Goats, in general, have horns. However, particularly in dairy goats, horns are often considered undesirable, and are normally prevented from growing, a procedure called ‘disbudding’. Disbudding is done while the goat is very young, either by burning the horn area with a hot iron, or by using a very caustic paste. The point in either procedure, is to destroy the horn ‘bud’, so that it does not grow into a proper horn. Toggenburgs, our breed, are traditionally sold either disbudded or de-horned, and any serious buyer, willing to pay registered Toggenurg prices, expects hornless goats.
As with everything else goat-related on this farm, there have been…issues.
Since we knew that we did not have a clue how to properly disbud a goat, we took all of our goat kids to the vet last year to have the procedure done. It turns out, the vet was a little shaky on the procedure, himself, and additionally neglected to mention that he did not have the right tools for the job. We ended up paying a pretty penny for local anesthetic, painkillers, consultation fees, and a half-assed ‘procedure’ that was ultimately useless on our bucks (the girls were okay), leaving us with one buck kid with full horns, and another who had one horn and one scur (though he has currently broken that off, so he has one horn and one matted blood clot):
Now, from my understanding, horn scurs are pretty common with buck goats. A scur is where a true horn does not grow, but portion of the horn tissue does continue to grow, producing something that is sort of like a horn, but not nearly as strong or dangerous. Something about the testosterone makes those buck horns defy disbudding attempts; girl goats rarely have this problem. Even our foundation buck, Tuscan, who was properly disbudded, has horn scurs:
The scurs are something of a pain in the rear. Tuscan periodically catches his on the fence, and breaks one partially or completely off. There tends to be a lot of blood involved, though it doesn’t seem to bother the goat very much. However those remnant horn bits tend to curl pretty tightly to the goat’s head, rather than pointing up or out, where they can get properly stuck in, say, a fence, or hurt an innocent bystander, like, say, me. Titan, who still has full horns, frequently pokes me with them when he is getting over-eager to get at the hay I am carrying…and he is a friendly and very docile boy. I wouldn’t want to tangle with a scared or aggressive buck who had horns like that, I can assure you.
I am still quite frustrated that the vet charged us for a procedure that did not work…twice. We took both boys back in when it became apparent that the horn buds were growing, despite the treatment. We were quite shocked when we got mailed the bill. This year, we are considering disbudding paste, as it is a real hit to pay the vet big bucks to end up with horned bucks anyhow, and not being able to sell them as a result.
Or, in a perfect world, we will end up with all girls…