Hoof Trimming and Disbudding


There’s more to keeping goats than handing out cookies and it was time for me to learn. Fortunately, I have my nearby goat farm mentors to show me the way. I don’t know what I’d do without them. I don’t think I’ve ever been near a goat before in my life other than at a petting zoo.

And Honey needed some work–a couple of grooming tasks and a booster immunization.

So off he went into the cat carrier and over to the goat farm.

I want you all to notice how disgustingly, farmishly muddy my boots were as I got into the truck to head over to the goat farm. That’s straw sticking off the bottoms, caked in the mud. I am too a farmer!

Upon arriving at the goat farm, Pete the goat farmer showed me how to trim hooves. With a baby, the goat can just be held in your arms. It’s a little trickier with a mature goat. It’s times like these that I’m glad I have miniature goats. Hooves need trimming about every six to eight weeks in the summer (less often in the winter). Pete and Missy trimmed Clover’s hooves before bringing her to us, so it will be a few weeks yet before we have to tackle her on that. (Maybe I can just get Coco to lay on top of her and hold her down?)

First, you should clean out all the gunk with the tip of a strong, sharp pair of shears, then the idea is to cut off all the hoof material that has grown past the fleshy part of the foot.

Pete trimmed one hoof, then it was my turn. I had to trim the other three. It’s sort of like cutting a baby’s nails for the first time and you’re so scared you’re going to hurt them. Pete said, “They’ll let you know in a hurry if you cut too much.” And so I clipped. And clipped. Trying to get Honey’s hooves smoothed off.

It was the longest hoof-trimming in the history of hoof-trimming. I was scared to death. Honey, on the other hand, was quite calm. He is a honey. So sweet!

And worse than hoof-trimming was on the agenda.

This is a box used for tattooing and disbudding.

As you can see, it’s a simple-to-make home-crafted box. There’s a lid with a latch, a metal plate for the goat to rest their neck, and the box is narrow enough to contain the baby during tattooing or disbudding. Towels are inserted inside to support the baby and prevent them from trying to sit down in the box. A handle makes the box easy to carry if you need to move it around.

Honey was placed in the box.

Before Honey and Nutmeg were brought to us, they were disbudded. Bucks have stubborn horn buds and sometimes they have to be disbudded a second time.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a goat with horns. Horns are beautiful and can serve as some measure of protection against predators. They also actually cool the goat. However, horns can be dangerous, both to other goats and to the humans taking care of them. A horn can put out an eye–on a goat, or a child. In particular, if you intend to have children around your goats, horns are a risk. Disbudding destroys the horns as they sprout, before they have a chance to grow. (Dehorning is an entirely different process involving the removal of existing, grown horns, and is a very painful and risky surgical procedure.) Disbudding is a quick process, and provides comfort that your family can be around your goats without fear. In our case, we feel it’s important for our goats to be disbudded for the safety of my children and others who visit us. Clover is disbudded, so when she occasionally head-butts cats or dogs or even children, she doesn’t hurt them. We need the same assurance with Nutmeg and Honey.

A baby should be disbudded within a few days of birth, and again as soon as any stubborn buds try to re-sprout. Honey was sprouting.

The recommended method for disbudding is to use a specially-designed electric disbudding iron. The iron should be hot enough to “brand” wood. While waiting for the iron to heat, we checked Honey’s teeth.

I don’t know why we checked his teeth, but it made me feel very farmerish. And scared of sticking my finger in his mouth ever again.

He also got a booster immunization shot while he was tucked in the box.

Then he got bored and took a nap.

He woke up when it was time for disbudding, that’s for sure. It was hard to watch, and I imagine even more difficult to do, though it only took eight seconds. It takes one person to hold the kid’s head and the other person to press the hot iron to each horn bud.

Real life, real farming. I just want to dole out cookies…. It’s hard to be a farmer.

(Warning: the next photo isn’t easy to look at. It was even harder to be there.)

Immediately afterward, Honey’s eyes were covered and an anti-bacterial anesthetic was sprayed on the horn buds. In the next several days, the horn buds will shrivel and fall off.

Honey: “I want my mommy.”

And we took him home. Clover was happy to see him.

And he climbed under her big udder and life was good again.

Me, I think I need one of Clover’s cookies…..


  1. Kim A. says:

    Aw, poor Honey; what an ordeal! Mind you, he seemed to take it pretty well.

    Will the horns keep growing back — will he have to be dis-budded regularly?


    -Kim A.

  2. wammy says:

    I had no idea that there was so much to goats. I have always wanted a little black and grey pygmy goat. Still do!

  3. wkf says:

    Good Morning. Horns can also tear milk udders. I saw an adult goat get dehorned. It was pretty awful. Actually had to cut away her skull. you could see her brain. This was done in a sterile vet hosp. The worst part was she had to wear a bandadge on her head for a couple of weeks to let scar tissue grow over the holes. She was by far the prettiest goat I have ever seen. Better to do all this when they are young. :thumbsup:

    Ahhhh! the life of a farmer!!! :flying:

  4. jane says:

    My – farming is not for sissies that is for sure. how awful. i know you have to take care of the feet of horses on a regular basis but had no idea. i cant even cut my dogs nails or be in the room when they do it. Oh my – how brave you are.

  5. happyathome says:

    You don’t get to see these things at fairs when people state they want a goat! Farming is not as simple as just feeding the animals and care is beyond brushing! Thanks for the eye opener and great pictures!

  6. Amelia says:

    I am thoroughly :yes: enjoying the stories about the goats. Such a learning time for you and most of us readers.

    Have a wonderful week. :yes:

  7. Beckynsc says:

    Poor Honey! I know sometimes things just have to be done, but that doesn’t make it any easier!

  8. Blaze says:

    Farm life yo.

    There is alot to haveing and keeping animals. Alot of it isn’t so much the pleasent, but its good you have people who can show you the ropes and get all the tricky in’s and out’s taken care of now.

    And the Honey looks to be no worse for wear either, a few dozen cookies and back on the right path.
    But really is there anything a few dozen cookies can’t fix?

  9. Jyl says:

    When they have their horns they can also get their heads stuck outside the fence…and then get harmed by other animals.

  10. Lora says:

    Aw, a small trauma for sweet little Honey. All’s well when he is back with mama.
    My brother has pigmy goats and last spring had several babies. My husband and I were visiting last summer and my brother took advantage of an extra pair of hands (He does not have a goat box) and we helped catch a wily little male who soooo didn’t want to get his shots.
    They are strong little suckers! And so sweet…..they all come running when my sister-in-law calls them.

  11. maryann says:

    they have that nail grinder that you can use on a dogs nails instead of clipping them, I wonder if that would work on hooves?

  12. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Kim–no, usually they don’t have to be disbudded again. Some bucks can have particularly persistent horn buds, and sometimes females, too. You really have to use the disbudding iron when they’re little and just sprouting. Sometimes the horns will even start to grow when they’re older and then it’s too late. At the goat farm, they told me they had a year and a half old doe with ONE horn growing now! And it’s too late to do anything about it at this point. You just have to try when they’re little and cross your fingers.

  13. Suzette says:

    Oh, gosh! Such and enlightenment for me! I thought you just fed, watered and milked ’em. And took pictures, of course. So much to think about and keep up with! I hope Honey’s debudding “takes” and he’s done with it.

  14. tom says:

    What a neat blog, I would love to come out & do a story on ya….I shoot pictures but I’d bring a writer with me. Contact me via my email & go see my blog…..there’s a familar face there

  15. Shari C says:

    Well, while I love animals and am great at petting and feeding them I now know I would not make a good farmer. Poor Honey! I know it needs to be done, but I know I couldn’t do it.

  16. Annie says:

    If Honey needed a shot, does that mean Nutmeg needs one too? Have you learned to give shots yourself yet? It really isn’t hard, just remember to breathe. Remembering to breathe normally is the hardest part in all the animal care I do. The tendency is to hold your breath, the animal senses that, (llamas and alpacas do, anyway) and tenses up themselves.

  17. Bertie says:

    That “napping” picture is just too cute!
    Glad the whole ordeal is over for your sweet little Honey.

    Pap Smear, Mamograms, and disbudding…some things in life just aren’t very fun!

  18. Remudamom says:

    What kind of shots do they have to have? I’m guessing tetnus and rabies, but is there anything else?

    When you get good at trimming their feet, come over and practice on my horses. It’s back breaking.

  19. Kacey says:

    Hope Honey doesn’t need to have that done again! Poor baby. Who knew there was so much to do with raising goats besides feeding and milking…and watching how cute they are.

  20. Kathy R says:

    It’s hard to hurt your children, even if you know it is for their own good. Baby goat kids (and baby human kids) all need their booster shots. But at least when you have your baby boy circumcised it doesn’t grow back!

  21. Jill S. says:

    Aw, poor Honey, but I’m glad you did it.

  22. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Yes, Nutmeg needed a booster shot, too, and we brought one home for her and gave it to her! I need to find some good hoof-trimming shears because she needs her hooves trimmed, too. I’ll be shopping for that this week.

  23. Rebekah says:

    Just crossed “goats” off my list…

    Thanks for sharing your farm life! I’m loving your blog.

  24. Robin G. says:

    Aw. Unfortunately, part of animal care is doing traumatic things to them. Think of it like giving your kids immunization shots.

  25. Tori Lennox says:

    If I had a farm I think I’d have to have my own personal on-site vet to do all this stuff for me. 🙂

  26. Crystal B. says:

    I didn’t know there was so much to caring for goats Thanks for all the information.

  27. Treasia says:

    That’s neat to know how the disbudding process is done. I had never thought about it till now. Poor little Honey though.

  28. Julie Andrea in Englehart, ON says:

    Oh wow, that was an interesting eye-opener. I know you have to toughen up to be a farmer, especially when it comes to the fun stuff like horns, and ‘fixin’.

    I think I will stick with cats .. and goldfish. :purr:

  29. Susan says:

    You check teeth and gums because they tell you a lot about the animals health. Honey looks like he was a very brave boy!

  30. Happy Mommy says:

    He is just the sweetest little goat ever! We are preparing to move, we will be building our own house and will have Goats I can’t wait!

  31. Donna says:

    Ohhhh, that was sooo heartwrenching…I LOVED the picture of him sleeping in the box!!! How adorable. Oh, they’re so sweet, like babies!!! and then going home to momma..oh, I love them! :heart: :heart: :heart:
    Had to laugh that Coco could hold them down for ya! LOL :mrgreen:

  32. Brandy says:

    Awwww poor Honey! Glad every thing worked out.

  33. Egghead says:

    Poor little Honey. It looked like that de-budding might be painful. Outstanding photos. It makes me feel I am right there watching. :heart:

  34. Maureen says:

    Poor baby! Good to see him happy with his mom again.

  35. Joanne says:

    I had no idea being a baby goat would be wrought with so much anxiety. Glad it’s over for now…will they keep growing back? Great and informative pics!

  36. Shimmy Mom says:

    It’s so hard to do those necessary measures, but it’s even harder when something bad happens because you didn’t.

  37. Estella says:

    I guess you have to take the bad along with the good to be a farmer.

  38. Carolyn A. says:

    I don’t think I’m cut out to have farm animals as I probably would have passed out. Maybe I’d be better with crop farming or canning and such. Oh, and I’d be the editor of the Stringtown Rising Farm newspaper. Yeah, that’s for me. xxoo

  39. Jodie says:

    I’m with one writer above who said she can’t even cut her dog’s nails. Me too! I’ve tried but end up having the vet trim his nails. I just let the cat scratch the furniture, it’s easier than trying to trim her claws!

  40. Nancy says:

    Well, I’ve done some strange animal doctoring in my time, but have never worked on farm animals! When my daughter was little (she’s now 38 with 3 Catahoulas), one of her hamsters lost the ability to empty his pouches. I had to hold him, squirt warm water in with a plastic syringe, and massage his cheeks to get the stored food out! And then there was the tortoise….but that’s another tale. Hurrah for you and your goat work!!! :purr:

  41. Granny Sue says:

    Interesting post, Suzanne. You’re enlightening a lot of people about farming and animal husbandry. It’s not easy and often it’s not pretty. (Hmm, sometimes neither is having a husband–maybe that’s where the term came from?)

  42. Gizmo says:

    Great post! I call disbudding one of the “evils of farming”. You’re stronger than I am — I find every excuse to leave the barn for disbudding.

  43. Lisa L says:

    Don’t think I could own goats…guess that’s why I love coming here to see them!

  44. catslady says:

    A lot of things people have to do they are used to because they grew up watching it all but doing all these things for the first time takes a lot of guts!! koodos to you!!

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