One of the questions we often get asked is, “What are those circles on their heads?”
Those rings are where the goats have been disbudded. The follow-up question is then, “Why do you disbud the goats?”
We do it it primarily for their safety.
Because our goats are not running free in the wild, they don’t need horns to protect themselves. Thor and Baxter, our Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs, take care of making sure that no other dogs (the biggest threat to goats) or any other animals are able to get near our goats.
When goats are kept on the farm, goats with horns can injure each other and humans. But the biggest danger is to themselves.
We use cattle panel fencing to keep the goats contained and safe. The goats will often stick their heads through the spacing. (Remember when our cat, Jason was teasing the baby goats?)
A goat with horns could easily get her head stuck in the fencing and not be able to get free. This would leave her open to being injured by another goat, breaking her neck, suffocating, or dehydrating if she is not found quickly.
So we disbud our goats. I’m not sure how much it hurts them, but I can tell you that they complain more about being constrained in the box (so they can be held still during the disbudding process) than they do about the actual disbudding itself.
Once the disbudding is finished and they are released, they go right back to playing with the other baby goats without any signs of ongoing discomfort.
While not every goat owner chooses to disbud their goats, for our herd, it is the right decision.