How To Disbud Kids
The most effective way to keep horns off dairy goats is to disbud kid goats with a hot iron before they are a month old. Usually you should disbud kids at 4 to 10 days of age.
A proper disbudding tool should have a tip 3/4" to 1" in diameter.
You could use a piece of pipe heated with a blowtorch to burn the horn buds, but the electric disbudding irons are a lot more convenient.
Use a disbudding box to hold your kids during disbudding. It helps keep kids immobilized and allows you to put your attention where it needs to be, applying the hot iron to the proper place on the kid's head.
We prefer to disbud our kids when they are a few days old and the horn bud has grown enough that it can be clearly felt. At 4 to 10 days of age, the kid is strong, the skull is thicker, and you are less likely to accidentally disbud a naturally hornless kid.
Buck horns grow faster than the horns on doelings. Nubian horns grow more slowly than the horns on other breeds. A Swiss breed kid's or LaMancha buck's horns may be visible at 4 days of age, while the horns on a Nubian doeling may not emerge until she is a month old.
How long do you burn with the iron? It depends on how hot the iron is and how large the horn bud is. With a low-watt iron (the Lenk 125, for example) we usually burn each horn bud 15 to 20 seconds. With a hotter, higher-watt iron (Lenk 200, Rhinehart X30 and X50, the Dual) we burn 6 to 15 seconds in most cases. We always test the iron on a scrap of soft wood to see how quickly it burns a black circle. If the horn bud is large, we may burn once, let the head cool down, and then burn again.
A proper burn leaves a copper-colored ring over the horn bud. It is best to clip around the horn area before disbudding. This enables you to watch the color change and eliminates the smell of burning hair.
Be sure that your kids have been vaccinated for tetanus before you do any disbudding or scur removal.
Scurs are malformed bits of horn which grow when all the horn root has not been destroyed. To help discourage scur growth, study the horn bud before you start. Be sure to burn to the outside edges. Move the handle of the iron in a circle while you burn so the tip covers all of the horn bud.
If the kid has visible horns, you may need to remove the horn tip first. Burn around the base, and the horn will come loose like a little leather cap. Then burn the root. Sometimes we slice a small horn off with a wire saw; we then burn the horn area quickly to stop any bleeding.
To descent buck kids, burn the scent glands when you disbud. The glands are behind the horn buds and slightly toward the center. A descented buck is never completely odor-free, but he is much less obnoxious smelling in breeding season.
Check disbudded kids every 2 to 3 months for scur growth. If you find even a very tiny bit of horn, heat up the iron again and burn the horn area. That small scur may turn into a large problem by the time the goat is an adult. It's easy to eliminate scurs when the goat is still young.
Some goatkeepers use disbudding pastes or caustic sticks to kill horn bud growth. Potentially dangerous, these substances can run off into a goat's eyes or get rubbed off on another goat. They must be used with care. People who use caustics successfully restrain the kid for a half hour or longer after applying it. Some hold the goat in their arms while they watch the evening news on TV; others lock the kid in their kid-holding box.