Monday, April 21, 2014

To Have and To Hold (Goat Horns)

Ah, The Great Goat Horn Debate

 The topic comes up in goat discussions everywhere...and it can get heated.  I don't think there is a one size fits all answer to keeping or removing goat horns. If you are trying to decide which way to go, good luck!

We keep our goats horned and here's most of the reasons why:

1. Size of herd
 We live on one acre so our "herd" has to be small and on a dry lot. Right now we are at capacity- one buck and two does with a little bit of space for future kids. Since we're small, we have to be selective. We've decided our buck will be a small breed variety. Pygmy goats are more prevalent in our area and finding a disbudded Pygmy is very difficult.

2. Cost
 Sure we could disbud our own but we don't have access to a livestock vet. Every time we tried to disbud, we would be taking a chance that something could go wrong and we would have to locate and travel quite a ways for medical treatment. Our current practice for medical emergencies is to put down humanely any animal that can't be treated by us with advice and medicines from our pet vets. There it is- a hard truth. So unnecessary risks are not happening here. The medical expenses are nothing compared to the emotional toll of putting down an animal. So we paid more for goat fencing -no screaming horned goats looking for rescue from fence holes.

 3. Comfort
 Some folks believe that horns are a way for goats to dissipate heat in the summer. I don't know if that's true or not (I asked them but they wouldn't comment.) If you've ever suffered through a humid Indiana summer, you would understand why I prefer to err on the side of caution.

4. To Hold
 Since we are so small, our kids are dam raised. I spend lots of time in the pen, taming and loving on them. But in my opinion, dam raised kids are still more skittish. Having horns to grab onto when needed is so helpful! Even the does need to be caught from time to time. Today, when I entered the gate, both does tried to make a run for the green bush just across the path. They came right up to me when I rattled the bucket of pellets, but not-no-way-not-no-how were they going back through that gate until I got a firm hold on their horns and wrangled them back in. It wasn't pretty but I got the job done a lot faster than if I'd had to hunt up a rope to haul them in with.

5. Protection
 Every night I'm lulled to sleep by the sound of my Beagle barking at the howling Coyotes- they are very near and very hungry. I find "evidence" of them in my yard often. (Yuck!) Sure my fence is secure, but nothing is foolproof. I like knowing my goats have some kind of weapon on them. Yes, an aggressive goat can turn that weapon on me. It's happened before. You can read here to find out what happened to him. Aggressiveness will not be tolerated here, horns or not.

So, there you have what works for us. Your mileage may vary.

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