Disbudding Baby Goat
Written by Administrator-GL   
Saturday, 12 April 2008

How to Disbud a Baby Goat

Horns or no horns, disbudding yourself, disbudding by a vet- controversial topics to say the least! :)
I used to disbud my dairy kids because I sold them for show- (most dairy shows will not allow horns- But angora shows usually do as do pygmy shows or at least they used to)
I don't sell show dairy goats anymore and I don't disbud- I have never disbudded pygmy or angora or pygora kids ever. But I did the disbudding myself- I have heard over the years many horror stories of vets doing it and kids dying- I have heard of breeders doing it and having scurs or losing kids, I have heard of both using sedatives and banamine- here's my take on the topic:
I disbudded quickly and completely- never had scurs never lost a kid never used banamine (Banamine is overused IMHO) or sedatives. Never used a disbudding box. I had nubians so there were ears to get in the way- so hold them back out of the way.
I would place the kid on the floor after allowing the disbudding Iron Rhinehart x30 to heat for 10 minutes and using the tip to burn a complete round circle in 5 -7 seconds on wood- if the iron does not make a complete circle of black then it is not hot enough and this is usually the biggest problem people have- so allow the burn circle on wood to be complete and black in this 5-7 second time.
You can clip the hair around the horn buds to see better what you will be buring- Most kids are disbudded at 5 days old give or take- it is when the horn buds are bumps on the head but no longer than 1/2 inch (another reason people get scurs because they wait too long or disbud too early) - Once the iron is hot enough, lay the kid on the floor and straddle it holding the head down behind the neck so the chin is flat on the ground (with nubians hold the ears back as well) hold tight so the kid doesn't move, do one horn bud at a time burning and rocking the iron around without moving it off the head to the count of no more than 6 seconds- the idea of rocking is because the head is not flat and in order to get the complete circle, you need to rock the iron without lifting it from the head. Count to 6 and no more remove the iron and allow to reheat until you gt a black ring on wood again.

Introduction: Many meat, pet, and fiber goat owners prefer to leave the horns on their goats. Many of the dairy goat owners, however, prefer to have the horns removed for showing. If the decision is made to remove the horns, baby goats should be disbudded in infancy. Male goats can be descented at the same time. The ideal time to perform these procedures is when the kid is 3-7 days old, depending on horn bud growth. Ideal size of horn bud is when it just starts to bump up no more than one half inch in size.
There are different techniques that have been used, but only burning with a hot iron is safe and routinely successful. Dehorning adult animals requires anesthetic and usually surgical procedures performed by a veterinarian and is NOT recommended.

Procedure: An electric disbudding iron (Rhinehart x30)with a tip that is 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter can be used. This instrument should be heated until they are cherry red and will leave a complete round circle of burnt wood when placed on a flat board for the count of 5-7 seconds.

Notice the complete round circle at the top of this photo, this is what you want the iron to do when it is hot enough to use.
The hair over each horn bud (and scent gland in bucklings) should be clipped and one of the burning devices applied to the area (see the following pictures for exact locations). The iron should be left in contact with the skin no more than 6 seconds at a time while rocking the iron around to make contact with the area without removing it from the head. Once the full thickness of the skin has been destroyed, it turns to a black/copper color that cannot be scraped off by a fingernail. SIX SECONDS! if this is not complete in 6 seconds, allow the iron to reheat- do the other side the same way- allow the iron to reheat and Repeat the first side again 6 seconds- this allows the head to cool on the first side and repeating the process in 6 second increments keeps your baby from frying his brain by leaving the iron on too long- and this CAN HAPPEN if left on too long! You want a copper ring completely around in a circle with no breaks in the ring- IF you get WHITE ! you have pushed to hard or left the iron on too long and this is the skull - this baby needs to be monitored well as possible brain swelling may occur.

Tetanus Prevention: All goats should be vaccinated with a tetanus ANTI TOXIN prior to performing a disbudding procedure. The tetanus anti toxin is found at most feed stores- it's tetanus ANTI toxin (not toxoid) equine origin 1500 unit vial holds about 4ccs - tetanus AntitoxinI use half the bottle for one baby a Nubian baby size. This gives a 7 to 1- day protection from tetanus after doing any procedure such as banding or disbudding or injury- if the area of injury or area you have done a procedure on is still raw or open, another tetanus anti toxin injection is in order (after the initial 7 to 10 days)

Alternative Methods for Disbudding and Dehorning Include (NONE of these Methods are Recommended):

  1. Caustic paste: It sometimes fails and can burn the eye and surrounding tissues. This can cause blindness in other goats if they get this in their eyes while playing with the goat who has it on their head.
  2. Rubber bands: These are advertised as "bloodless and painless," but they cause a great deal excruciating pain over an extended period of time and often leave "scurs" (little, deformed horns).
  3. Sawing: The horn is allowed to grow and is then removed with a saw from time to time. A disbudding iron, a soldering iron, or a welding rod heated with a torch should be used to cauterize the blood vessels. Painful and dangerous.
  4. Gouging: There are devices which will scoop out the horn buds. These are more commonly used on cattle and are barbaric for ANY animal the times of today when we have alternative methods of disbudding. .

Larger Image Rhinehart 30 Disbudding Iron
This is a typical disbudding iron (sometimes called a dehorning iron) Rhinehart x30.


The areas over each horn bud and the scent glands in males should be clipped. After the hair is clipped, the hot iron should be left in contact with the skin until the full thickness of the skin has been destroyed. Count to no more than 6 seconds! while rocking the iron around to make contact with the roundness of the skull. Allow the iron to reheat before doing the other side(test on wood to get a black ring between each application of the iron to the head) - repeat on each side alternating if needed. Far better to repeat than to hold iron on the head for too long. When done properly, it turns to a black/copper color that cannot be scraped off by a fingernail. An ice cube or sunburn spray on the head will help with pain- a baby aspirin (Not tylenol or advil) Only Aspirin (the orange baby ones) - will help ease the pain as well and a kiss and back to momma for nursing usually is all they need.


The electric iron is now being used to destroy the scent gland areas on this male kid. The white arrow indicates the location of the second scent gland that will be burned next.
This is a properly disbudded goat- notice the complete copper ring surrounding the horn bud:
Properly disbudded baby goat
Last Updated ( Saturday, 07 March 2009 )