To Disbud, or Not to Disbud


Okay, so that’s not really a decision. We don’t disbud. Been there, done that, don’t want the t-shirt anymore. Clover’s babies are getting their itty bitty horns and we aren’t disbudding. Disbudding is done with a hot iron. You can see more about disbudding in a previous post here, back when we first got Clover and her first two babies.

After that, Honey’s horns (which were being disbudded for the second time in that post), grew back again. Nutmeg has horns, too, though they are flat and misshapen and hidden under her coat. Many times a goat’s horns will grow back to some degree, whether minimal (as with Nutmeg) or to a greater extent. If they’ve been disbudded before growing back, they grow back misshapen.

Not all breeds of goats are traditionally disbudded. Nigerian Dwarf goats, such as Clover and her babies, are. I used to feel very leery of horns–till I had some animals that have horns, such as the Jacob sheep and the Fainting goats. (Not all Fainting goats have horns, but some do, such as Mr. Pibb. Fanta and Sprite are polled–they don’t have horns naturally.)

I’ve gotten used to horns. I don’t see them as dangerous as I did originally. I also see them as handy at times. Need to catch an animal? If they have horns, you have a handle to grab onto. And I don’t see them getting their horns caught in the fence as a problem.

And disbudding is hard to do, and do right. And I don’t like it.

I’m not sure if this makes us rebels or not, but it just feels right.


  1. Flatlander says:

    All my goats have horns..I like them that way.
    I have to be honest, my cow does not and her calve will be de horned.

  2. Nancy in Iowa says:

    little horned goats are sooooo cute!!!

  3. jan~n~tn says:

    Suzanne,You have already stated that, you were not going to keep the young’ins because of the gender thing. So, d-b or not d-b should be left up to the new peoples, right?
    Personally, I’m for keeping the horns on the animal. My Katahdin sheep ewes, knock/pull their buds off all by themselves. Our 210lb ram has a rack, that would put the Dodge emblem to shame. They are simply beautiful, and yes, he knows how to take care of business with them. The god lord put them there, they do make GREAT handles and a much better target for the lasso.

  4. Stevie says:

    If you really hate the disbudding process (which I’ve seen done quick and well many times)why not band the horns? If you aren’t keeping the boys, leaving the horns really might make it hard to sell them. Bucks are hard enough to rehome as it is! I usually end up trading my bucklings for something since they don’t have much value in the dairy world 🙂 Collars are just as easy to grab and hold but don’t run the risk of injuring the handler.

  5. Sandy says:

    I understand the debud issue. I was present when one of our cattle was dehorned. I informed FabHub that we would never do that again. No uncertain terms there. Butcher or sell, but not doing that again.

  6. Beth says:

    We didn’t disbud our does, I don’t feel that it’s natural. We had folks encouraging us (or insisting!) and we politely refused. I think our goaties are happier with their horns! We did get a nubian buck for our girls and he had already been disbudded, but they are growing back now and are a little misshapen, poor baby, but he doesn’t know that! 🙂 :snoopy:

  7. cbarger says:

    In reference to using the horns as handles, please be aware that they can break off. I witnessed this when I was helping a very experienced sheep farmer in Iceland. We had to catch and hold each of the sheep long enough for him to administer some kind of preventive medicine. Like everyone else at the farm, I had been confidently grabbing for horns until I saw the farmer accidentally break off a ewe’s horn. The sad expression on the farmer’s face and the image of the blood dripping down from the ewe’s face onto her lambs is still haunting me.

  8. LauraP says:

    If the horns grow back, the disbudding wasn’t done properly. Just sayin’ — an old dairy farmer taught me how to do it, and every time I’ve followed his instructions precisely, the horns didn’t grow back. When I didn’t do it his way, the results weren’t as satisfactory.

    That said, it’s an individual choice whether to disbud or not. There’s no right answer, just good reasons to do it and good reasons not to. I always disbudded our alpine doe kids and the registerable bucks that had herd sire potential, but not the ones we wethered. Lots of times I regretted that choice, too, because they often got their heads stuck in the fence and often were pretty panicky by the time we arrived to help them turn the head just so to work it back out the way they got it in that hole.

  9. Basic Living says:

    Our goats have their horns. Our pups have their tails. Our cats have their claws. And our chickens have their wing feathers. And we like it that way :sun:

  10. Tonia says:

    I disbud.. I just recently posted about a tragic thing that happened at our little farm here. I had one horned goat he is headed to the freezer. But not soon enough.. He hooked a collar to one of our adult does and broke her neck. This was the final straw I will never have a goat with horns here again. I do the disbudding here and I have very little problems with them growing back ever.
    I also had my hand almost broke to time trying to get a horned goats head out of the hayrack or fence. That’s not to mention the Numerous other times I had to get them unstuck. One almost hung herself in a hayrack when she got stuck..
    I also lost a kid this last spring when he was in with to little horned goats that I thought were no threat. The punctured his rumen.
    I know its all in your experience and opinions what decision you make whether to leave the horns or not. But personally I have a really hard time selling a horned goat too.
    SO nope no horns here!

  11. Michelle says:

    I agree with poster #8. If the horns grow back after disbudding, then they weren’t done properly.

    If you aren’t a fan of the disbudding iron, I’d recommend banding with a castrating band and duct tape it to the base of the skull. Perfect time of year because it’s cooling down and the flies are minimal. They’d be hornless by Christmas.

  12. Jane says:

    I remember as a child holding my dogs puppies while the vet docked their tails and cut their dew claws. A traumatizing experience for the pups, and for me, and one I would be loathe to repeat. I don’t know much about goats, but I applaud your decision and I hope that this experience is a positive one for you. I would be interested to see how this works out.

  13. marymac says:

    I guess every one has their reasons one way or the other. My friend just got out of the hospital a day ago due to an injury to his leg by being butted by his goat. He had a severe infection and nearly lost his leg due to the injury. I like goats, but I respect their horns, or lack of them.

  14. EightPondFarm says:

    I like horns. We have Icelandic sheep and Scottish Highland cattle. Gosh, my dogs would have horns if they could grow them (hmm, I think maybe one does have them!)

    Horned animals learn pretty quickly how and when to use them. I am respectful of their horns, and accidents (which do happen) have been at a minimum here.

  15. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    I thinks it’s totally a personal decision whether to disbud or not. We chose to disbud our kids last year but the neighbor did it when they were two months old and the horns were over an inch long. He was confident the disbudding would work but both grew their horns back. I’ve read a lot since then and know now that it needs to be done as soon as the buds break through the skin and we will be doing it ourselves next year. I have had goats with their heads stuck in the fence because of the horns. That can turn bad very quickly in the kind of hot weather we have had lately. I’ve also had one of our not-so-nice does do some damage to another doe’s udder with her horns. We have 4 goats with horns (2 had them when we got them, 2 grew back) and one without. In our situation and having dealt with these goats having horns, I think it’s much safer for the goats to not have them plus I have small children that play with our goats on a daily basis and it’s safer for them as well. I think it’s a matter of your situation, experience, etc.

  16. Tara says:

    We disbud – I have a full-sized Nubian doe that has horns due to improper disbudding,and she likes to stick me with them ALL THE TIME. My husband came dangerously close to losing an eye because of her horns (and that was an accident – she wasn’t trying to hit him). Like most unpleasant farm tasks, we found it very traumatic to do the first time, but it gets easier each time after.

  17. Dawn Carrica says:

    I don’t think you are a rebel. All my Nigerians are hornless, either done by someone else before they came here or I was lucky enough to get polled kids. I don’t dis-bud my critters either, basically because I’m a big baby and can’t stand the screaming. I have horns on lot of things; goats, sheep, cattle even my wife has little demon horns that pop up on occasion. I think nature is best even if sometimes things don’t turn out like planned. My Saanen buck has a very impressive set of horns, they have been his selling point. I’ve had others pick him to sire kids specifically because of his horns. Sometimes I think it’s all in how you raise them, kind of like dogs, raise them with manners and you won’t have to worry about them butting people-horns or no horns. BTW, I just love your Clover goat. Too bad you don’t live closer, we could have goat play dates!

  18. Jennie C. says:

    We had the vet come and de-horn our little Jersey heifer when she had little horn buds, around six months old. She was depressed for about three days afterwards and I felt really badly for her, but don’t feel comfortable with horned cows around, either. There is a caustic paste you can put on instead of the hot iron. Any thoughts about that? I’ve got a little bull calf about three months away from his own disbudding.

  19. Christine says:

    I don’t disbud either. I have two that someone else disbudded and the resulting scurs are a major pain in the rear. They would have been much better off if they would have left them alone.

  20. Tess says:

    Hi Suzanne! I have so been there done that and if we have babies (goats I mean!) we will not be disbudding again either.Thank you for sharing your farm with us and making us feel normal for the wacky human thoughts we put on our beloved animals and the laughs every day.

  21. Tinia Creamer says:

    I just wanted to share my insight from breeding quality dairy goats over the years. I am a 14 year vegetarian and animals right person. I do equine rescue, too. However, in regards to goats, no only will I not buy dairy goats with horns, I find quality, good homes for those with horns almost impossible to come by. It is sad, but if you truly want to find a quality home, not just a fickle, fly by night pet home where the kid ends up on craigslist and at a livestock auction, disbudding is one of the best ways to help assure that is unlikely. It gives them the best lifelong chance at a quality home. Now, I have some Pygmy goats that came to me not disbudded. I would have more if they had come without the horns since some have gotten their heads caught in fence when I’ve not been home and been killed by our own livestock friendly (until a goat gets caught in the fence) dogs.
    If you contact your local extension office, you can get in touch with someone in your area who makes it quick and does it right. I have some kids who do not even make a peep. Some scream. However, in the grand scheme of things, when they go up for sale, they bring a much higher quality buyer, a better price and have a better chance of not becoming prey by becoming trapped. The stories of does using their horns to ward of actual predators are somewhat silly. They cannot do it.
    I know you do what is best, as far as you can see it, for your animals, but you will find that you have to look beyond the current into the grand scheme of the life of the animal, and like with dairy calves, who are hard to sell as cows with horns, dairy kids have a better chance of a happy, healthy life hornless. It is sad and a hard choice, but as my husband has to tell me each time we need to disbud, Cowboy Up, Honey.

  22. Spring Peeper says:

    I’ve come across this post and I thought I’d put in my two cents. A long time ago I didn’t believe in disbudding. I had a very docile wether. While cleaning his feet one day, he turned around just to see what I was doing and the tip of his horn hit me squarely in my glasses. I usually wore contacts. If I wouldn’t have worn by glasses that day I would have lost my eye.

    Now we all disbud our kids. My husband uses the disbudding iron and he was trained to do it well. He will not disbud a kid if the horn has broken through the skin more than a 1/2 inch. Other than that it doesn’t do a good job. We have people come from miles and miles for hubby to disbud their kids. He’s very good at what he does and so far only 2 goats have had scurs.

    When you look at our goats they just seem hornless. There’s no scurs, no misshapen horns. Nothing.

    When disbudding a buck, if he’s going to be left intact, chances are scurs will grow back because of the testosterone. When they grow we have to vet come and trim them.

    Another thing is that we sell most of our kids to 4H kids. Here they have to be disbudded.

    So those are my thoughts on disbudding.
    Spring Peeper Farm :sheepjump:

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