appendages. I will let you know how that works out.

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