At first we were disbudding goats using a Rhinehart X50 electric disbudding iron and a disbudding box to hold the goat kids still during. But thanks to some mentoring from Old Mountain Farm, we have switched to a method that uses an Express gas powered disbudding iron and we simply wrap the goat kids securely in a towel to hold them. Warning – the photos below show the process, and might make some uncomfortable.
Because the Express iron is gas powered, it gets much hotter than the Rhineheart iron and the Express has a much finer tip than the Rhineheart. This means that the Express very quickly cuts through the flesh and actually transfers less heat to the goat kids head (this is good because too much heat can damage their brain).
We found that NOT using a disbudding box and just wrapping the kids securely in a towel resulted in much less thrashing around for the kids. It’s still traumatic for them for a few seconds, but holding them in the towel seems much less stressful for them.
Here’s a photo of the old Rhinehart X50 versus the Express iron:
The process we use for disbudding these days is described below.
Step 1: Restrain the goat kid.
Position the kid comfortably on the towel with his/her legs tucked beneath.
Bring up one side of towel and wrap, bring up the other side of the towel and wrap, and then fold the excess in the back underneath the kid. The towel should form a fairly tight cocoon that will hold the kid in place.
Step 2: Prepare the goat kids head.
Shave the hair off the head in the area surrounding the horn buds on both sides.
Step 3: Disbud the goat kid.
Make sure the iron is hot – you can test it on a piece of wood first.
Apply the iron to the head around the horn bud – it takes just a few seconds to burn through the skin to the skull. You learn to “feel” when this has happened, but it’s always better to start with less time so that you don’t do permanent damage.
Apply a cold pack to the area after burning to cool it off.
A copper colored “burned” ring should extend all the way around the horn bud.
Step 4: Remove the horn bud.
A small pliers can be used to remove the horn bud.
There may be a little blood – it usually stops pretty quickly or you can use the hot iron cauterize any areas that are bleeding by lightly touching the edge of the iron to the area that is bleeding.
If you feel the piece that was removed from the goat kids head, you will feel the actually horn bud inside.
Step 5: Repeat for the other side & apply wound kote.
Disbud the other side using the same process.
Spray on wound-kote to protect the wounds and aid in the healing process.
Return to Mom – the goat kids generally go straight for a drink of milk and seem no worse for the whole process.
I strongly recommend that you observe someone disbudding goats before trying to do it on your own. It’s not a fun process, and can be deadly for the goat kid if done incorrectly. Most folks still use the Rhinehart and a disbudding box, but this process has been less stressful and traumatic. We still don’t enjoy disbudding goats, but this process makes it a little easier.