Faithful reader Renee posed a question on the Goat Berries Facebook page recently: What do we goat people feel about horns? I thought this was a great question for discussion, so I’m posting it here — please do add your thoughts on the issue as it can help other goat people make some tough decisions.
First, for anyone who doesn’t know, horns don’t go by sex; that is, you both females and males may have horns. It is a genetic trait (kind of like those adorable wattles), so if you’re breeding goats with horns, you’re probably, although not definitely, going to end up with kids with horns.
My girls are both naturally polled (born without horns), so the horn issue isn’t something we dealt with directly *but* we did aim for hornless, so I suppose you can say that I’m on the “no horn” side –beautiful as they can be. Just look at this dude:
From what I’ve read, anecdotes about how dangerous horns can be were the most persuasive to me. Goat horns can be dangerous not only for the goat caretakers and their families but also for fellow goats and other animals; goats do tend to headbutt in play and sometimes aggression and can do serious damage to others in either case.
Then there’s the possibility of the horns getting stuck in fences, etc., and putting the goat in other compromising positions, which can not only cause stress and difficulty in freeing itself (the goat can do major damage and even kill itself trying to get free), but it can also leave him or her exposed to predators — even a dog can kill a goat if it really wants to.
On the flip side, some people argue that disbudding is inhumane and unnatural as horns are goats’ natural defenses and help them cool off as sweat glands.
There’s a good discussion of this issue from a long-time goat caretaker at Fias Co. Farm, so I highly recommend heading over there for more information on this as well as on proper disbudding procedures. For the uninitiated, “disbudding” is the process of removing goat’s horns and really isn’t for the faint of heart — and quite painful for the kids too. Note that you should disbud within the first week of the kid’s life, so if you’re about to have kids, this is something you should think about sooner rather than later so you’re prepared.
For our goat-raising situation, I’d say disbudding would be best for us if faced with the horn dilemma — but this is a personal decision, of course, and I’d love to hear your take on it.
So, goat peeps, what is your position on horns? Do you goats have horns? If your goats get disbudded, do you do it yourself? Also, are your goats mixed — some polled, some horned? How does that work out?
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