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Disbudding Kid Goats - Is It Commercially Applicable?

Dr. Rick Machen, Extension Livestock Specialist, Uvalde

Eddie Holland, Kerr County Extension Agent - Agriculture

Warren Thigpen, Bandera County Extension Agent - Agriculture


4D Ranch, Utopia, Texas


Five hundred ninety-six young wether kids were disbudded in order to collect the information necessary to evaluate the feasibility of this management practice for an extensive production enterprise.

Note: The conduct and publication of this result demonstration should in no way be construed to represent the promotion of disbudding as an essential or absolute management practice for meat goats.


Disbudding (dehorning) is a widely accepted and implemented practice in the dairy goat industry. With the development and/or expansion of the meat goat as a market animal project for livestock shows, interest in disbudding meat goats has increased significantly. The dairy goat industry is a testimony that disbudding can be done on a small scale. However, the question remains - Is disbudding economically feasible for a large scale meat goat operation?


The objective of this demonstration was to determine if disbudding meat goat wether kids is a feasible management practice for a large, extensive meat goat operation.


Does and kids were penned either the night before or the morning of each workday. Kids ranged in age from 2 days to approximately five weeks. Immediately before working, kids were separated from the does using a jump board. All kids were vaccinated for soremouth (contagious ecthyma). Wether kids were also vaccinated against tetanus and enterotoxemia (Clostridium perfringens type C & D) using a combined C, D and T vaccine, castrated with an elastrator and disbudded. All kids were returned to their dam upon completion of the appropriate management practices.

Equipment required for disbudding included: electric disbudding iron, restraint box, wire brush and gloves. The disbudding irons used in this study were either the Rhinehart X50 (216 watts. Rhinehart Development Corporation, Spencerville, IN) or the Lenk 200 (200 watt. Wall Lenk Corporation, Kinston, NC).

The disbudding procedure employed was as follows:

1. Place kid in disbudding restraint box.

2. Place hot disbudding iron over the horn and apply enough pressure to ensure complete contact with the skin surrounding the base of the horn. Leave iron in place 4-6 seconds or until a ring the color of new leather encircles the horn base. Remove the horn tip and underlying loose skin.

3. Move to the opposite horn and repeat step 2.

4. Return to the first location, replace the iron and heat until the underlying white bone turns slightly yellow. Usually not more than 2-3 seconds of heating is required.

5. Remove kid from box and release.


The results of this demonstration effort are presented in Table 1. As previously mentioned, 596 wether kids were disbudded over a series of four workdays.

Table 1. Results of Disbudding Demonstration
Date # kids disbudded # workers* time required
Feb. 27 115 2 8 hours
Mar. 6 181 2 8 hours
Mar. 19 216 3 8 hours
Mar. 27** 84 2 6 hours

Incidence of scurs.............................................. less than 1.0%

Death loss attributed to disbudding.................... less than 0.5%

*Person(s) actually disbudding.

**Disbudding performed at two locations.

The number of workers shown in Table 1, column 3 is the number of disbudding irons at work. In addition to the people required for disbudding, two or three ranch employees were also involved. Therefore the total labor involved was 5-6 people for each workday. The time required includes separation of does and kids, vaccination of the doe kids and processing of the wether kids prior to disbudding. The March 27 workday involved moving to a second location; therefore the time required versus the number disbudded is different from the previous three workdays.

The actual disbudding process was performed at the rate of 15 to 20 kids per hour per technician. If kids were easily accessible and assuming no equipment malfunctions or technician fatigue, a single iron (minimum 200 watt) operation could feasibly disbud 100-120 kids in an eight hour day.

As noted in Table 1, the incidence of scurs appearing after disbudding was less than one percent and the death loss attributable to disbudding was essentially zero. Assuming an iron of appropriate temperature is available (irons with >200 watt capacity are strongly recommended), the single most important determinant of successful disbudding is size of the horn base. Smaller horns generally result in greater success. Based on the significant number of wethers involved in this project, the ideal time to disbud kids is 10 days to 3 weeks of age or just as the bud breaks through the skin, whichever is the earliest. Horn growth rate appears to differ between individual animals.

Economic considerations are intentionally omitted from this report. Excluding the initial equipment investment, labor represents the majority of the expense incurred with a disbudding program. No two meat goat enterprises are the same size and neither is their labor availability or cost. Therefore, application of economic analyses would have provided little more than an academic exercise.

At the present time, there is no commercial market incentive offered for disbudded kids. However, two management decisions warrant the consideration of disbudding:

1) if resident fence(s) are constructed of materials capable of entrapping horned goats and are too expensive to replace or alter, or

2) if show wether production and marketing is a management objective, some shows require and some exhibitors prefer disbudded kids.


Information contained herein provides meat goat producers the baseline data necessary to evaluate disbudding as a management practice for their operation. Labor cost and equipment expense must be weighed against value enhancement (if any) to determine the feasibility of disbudding kid goats.

Mention of a trademark or a proprietary product does not constitute a guarantee or a warranty of the product by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and does not imply its approval to the exclusion of other products that may also be suitable.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.


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