On Pregnancy Toxemia (AKA Ketosis) and Milk Fever (AKA Hypocalcemia)

This article is actually about two different subjects (Ketosis and Hypocalcemia), but since their symptoms are almost identical, and Hypocalcemia leads to Ketosis, I thought it would be best to address them both at once.

Hypocalcemia’s definition is pretty straightforward: it’s when your goat’s levels of calcium is dangerously below what’s needed.

Ketosis is slightly more complicated. Ketosis is when the body isn’t getting enough energy, and the body starts breaking down fat reserves. This kind of metabolism is incomplete, and leaves behind deadly acid compounds called ketones. Too many of these ketones will turn the blood acidic and kill.

Both of these occur often because of an incorrect diet, and most often to pregnant or recently kidded goats. The last 6 weeks of pregnancy demands a lot on a doe’s body (as the kids are getting 60% of their growth, her body is preparing to create milk, and the birth process also requires a lot of energy and calcium), and if she doesn’t get what she needs, her body is going to start using her fat reserves in excess, resulting in all of the deadly ketones. Similarly, if she doesn’t get when she needs when she comes into milk, or if she’s a heavy producer, her body will pull from its own reserves.

These two problems can result from not getting enough feed, and, interestingly enough, from getting too much feed.

The simpler explanation is this: Grain is needed for the correct calcium/phosphorus ratio in a goat’s diet (I believe phosphorus is needed to process calcium). In the last 6 weeks to a month of pregnancy, when the babies are pulling a lot on on the doe for calcium, your doe is going to make a smart move and switch to focusing on eating alfalfa.

In Hypocalcemic situations, she doesn’t eat enough grain or isn’t able to consume enough to keep up the proper calcium/phosphorus ratio. Her body starts pulling calcium from her bones.

In ‘simple’ Ketonic situations, her body, which has been depending on this high-energy grain intake, panics. It starts drawing energy from her fat cells.

In either situation, the incomplete metabolic process results in an explosion of ketones, turning her blood extremely acidic.

So here’s the trick: in either situation, it’s best not to give any grain until the last month or so of pregnancy. Giving your does a little boost in this manner helps keep up her energy for growing kids and metabolizing alfalfa, but not early enough that the body depends on it and goes through a shock when the kids rapidly begin to pull more from the doe.

There is also a possibility of ketosis after a doe has kidded, if she’s a heavy milker. This is called Milk Fever (and is Hypocalcemia). It’s the same basic story: her milk production is demanding more calcium than she’s intaking, so it pulls from her reserves, and again with the ketones. The best way to prevent this problem is to make sure to increase her grain (not too fast, but enough) after she kids to keep up with her production.

Stress is also connected to a doe succumbing to Pregnancy Toxemia. Preventing sudden changes in her environment, in her herd, and in feeding will help combat this.

Hypocalcemia and Ketosis will kill a doe very quickly. So how can you tell if your doe has Ketosis or Hypocalcemia?

These are the common symptoms:

The doe eats less or stops eating completely
Depression
Separation from the herd
The doe may be slow to get up or may lie off in a corner
Her eyes are dull
Sometimes blindness
Muscle tremors & seizures
The doe’s breath and urine may have a fruity sweet odor. This is due to the excess ketones, which have a sweet smell.

So what do you do if see these symptoms?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to diagnose whether it’s ‘simple’ Ketosis or Hypocalcemia, so treating for both is probably the best method. You must get her calcium and energy levels up, and get her eating again so she’ll keep these up herself. Often times a doe will refuse to eat when she feels sick in this way, exacerbating the problem.

For the calcium component, you will need something called CMPK. This stands for Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium — all of these minerals are needed to absorb the calcium. Giving straight calcium does no good if your doe doesn’t have the right minerals to process it.

If your doe is severely weak and refusing to eat, use an injectable CMPK. It takes time for the doe to absorb calcium through an oral solution and there are situations where there is no time for the absorption.

For this, inject subcutaneously, or under the skin, not into the muscle. After tying her down or having someone hold her head, pull up her skin a few inches down from her topline, where the skin is looser and you won’t be in danger of hitting any bone or major nerves. Inject 40-60 cc of Calcium Gluconate. The injections should be broken down into at least 4 injections in different sites. Do not give more than 10 cc per injection site. The injections should be given slowly.

If her symptoms are milder and you’ve just noticed a change in behavior, then you can probably get away with an oral calcium drench: 8 oz. three times a day until the doe is eating and symptoms are subsiding.

Important note: Please be careful with what kind of CMPK, because several types of calcium will burn or leave sores if given orally, or burn when given in shot form, which can result in putting your doe off her feed even more. CMPK with calcium chloride is the most common one to do this. Try to find a composition with calcium carbonate, or calcium gluconate. (I’ve also used, in milder situations, a for-human-consumption CMPK that’s flavored. They definitely want to eat that!)

To combat the energy and sugar side of the Ketosis equation, there are several things you can do. If you can convince your doe to take some tasty treats, give her all she’ll take! Grain works, anything that’s good and healthy with lots of calories and calcium. Also, follow any of the suggestions below:

  • Molasses & Karo syrup (corn syrup). Mix 2 parts corn syrup to 1 part molasses. 20 – 30ml every 2 hours. It also tastes good, which makes it easier to administer and nicer for your lady-goat.
  • You can use Propylene Glycol at 3-4 oz (90-120ml) 2 times a day, for 2 days, and then 1-2 oz (30ml-60ml) 2 times daily until the doe is eating normally, OR, 10 – 20ml every 2 hours
    • However, Propylene Glycol is an appetite suppressant and it inhibits rumen bacteria, so do not use unless the doe is off her feed.
    • Also, Propylene Glycol is extremely similar in composition to Anti-Freeze, which makes me feel a little weird giving them to my goats. There are other, less harmful sugars.
  • Nutridrench, Goatdrench: 2 oz. 2 times a day
  • Children’s chewable vitamins with extra calcium, or even Tums, are great to give to a goat who is still interested in eating. These are also an excellent thing to hand out in the barn as a preventative for Hypocalcemia.
  • An oral probiotic, like Probios, will stimulate the appetite and keep the rumen functioning as it should.
  • B-Complex injections will stimulate the appetite and give energy.

There are also a few aromatherapy things you can do to help with the stress aspect if you feel that is a factor:

  • Rescue Remedy can help calm.
  • Lavender Essential Oil also can help with stress and depression. Lavender has a calming and mood lifting effect. Place 4 drops of oil in three different places in the doe’s stall twice a day.

 

Once the doe has regained her appetite, make sure to increase her grain ration so that a relapse doesn’t occur. Also make sure she has access to enough alfalfa, and isn’t being bullied by other goats away from the feed.

(As a final note I’d like to add that I’ve had a goat who suffered from hypocalcemia and wasn’t pregnant. If you ever see a sick-looking goat who isn’t pregnant and is suffering from muscle tremors, I’d really advise you take her to the vet and test her calcium level! This lady of mine recovered with a heavy CMPK regime, and I gave her calcium supplements and treats pretty much the rest of her life, as she had other health problems that probably inhibited her ability to absorb calcium.)

 

Any questions? Any other methods you’ve used to help combat/prevent Ketosis or Hypocalcemia (Milk Fever)?

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Raising Kids: The First Year of a Goat’s Life

I thought summarizing information on raising kids, instead of forcing you to jump between several posts to put it all together, would be a good idea.

There are several things to pay attention to before a goat turns a year old. Particular attention needs to be paid to feeding. It’s also when some diseases will make themselves apparent. Their bodies grow fast. They grow teeth and personalities. They hit puberty.

Heck, think of a 16-year-old, and shove all the previous 16 years into one year, and then put it inside a goat body.

First off, you’ll want to decide if you’re going to dam-raise or bottle-raise. My post here highlights the considerations to take into account. The different ways will add certain factors into their care.

Secondly, you’ll want to decide if you are de-horning or not. If you want to show, you’ll need to dehorn. If you have already de-horned goats, it’s GREATLY advised you de-horn going forward. Mixing horned and non-horned animals is generally a bad idea and results in moderate to severe injuries. The On Disbudding Kids post can help.

We’ll start with feeding. If you’ve read through my feeding posts you’ll know some of this already, but I’ll put it all together here.

Newborn babies should get as much colostrum as they want. Colostrum, or the mother’s first milk, is packed full of vitamins, minerals, antibodies, and immune system helpers that kick-start a babies growth and health. If you’re bottle raising, the best idea is to try to find (or have) colostrum directly from the source. If you’re bottle raising to prevent CAE infection, make sure you heat-treat the colostrum to kill any virus in the milk. Otherwise, there are colostrum replacements available that you can order. Try to find one specifically for goats.

After about a week dams will no longer produce colostrum but straight milk, and babies will have had enough to kick start their health. At this point, if you’re bottle raising and are using milk replacer, I highly recommend you mix the replacer with cows milk. There have been instances of baby goats getting bloat from being on straight milk replacer.

By a week or two babies will already be interested in eating solids. You can offer a little bit of alfalfa and they may start trying to eat. Dam-raised babies will naturally be interested in whatever mom is eating and they’ll nibble on things by even just a few days old!

By a month, they should be eating alfalfa. If they’re interested and eating some beforehand, great! Alfalfa has all the good things that kids need to grow up big and strong.

Feeding a little bit of grain by 1 1/2 – 2 months is all right, but too much can cause problems, and many breeders don’t like to “growthy” kids that come out of that. Minimize grain intake until about 4-6 months old, when they should be getting a handful or two. You can slowly increase this amount, but do not exceed 1 1/2 lbs a day.

Offer minerals, too, starting at a few months of age. Either a block or loose. They’ll like that.

Technically doelings can be bred at 7 months of age. I don’t know anyone who recommends this. It is best if you wait until they are at least a year old, and have gotten all their growth and maturity, before you expose them to bucks.

This also means that bucks can breed at 7 months. Make sure they’re separated from their female companions by that time!

By the time they’ve hit a year old, they don’t need alfalfa or grain. You can switch over their feeding regime (remember, slowly!) to a quality grass hay, and pasture if that’s available. If you’re breeding your doelings around this time, it’s best to just continue feeding alfalfa, but you may want to decrease how much grain you’re feeding until the last couple weeks of their pregnancy. This will help prevent pregnancy ketosis and hypocalcemia, a topic that I will explain in an upcoming post.

Bucks can stop receiving grain after a year and rut is over with, and you probably won’t need to feed them grain after that (though, if they’re struggling to keep up weight, you can feed them some). Alfalfa can be important during winter months and rut, as well as a quality grass hay to make sure they’re getting enough roughage and staying warm (since goats gain heat from the movement of their stomachs).

Any questions? Comments? Anything to add?

Poisonous Plants to Goats

 

 

When it comes to plants that are poisonous to goats, if you do even just a quick Google search on common poisonous plants (to goats) that might grow in your pasture or backyard, you’re going to find a list similar to this:

Weed-types:

  • Bracken fern

  • Buttercup

  • Common milkweed (tansy weed)

  • Foxglove

  • Lantana

  • Locoweed

  • Poke weed

  • Spurge

  • St. John’s Wort

  • Water hemlock and poison hemlock

Tree-types:

  • Cyanide-producing trees such as cherry, chokecherry, elderberry, and plum (especially the wilted leaves from these trees)

  • Ponderosa pine

  • Yew

Cultivated Plants:

  • Azalea

  • Kale

  • Lily of the valley

  • Oleander

  • Poppy

  • Potato

  • Rhododendron

  • Rhubarb

Most of the property I’ve lived on didn’t naturally have these. I have, however, dealt with rhododendron poisoning a few times, which is one of the worst.

Goats are smart and really stupid at the same time. I’ve seen my goats eat right next to rhododendrons and completely avoid them. And another time they broke into the backyard and ate a bunch of it, which resulted in very sick goats and a veterinary visit.

I think the logic behind it is that goats will avoid poisonous plants as long as they have lots of other brush to eat. If they’re hungry, or don’t have a variety of things to eat, I think they’ll get bored and curious and suck down a bunch of poison.

But, needless to say, if you have any of the above plants in an area where goats can reach, you’re going to want to remove or transplant those plants. And if your neighbor likes to bring treats to the goats, you’ll want to give them a quick education on things they shouldn’t bring.

If you think your goats have consumed something poisonous, it’ll be pretty obvious. They’re going to stand away from the herd, back hunched as their stomachs really hurt, and they’re probably puking. I had a mild case of rhododendron poisoning in one of my does that ended up okay, we just had to wait it out. But I had another, awful case that resulted in a vet visit. I haven’t wrote that post yet, but will post it here when I do.

I’ve been reading up and have been hearing a lot of good things about Milk of Magnesium and Activated Charcoal. Basically, you can mix this with olive or vegetable oil and turn it into a liquid to give to them. It helps detoxify and calm their stomachs. The bonus is that it won’t hurt them at all if poisoning isn’t the case, so if you want to give them about a quart every couple hours if you see these symptoms, you’re going to go a long way to helping them out.

My vet also recommends this a rhododendron drench to give your goats if they have a severe case, taken from here:

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This will help calm the goat’s stomach, or make them puke. Both are usually good. You need to get that plant OUT of their system!

However. From my trusted vet, the rule is, if your goat has been puking for more than 24 hours, she needs medical attention. In these severe cases you’ll need to go to a vet and get their stomach pumped. I would not advise to do this at home, because they can asphyxiate if you do it wrong, and watching your goat suffocate is a horrifying experience.

I would still consult a vet if you suspect a severe case of poisoning. I may be a bit gun shy about it because of my experience with it, but plant poisoning is nothing to mess around with in goats!

The best thing you can do, of course, is prevention. If you have poisonous plants on your property somewhere and you’re indifferent to their existence, take them out!

Any questions? Advice?

Fun Facts about Herd Dynamics

Goats are social creatures, just like people, and they have somewhat complex hierarchy structures that accompany this. The hierarchy part is pretty straight forward, with each goat having a place in the herd that’s above someone else and below another (unless you’re herd boss or at the bottom of the herd, of course).

Firstly, there is the herd boss, who runs the operations in the herd.

How exactly this plays out depends on her personality. A herd boss has the basic role of watching out for the herd and leading them to where she’d like the herd to be.Some boss’ will be more jealous about the food, only allowing her favorites and her daughters the tasty bits. Some boss’ will be more generous, leading the whole herd to the best spots and showing everyone how to go about it.

The temperament of the herd boss really affects how the rest of the herd behaves, since they’re all supposed to follow her lead. For example, Cocoa was pretty anxious and nervous about everything. It took a bit of encouragement for the herd to want to venture outside.

It seems like Sari is the herd boss at this particular time. She seems to be calling the shots. She’s a lot more stubborn and in your face about going places, and in this sense, the herd moves in and out of the barn all the time now. She’s also much more of the jealous type, and likes to hoard the food for her favorites. Blackberry complains about it all the time.

Then there’s the herd uh, well, my name isn’t exactly appropriate for polite company, so let’s call it the herd second

Her job, besides helping the herd boss out with leading and watching duties, is to keep everybody in line and to keep any challengers from pestering the herd boss too much. She’s the badass of the group.

Phe seems to have that place in the herd at the moment. And she’s definitely a butthead about it.

Daughters fit into the hierarchy directly below the dam, as opposed to starting off at the bottom. I’m not exactly sure how that works out for the herd boss — with Sari’s babies, I wonder if Phe will need prove to Beltane and Inanna that she’s above them (and herd second).

And just because daughters are automatically placed in the hierarchy doesn’t mean that this doesn’t change. If goats are butting heads, they’re often working out who’s on top. I’m pretty sure that Duchess is going to give Maggie a run for her money, as soon as she’s old enough to defend (or lose) her place in the herd.

For fun I’ve created a picture hierarchy of what my herd looks like at the moment. You can see I’m not sure how Beltane and Inanna are fitting in there yet! I’m selling Aztec hopefully soon, so he won’t be there long term, and is still technically in with the girls at the moment. He’s very interested in trying to fight the bucks through the fence; though, Duchess took him on the other day and they had a giant battle throughout the barn. That might have been her teaching him a lesson on how rude it is to try to hump everyone, however (even if he’s not old enough to be viable yet).

Bucks, actually, have a hierarchy that is a little removed from the females. I don’t have my bucks in with my girls (for obvious reasons), but in a ‘wild’ situation where they might be, bucks have the primary job of protecting the herd and listening to the herd boss. They don’t necessarily fit into the same structure at the females, but have their own straightforward hierarchy.

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What do you think? Anything to add in your observations of herd interactions?

Picky Eaters

 

goat-eating-can_-vl0001b093.jpgI think it’s safe to say that by now, most people know goats don’t actually eat tin cans. The myth came from the glue they used to paste the paper to the can — apparently it was tasty to our caprine friends.

Goats don’t eat everything. In fact, goats are very picky eaters. They’re just weird about what they want to eat. Rose bushes? Yum! Fruit trees? Heck yeah! Anything on the other side of the fence that looks interesting? Mine mine mine!

The expensive super-healthy grain? Well…

Goats get bored with food, and it becomes pretty obvious they are — they’ll pick through it uninterestedly and sort of stare at you like somehow it’s your fault (Sari likes to throw her dish on the floor). They like what they like and they’ll make it real obvious when they don’t. This especially happens with grain for me; they’ll turn up their nose at the healthy grain and want the crap stuff for whatever reason. Goats are like 150 lb. two-year-olds with less words.

Cocoa used to struggle constantly with keeping weight on — and was the pickiest eater I’ve ever come across. I spent many an evening try to coax a few bites of this and that from her. Often it was a long process. I reminded her every time we went through it that this was how much I loved her. She was unimpressed.

I joke about Cocoa not eating, but truthfully, she had a few health problems that were contributing to her personality tick. If a goat is really not eating, it means s/he feels sick. It could simply be a stomach ache because s/he ate something funny, but you should always watch to make sure they start eating fairly quickly.

Another example, two-weeks-from-kidding Sari suddenly started standing in the corner and not eating — a rapid personality switch for her. I panicked for a minute, as not-eating/misery/staying away from the other goats that close to kidding can signal pregnancy ketosis. Thankfully, it was just because she ate something funny and had a stomach ache (The watery diarrhea I saw a minute later was definitely a clue).

She was fine after about 36 hours of picking listlessly through food. I did give her some calcium supplements (which taste like strawberry, so she was all on board for that), a little grain, and flavored some water to convince her to drink — just because she’s so close to kidding, and I didn’t want to risk anything by her not eating for a day or so.

With all of this in mind, I thought I would share the tricks I’ve used over the past year to convince picky/sickly goats to eat in case you’re struggling with a similar issue. Usually, a trick that convinced Cocoa to eat something only lasted about a week or two before she decided to turn her nose up at that too.

But what are you going to do? She’s my baby.

So here are some tips:

Vary things up. Goat gets bored with food pretty easily. It’s bad idea to change up their diets dramatically, but adding in interesting new things here and there can keep them interested in food — and the same old stuff they’ve been eating. Bring home some blackberries. Feed apple cores.

Molasses. Drizzling sweet-smelling stuff on their grain (this is assuming you’re already feeding grain) is a pretty big incentive to eat. If you already feed grain with molasses on it, it might not work as well (as it smells similar), but it’s worth a shot.

Oatmeal and honey. This was my last working attempt to keep Cocoa eating. I make a cup of it before I head up for chores and dump a ton of honey on it. She slurps that up so fast she usually got it all over herself — and wanted to eat grain afterwards! I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the honey, but it seemed to do good things for her stomach. With that in mind…

Beer and yogurt. Yep, you read that right. Getting microbrewed beer and yogurt that still contain all the good bacteria (like Nancy’s) is really good for a goat’s stomach. This is a natural way to jump-start a goat’s stomach if s/he’s standing in the corner looking like her stomach hurts.

Warm (and/or flavored) water. Sometimes goats turn their nose up at water. This can be due to a couple things, but the most common is a change in the smell of water. If you show at all and take them to fairs, the water probably will smell different and many goats with balk. Solution? Gatorade! Put a little in their water.

Additionally, goats LOVE warm water. Straight up warm water, or warm water with a little molasses (or hey, gatorade) is a great treat for them, and convinces them to drink. This is an excellent thing to do for a just-kidded goat too; the water helps hydrate them, makes their bellies warm, and the molasses gives them a little energy after all that work.

 

With all of this in mind, never let a goat go more than a few days without eating. Sometimes it’s a simple yummy ache or a cold, but letting it go on for too long is dangerous (particularly if they’re pregnant). Their stomachs will shut down after too long, and their bodies will start pulling nutrients from their bones and muscles — resulting in ketosis. That will kill a goat faster than you believe.

I’ll add more thoughts and ideas as I find and experiment with more! Do you have any methods you use? Ideas to add?

Genetics of Personality

As new babies are born and become little bundles of (increasingly bratty) joy, their personalities emerge full force. It’s amusing to me to see the differences between Maggie and Aztec, and now Beltane and Inanna.

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When I worked with 120+ kids a year it was harder to see how their individual personalities presented themselves, except for the few who really let their personalities shine. With a smaller herd and making sure I spend a lot of time with my dam-raised babies to make them tame, I can’t help but notice all the differences between them.

For Maggie and Aztec, I didn’t raise their parents (Blackberry and Rhett), so I don’t know what their personalities were like when they were toddling around. But the similarities to their adult parents’ personalities is striking.

They were a little doomed for being attention-needy, as both Blackberry and Rhett are both obvious and loud about their desire for attention. And I can understand the kids being whiny and hiding behind me when they’re threatened — Blackberry does that, and they will follow her example.

But weird quirks that Rhett has keep popping up — and I can’t blame that on learn by example because they’ve never spent time with him!

For example, Aztec does the exactly same wave his head in a circle while looking up at you that Rhett does when he wants attention. Maggie does the same back arched, head down, eyes half-closed thing as her father does too. And it started by the time they were a week or two old!

Beltane and Inanna are no less striking. Sari is a fearless tank who does exactly what she wants when she wants to — and little Beltane really got that personality aspect. Within two minutes of being born she was getting to her feet and searching insistently for the milk. She’s also the one that just trots out wherever she wants and explores to her heart’s content. The other day she was trying to fight a chicken.

Inanna, on the other hand, laid there quietly upon being born, looking around, collecting herself. She even took a nap before deciding to get up and look around for sustenance. Maybe it’s just that she inherited her father’s sweet face, too, but she is strikingly like her quiet, collected father.

Now that they’re older, both of them definitely have the cantankerous, in your face aspects of Sari, with really sweet moments of Sauvie. And, of course, there’s just something that’s all their own, too. Beltane does this little head flip that’s the cutest thing ever. And Inanna is into everything.

It all just fascinates me.

On Disbudding Kids

Most of us recognize the image of a horned goat. But disbudding goats (or, preventing the horns from growing) is a common practice for those on all sides of the goat-raising business. In the wild, they’re necessary for defense. The argument is that they are not necessary, and even dangerous, in captivity.

This is for a variety of reasons: they can be injure themselves, other goats, and their caretakers, too, ranging from getting caught in fences and breaking a neck in panic (since goats like to stick their heads in EVERYTHING) to accidentally gouging out your eye if you’re too close and they pull their head back too fast. It is also a very bad idea to house horned and de-horned goats together, as the de-horned goats will often get injured with the unequal playing field.

Also, it’s a requirement to have a goat de-horned in any sort of showing capacity. I don’t know if a kid will be barred from being registered if they have horns, but they won’t be allowed in the show ring.

(^Beltane and Inanna napping both Before and After disbudding, in a box in my car^)

On the other side of this argument is how inhumane the de-horning process is. There are several ways to disbud, but the most common way to do it (and the easiest, most humane and fast method) is by using a disbudding iron. A hot disbudding iron is taken and pressed on newly-starting horn buds, cauterizing the nerves and veins that supply blood for horn growth. It doesn’t harm the kid beyond stopping the horns from growing and pain, and if you do it correctly, it shouldn’t be longer than 10 seconds. But they do yell. It’s painful. No one enjoys the process.

There is also the consideration that a goat’s horns is their natural protection. If you take these away, you need to supply something to protect them in return.

You should decide if you will be de-horning fairly quickly after a kid is born, because the most humane time to de-horn is within the first few weeks of age. This is when the horns are just starting to appear as little nubs on top of their heads, before the horns have created roots that attach to the skull. Each breed of goat has a slightly different horn grow rate, so you should pay attention. Once you can clearly feel (and see, if you part the hair) the horn buds, it’s time. Earlier is better.

If the horns get bigger, the process to disbud becomes longer, more painful, and tedious. And if the horns develop fully (and attach to the skull) de-horning becomes a major surgery with a likelihood of complications.

I recommend finding an experienced goat owner in your community to teach you how to do it (or, if you’re squeamish, to pay them to do it). There are also many YouTube videos on it, if you don’t have someone to teach you.

This video is a great PG-rated one for getting your feet wet on the subject (I also appreciate how considerate they are for the little kid):

Notice how little time it takes.

Here is a more involved video showing the whole process and going into the details of the reasons and considerations: 

I don’t give shots against tetanus beforehand like the video above (because I avoid shots as much as possible, and because I’ve never had a kid contract tetanus from disbudding before), though the antiseptic doesn’t sound like a half-bad idea.

The key components about disbudding you should keep in mind:

  1. Buck kid horns will grow faster than doelings; pay attention to your kids and try to get them disbudded as soon as a bud can be clearly felt.
  2. Trimming the hair around the buds not only helps with seeing what you’re doing, but makes the contact time needed with the iron time much shorter, and prevents the terrible burning hair smell.
  3. Always make sure the iron is HOT. It makes the process accurate and MUCH faster, which the kid will really appreciate.
  4. Restrain the kid so s/he won’t thrash around. Some people just “sit” on the kid like the first video, and others use the box. Whatever you decide, you don’t want to accidentally burn anything besides the horn bud.
  5. Copper is the color you’re looking for, all around the base of where the bud is growing.

My method is to pay a lady in my community to do it, not only because I hate doing it (though no one likes it), but because I’m helping her out while I’m at it. (Also, I used to help disbud 120+ kids a year and it’s a relief just to let someone else do it).

Any questions? Comments? Advice or crazy story to add? What’s your method?