Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Burn Heads....

Oh, the goat-lets are being disbudded today. We will be calling them "little burn heads" for a while.

Most dairy goats are disbudded because if they had horns they would use them - on people, on each other... not like they'd come running after me to savagely attack, but they play and they head butt and if they had horns... it'd be painful.

And they do really get after each other - there is a pecking order in our little goatie kingdom. They can be pretty mean to each other if one of them steps out of line! I don't want anyone hurt.

Also - they stick their heads through the fence and if they had horns, they'd get stuck. We had a buck with big horn scurs... (unfortunately, the bucks have so much testosterone that they will grow partial horns or pieces of horn after disbudding). This buck would stick his head through the fence and get stuck. He'd be stuck all day which is bad because they are stressed, can't get to food or water and it's SUPER hard to get a goat's head out of the fence.

Goats are all about opposites. If you push on them, they push right back twice as hard. If you try to pull their head, they pull right back twice as hard! Our does probably weigh around 160 - 180 lbs. The bucks are bigger - at least 200lbs.

I had to get our favorite neighbors to come over - it took THREE of us to angle this buck's head and push it back through the fence. In the pouring rain by the way....

So yeah - it's really just good animal management for the goat kids to be disbudded.

Most farms have A LOT of babies... 50+. They will heat the disbudding iron - an electric appliance with an iron end that gets red hot. The babies are held down and the iron goes on top of the horn bud, burning the hair and skin all the way down to the skull. It kills the horn growth and for does and wethers (castrated males) the horns never grow back.

It's NOT at all pleasant. The babies are screaming bloody murder, the smell of burning skin and hair is all around and once it's over, the kids stand around shaking and pissing themselves.

Furry Husband and I did it this way one year. Back in college I did this to a steer. I didn't like it either time.... it felt truly awful to inflict this much pain on an animal. Even understanding why I was doing it and it was for the best, I still felt sick to my stomach causing the pain.

Because we have so few kids, we take them to a veterinarian in Loveland, CO who puts the kids out, disbuds them, gives them pain killers and straps frozen bags of peas or corn on their little heads. She charges $10/kid. It's completely and totally worth it to us.

I understand it wouldn't be a possibility if we had 50+ kids a year. No way could we afford it and the logistics of getting that many kids to and from the vet would be a nightmare. I don't think the livestock owners who disbud the "normal" way are sadistic or mean. The goats really do recover quickly; they go on to bounce and spring all over the place.

It's just not how we decide to do it. shrug. I know other livestock producers would think we are nuts to do it that way and that is the beauty of things. We all have our own ways in this world and everyone is unique. Doesn't have to be wrong - it's simply different.


Cheryl said...

This is one of the things I love about blogging, learning about others whose lives are really different from mine. I can see why you felt the way you did about what you had to do to the kids, poor things. Thank goodness they forget so quickly.

Shanster said...

Yes, isn't it cool?! So many people out there to connect with and share a lil' bit o' their lives. :)

DebH said...

Well, Good Then, I don't feel like such a wimp now. I have been taking my few babies to the vet too, and have felt sorta woosie for it!! I can do alot of things, but inflicting true pain....well...not if I can help it. Plus,,,,they are so darn cute!!! So glad you shared this!

Shanster said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one too! I figured I was just one of those namby pamby bleeding hearts.... :) and yes, they are so innocent and cute and why cause that hard pain so soon when you don't HAVE to?