How to Dehorn Goats

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Dehorn Goats
Dehorn Goats (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

While some goats are born without horns, a distinction known as "polled," most are born with them, and are later dehorned by breeders. The dehorning procedure is done for several reasons, including creating a safer handling environment where even a friendly goat might accidentally gore his owners. Dehorning also prevents injuries between herd mates during a fight, and also keeps the goats from getting hung up in fence lines. Disbudding (the process of removing horn buds from very young goats) should always be chosen over dehorning when at all possible. If you bring a horned goat into a herd that is hornless, it may be necessary to attempt dehorning an older goat. When properly done, dehorning is not overly painful, but there are several risks involved.

Things You'll Need

  • Pet clippers with #20 or #40 blade
  • Livestock clippers
  • Sharp knife or small saw
  • 2 castrating bands
  • Tetanus vaccine
  • Duct tape

Trim the hair surrounding the base of the horns where they attach at the skull using a #20 or #40 blade on a pair of livestock clippers.

Straddle the goat between your legs, holding him firmly with your calves while an assistant firmly holds his head. Swab an area on the skin between the shoulder blades (withers) of the goat and inoculate for tetanus. Giving a tetanus inoculation at this time helps prevent infections from the healing horn base.

Use a sharp knife or small sharp saw to cut a notch on front and back side of the horn at the base as close to the head as possible.

Place a castrating band over the top of each horn and roll down to the notched area, making sure the band is well-seated in the notch so it cannot move around or slip off.

Place a piece of duct tape over each band and wrap securely around the base of the horn to further ensure the band does not move.

Tips & Warnings

  • Even with all of the possible precautions, bands do slip, resulting in a dangerous situation where the horn is left weakened and at risk of breaking off.
  • At any time during the process of the horn being squeezed off (which should happen in six to eight weeks), it may break if caught in a fence, if rubbed against a wall, or in a tussle with another goat.
  • Have plenty of clotting powder on hand in the event a horn breaks prematurely.
  • The center of the horn is hollow and surrounds a major blood vessel that the animals use to maintain proper body temperature in the heat and cold. If the horn breaks before the band completely closes off that vessel, a great deal of blood may be lost very quickly and can result in death.
  • Because the horn is so well-developed, even when it is successful in removing the horn without incident, there is a high occurrence of regrowth, causing scurs that can also break off and bleed.
  • Never attempt to simply saw off a horn without a veterinarian! There will be massive blood loss and it will be unstoppable without proper medical intervention.
  • If dehorning is necessary, it is best done by a veterinarian in all cases. The veterinarian will likely sedate your animal before dehorning.

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