We are also going to be disbudding our own kids this year,” I so casually said in Dallas’ 2005 kidding story. I’m here to tell you it’s much easier said than done!

That said, yesterday I learned how to disbud kids, thank you to a lesson from Danni Ackerman of Mighty Oak Farm.

On Sunday the 20th, we were all ready to go. We had built the kidding box, had the iron heated, had the kid in the box – who was standing there so innocently and patiently waiting for whatever the people had in store for him… and could not follow through. I’d seen five kids disbudded, two of our own, but I was unable to press the hot iron to the kid’s head.

I keep reading that you have to do the disbudding before the kids are 10 days old, but I’ve learned since that this applies to other types of goats, we are raising Nubians and there is a larger window of opportunity. See Irene Ramsay’s range of dates here. At any rate, I was a nervous wreck, worrying about getting the bucklings done. The next day I called a lady we’d gotten some ram lambs from, and she recommended her next door neighbor. We took the bucklings to have them disbudded that day.

I was still interested in learning how to disbud our doelings myself, so I started e-mailing some goat people to see if someone could give me a lesson.

When I arrived at Danni’s, there would be a short delay as one of her yearling does was in labor, and just beginning to push. She pushed out two tiny doelings (okay, tiny in comparison to the *horses* our does delivered) within a half hour of my arrival.

Danni then proceeded to disbud 7 or 8 kids. Her daughter was present and expressed a desire to try disbudding for the first time. I have to say I think this helped me to see her first time experience, feeling, “Hey, if she can do it, and it’s her first time, then I should be able to.”

Danni let me “practice” on one of her meat wether kids, whose horns were quite visible and about 1/2″ in height. I managed to disbud him properly, and then moved on to disbud first Zoë and then Moselle. We all survived the experience.

I learned that our disbudding box was an issue in our initial failure. I chose the wooden type headpiece, and the kidding box building instructions allowed too big of a hole for the head. I will purchase the aluminum headpiece, as shown here. This one works much more efficiently as the kid is not able to withdraw its head back into the box, hah. Well, our kidding box didn’t actually allow the entire head to move back, but it did not restrict the kid properly.

I also paid close attention to the way I held the kid’s head, being careful not to cover the nose and smother, which Irene Ramsay says in her disbudding article can cause the kid to panic and wriggle harder. [See Step 14]

There are apparently many different methods for disbudding, as many different ways to do as there are ways to raise goats.

With our first kid’s disbudding in 2003, the operator burned around the hornbud, then scraped the “cap” off with a butter knife. She put a syringeful of hydrogen peroxide on the burn, then proceeded to burn another time. She finished with a spray of Blu-Kote.

With our second kid’s disbudding in 2004, the operator burned around the hornbud, then took a very sharp knife/box cutter (maybe an exacto knife) and sliced off the hornbud, she burned again, then finished with a spray of Fural Spray.

The lady who disbudded our buckling kids earlier this year used a low wattage iron to burn, and scraped the hornbud off with the disbudding iron. The second kid’s disbudding was done immediately following the first, and his disbudding was not successful as he is growing scurs.

Some articles say you have to look for the copper ring, others say to look for a white ring. I think the copper ring is the skin (leather) being burned, if you get a white ring, you are down to the skull. (I think!) Most US breeders prefer the biggest, heaviest, most expensive disbudding iron you can buy, while Irene Ramsay prefers a much lower wattage disbudding iron. Some articles say to count a slow five, some say count to ten.

Yesterday, Danni’s method was to burn for a count of slow ten and find the copper ring. If the hornbuds are fairly prominent, she pulls off the cap totally. But she does not cut off the hornbud. She says it will disappear eventually. With our doelings, she did not have me pull off the caps, as the hornbuds were still on the small side. Danni finishes the job with a spray of Fight Bac, a teat spray that chills the wound.

I guess you will probably find variation in every person’s disbudding method. Good luck!

Here are some articles on disbudding that I found to be helpful:

Irene Ramsay’s Disbudding

Fiasco Farms Disbudding

Notes from 2006 disbuddings

This year I had to disbud 8 kids. I learned some more things.

1) Dallas’ doeling born March 9. Her disbudding is okay. I disbudded her on March 20th, 11 days old.

2) Zoë’s buckling kids born April 3rd. One of Zoë’s bucklings (the black and white one) seemed ready to disbud by 2 to 3 days old. I did not have a disbudding box and had to wait for my dh to find the time to build me another one. Finally, when the buckling was 14 days old, I was able to disbud him. In 2004, the lady that disbudded our kids refuses to disbud until kids are 14 days old. So I thought it would be okay to do him that far along. As it turns out, that was much too late. For one thing, the disbudding iron tip was too narrow. He now has one normal looking horn growing, and scurs on the other side. Since he is scheduled for the freezer, I did not put him through another round of disbudding.

Zoë’s other buckling kid was still not ready for disbudding on Wednesday April 19th, and I had not done him by Friday April 21st, (18 days old) according to emails I wrote to Holistic Goats. We bred Zoë to our polled Nigerian Dwarf buck, so I wondered if he was polled. I must have disbudded him that weekend, because emails to Arizona Goats state he is disbudded on May 12th. Even though he was done after 18 days of age, his disbudding worked great. His hornbuds were narrower than his brothers.

3) Brooke’s doeling triplets were born on April 7th. We placed one kid with a friend the day after she was born. I disbudded The Brooklings on Wednesday, April 19th, they were twelve days old. Their disbudding was successful.

4) Lightning’s buckling kid was born April 26th. I apparently did Lightning’s buckling too late also, and the disbudding iron tip was too narrow for his hornbuds. He was disbudded on May 7th, at 10 days of age.

5) Moselle’s doeling and buckling were born on May 27th. I disbudded them on Saturday June 3rd, they were 8 days old. It was perfect for the buckling, but it was too soon for the doeling. Actually, one side worked but the other side she began growing a perfect horn. I debated doing her that day, as her hornbuds were BARELY present. Irene says if you do the disbudding too soon, it might not work. In this case, it did not work out.

I finally realized on July 8th that the horn was growing and getting larger. My disbudding iron tip was again, too narrow. So I borrowed one from my neighbor, she has several different sizes. I disbudded Cocoa for the second time on July 10th. I used a wider tip and I scraped the hornbud off. There was a hard little knob left sticking up. I noticed today July 30, that she had knocked off the scab from her head and the little knob is gone. It looks like her disbudding will be successful this time.

Originally written March 28, 2005 with note from Spring 2006

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