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Editor's note: This article and it's companion Is Dehorning Justified? - Yes present the views of the writers. The articles, together, are a notification to me that my management techniques and practices may be correct for my herd but may be totally inappropriate for breeders in other geographic areas.

Is Dehorning Justified? No

Dan Lane

I strongly believe that if an animal in its natural state doesn't suit a particular person, that person would do better by the animals (s)he claims to admire and by (her)himself to forgo acquiring that animal and acquire one that does suit that person. Surgical amputations and altering to suit a preference seems to me to be both immoral and shortsighted. Humans have made a career out of short sightedness and turning a blind eye to accommodate short term goals. I believe this shows a lack of respect for nature, ourselves and our environment. It also seems to indicate a "we are so much more important than anything else that nothing but our whim matters" complex.

It's not as if there are not naturally polled goats out there. If a particular breed that one just has to have doesn't have naturally polled individuals, and it's really important to have a polled animal, I suggest selective outbreeding as a means to accomplish the goal. Granted it takes longer than whacking the horns off but it is far more gentle, less intrusive, and respectful than mutilating an animal because one likes it better that way.

If one thinks that horns pose a serious threat and one still wants the animals, I would suggest restricting minors too young to understand the potential for damage from sharing the same space at the same time with the potentially dangerous animals. As far as adults are concerned, we are supposed to be responsible enough to respect danger we willingly encounter and avoid the mishaps. Again, mutilation as a means of countering carelessness seems extremely disrespectful of animals we profess to love.

Training of adults and children by knowledgeable and responsible adults, familiar with the animals in question, seems an appropriate response to owning any domesticated animal from a gerbil to a bison. Throwing children and uninitiated adults into the middle of a herd of anything without education is, I believe, both foolish and irresponsible. It is asking for trouble, with or without horns.


Editor's notes: The above is the original post as submitted by Dan to the ChevonTalk internet discussion list. Since his posting he has responded to many opposing opinions and has discovered an issue that was not included in his original text.
Many breeders have expressed a concern over the irrational habit that goats have which results in their head being stuck in a fence - much like a fish hook in a trout's mouth. There are several remedies for this problem that do not include removing the goat's horns.
The most cost and labor efficient seems to be in the fence material and construction. Goat and sheep wire is available which allows horned animals to retract their heads if they put them through. We use electric wire along the inside of field fence (and/or stock panels with large openings) to prevent them from going through in the first place. We also check our animals regularly. "The best fertilizer is the holder's footprints" applies to livestock operations as well as grass farming.


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