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Editor's note: This article and it's companion Is Dehorning Justified? - No 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? Yes

These two opinions are representative of those we received on the "pro" side of this discussion.
From upper Michigan

In our herd winter confinement because of weather conditions is the main reason for having disbudded and dehorned does.

Bucks should have horns in my book BUT I believe most people would change their attitudes about a large herd of horned does if they lived where the snowfall made it impossible for...a herd of ...goats to venture around a barnyard. Most years we end up plowing out the goat yards just so they can walk around. And you can only plow snow so far by winter's end because you run out of places to put the stuff.

With does kidding in February and March it's risky for us to have a large herd of horned does.
Consider these conditions:

  • It's sub zero outside
  • The wind is blowing something fierce
  • It's snowing so hard you can't see your barn from your house
  • The goats are ready to kid or have kids at their sides.
Where do you think these goats are?
In the barn, naturally.
By choice.
Imagine how cranky these ready-to-kid does get when a slug of little kids are running and jumping around, usually using them as a trampoline.
Everyone is smart enough to not venture outside. The kids want to play. The does have horns. The does get irate and cranky. What do the does do? Fling the kids off their backs with their horns or ram them into the nearest wall. Now if you only have a small number of cranky does it's not so bad but when there's a slug of them things tend to get hairy.
Having to feed hay inside, only done during really nasty weather, is even worse because sometimes the young kids try and be milk thieves. Can you blame them? All those bulging udders upright at head level saying "wanna drink?"! At least if the does don't have horns they're only whacking the kids with their heads or picking them up and flinging them by the hair or ears.

"Just build a larger barn and the problem is solved" Well... that's not always (possible). Can you imagine the size of the barn you'd need for a herd or 100 to 200 goats if you wanted to give them ample room to roam free and get away from all the boot size fluff balls bouncing around?

The entire doe pen is fed grain daily during the winter months. Grain is fed out in fortex pans and it is a lot easier on human legs if the does don't have horns. I've heard possible solutions to feeding out grain to a herd of horned goats so your legs don't end up looking like a purple Dalmatian but in each case snow is never really factored in. One could build a long feed trough and feed from the outside of the fence. Yup, you could do that but you'd have to scrape the snow out of the thing first, it's another obstacle to plow around, and if it had snowed and blowed the night before you'd be fighting snowdrifts on the outside of the fence just to dump the grain.

Saying "just breed for or with polled genetics" is easy if you're breeding with a breed that's readily available. If you're trying to accomplish a goal and your breed is small in numbers to begin with the chances are that you're not going to find enough polled genetics out there to suit your needs.

Granted I don't like pulling stuck goats from cattle wire but that's not the reason for having does without horns. I must laugh when I hear the comment "Just put electric fence around the inside of the cattle wire to prevent stuck heads." Obviously snowfall and snowpack are never figured into that statement! I have never seen the fence material which would allow a goat or sheep to retract it's head and prevent it from getting stuck. But (if there is such a thing) I wonder how it would stand up to the stress of a good snowpack. Our Red Barn cattle wire takes a beating each winter from the weight of the snowpack pulling it down... wonder how long the "no-head-stuck" fencing would last.

Horned goats and human safety aren't a real big concern here... the children know not to mess with the horned bucks and the bucks, though not use to direct human contact, are controllable once caught.

Barb & John Roberts
Upper MI (Yooper Land -- The part above the bridge)
B & J's Fainting Field
http://FaintingGoatHeaven.tripod.com

From West Virginia

Yes, we dehorn any goat born on our place. In the summer the goats have plenty of room to roam on our 107 acres, but in the winter we have to pen them and provide shelter. We can easily get a couple of foot of snow with wind chills of 10-20 below zero. We have found that horned goats, kept in winter quarters, brutalize each other with their horns.

What do I mean by brutalize? These girls don't just take a running go and hit, which can be very painful for the receiving goat, but they dip and hook and tear. We've doctored a lot of goats that have been ripped from mid belly through the udder.

We've had to untangle goats that the "hooker" has hooked a leg on the "hookee" and the leg is firmly lodged near the base of the "hooker's" horns. Have found goats flipped on their backs with a leg caught in the aggressive "hooker's" horns, screaming in pain, and the hooker still trying to hook the downed, caught goat (victim).

No, we are not fans of horns. As for polled animals, sorry but have seen too many problems breeding polled to polled with little kids having extra sex organs.

As for interfering with animals and leaving them natural, would that also go for spaying, neutering, castrating? I guess I'm a big fan of spaying, neutering, and castrating. Every now and then you have to interfere with nature in order to tend and care for your animals and that can sometimes include horns.

I suppose I could just not have goats. What a shame to let a 107 acre hill farm go back to being overgrown with multiflora rose and not a blade of grass able to grow to feed other livestock.

I believe each goat breeder has to deal with the situation he is in. If you are able to leave all your goats as bucks and it not be a problem for you or your neighbor, good for you. If you are able to leave horns on your goats and you don't have to confine them in the winter, or you have huge barn facilities where they can have plenty of room to roam with their horns, good for you. But, it's not right to judge others in something like horns or not horns if you haven't been through their problems (walk a mile in their barn boots).

I dehorn to protect a goat from a goat. Not because I like the look or I enjoy doing it.

Connie Reynolds
Autumn Farm
Ravenswood, WV
csreynolds@citynet.net

 

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