May 2021 Issue

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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

HORNS

Horns serve many positive purposes for goats. The positives of having horns far outweigh the negatives caused by removing them.

A goat eliminates body heat differently from humans. We perspire. Like a dog, a goat eliminates heat through panting. Panting causes the goat to lose carbon dioxide. Loss of carbon dioxide lowers the pH of the blood. This is particularly critical during pregnancy. When a doe is pregnant, any change in the blood's composition affects the nutrition carried to her unborn kids, causing them to starve or die. Having horns allows the goat to eliminate much of this excess heat. I've seen goats without horns die from heat stroke.

Horns serve as a weapon against predators. Horns also impact the goat's position in the pecking order (both males and females). Bucks compete for the ability to breed does by banging horns and head butting. Does also use horns to establish social ranking, and dams with nursing kids use them to maintain distance between other dams and their kids.

Goats use their horns to scratch themselves. Sometimes they get creative and open feed bins or gates with them. Horns are handy handles for goat raisers to use when working their animals.

Disbudding is very dangerous. The person doing the disbudding may burn too deeply, causing infection and sometimes death. Dehorning is equally traumatic and dangerous. Goat horns are hollow and have a large base with big sinus cavities beneath them. The best a goat can come out with is a major headache. Worse results include scurs that grow back and curl into the goat's head or that break off and bleed, opening the head to infection. Flies can lay eggs in open wounds, and maggots can hatch out and eat into the brain, causing serious illness or death. I've seen a goat lose its eyesight because maggots ate into the head and affected the ocular nerve.

The arguments against horns are (with my rebuttals):

"Horns are dangerous." Indeed they can be. And if you or your family members don't know how to behave around goats and properly handle them, then you should not be raising them. It is absurd to alter the goat physically because of human shortcomings or ridiculous show regulations. Common sense should prevail. Never get between a buck in rut and a doe in heat, horns or not.

"Horns can get caught in fences." Yes they can. So make sure your fences have horizontal openings of 4 inches or less or 12 inches or more so this doesn't happen. You have to check fences every day when raising goats. Clean up all debris. Some goat ranches could pass for trash dumps. Get all non-goat-related stuff out of goat pastures and pens. Consider this to be a daily responsibility. Check your goats multiple times per day. Much worse things can happen if you disbud or dehorn the goat. Be a responsible goat owner.

"Legs or horns of other goats can get caught in horns." Again, check your goats regularly. Some of them are going to injure or kill themselves regardless of what you do. You can't goat proof the world. Do your best. Don't do things to your goats that impair their ability to adapt to and interact with their herd and their environment.

"My goat show requires disbudding/dehorning." Get the rules changed! Educate the people that made those rules about why their rules are not good for the goats. If you absolutely must, only tip the horns. And teach kids how to THINK LIKE A GOAT to minimize their chances of getting hurt.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 5.1.21

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Oct 25-28, 2021
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BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

Pat Cotten 501-679-4936
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www.bendingtreeranch.com
bendingtreeranch@gmail.com

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