Why Wether (neuter) Goats?
We raise Nigerian Dwarf goats primarily for milk production. That means the does need to be bred yearly to produce milk and that about half of the resulting offspring will be male.
Unfortunately, only a few intact male goats (bucks) are really needed in the goat breeding world; and, those bucks are usually rather smelly. So, only a few bucks are wanted.
Some goat breeders don’t keep bucks at all because of the space they require, the smell, and the feed they consume all year. These breeders prefer to “rent” bucks from other farms to breed their does yearly.
Therefore, typically only the bucks that have the best bloodlines for milk production, dairy conformation, and hardiness are kept intact as herd sires. All other males are wethered or disposed of in other ways.
Wethered male goats make very sweet pets and great 4H projects for kids. Wethers have none of the hormonal issues of either bucks or does – they don’t smell like the bucks do, don’t go into heat like the does and are typically very sweet and affectionate.
Methods for Wethering Goats
There are three popular methods for wethering goats; 1) surgically, 2) burdizzo, or 3) banding:
Surgically wethering goats is done by physically cutting and has the disadvantage of leaving an open wound. The burdizzo method crushes the spermatic cord. The major disadvantage of this method is that the cords are sometimes not completely crushed leaving the goat intact.
Banding is typically bloodless, the least complicated to perform, and the most commonly used so that’s the method we’ve chosen. It involves placing a thick elastic band around the scrotum above the testes of the goat (which cuts off the blood supply) and then waiting until the testes shrivel and fall off. This usually takes two to four weeks depending on the age of the goat when banded
When to Wether
Banding goats when they are younger seems to cause them less discomfort; however, banding them too early can lead to problems with urinary calculi. This can be very serious and even fatal.
With urinary calculi, the goat develops stones (like kidney stones in a human) that prevent it from urinating. If the blockage is not removed, the goat’s bladder will rupture and the goat will die. It can be very difficult to remove the blockage, so it’s best to prevent it from happening.
Urinary calculi is usually caused by feeding too much grain and not enough roughage and/or banding wethers too soon. After a certain age, wethers don’t need grain at all, so if a wether develops urinary calculi, it’s often because it was banded too soon.
When a buckling is banded to wether it, the hormones that cause the urinary tract to grow slow down significantly. Therefore, the urinary tract stops growing. If a male goat is wethered too soon, the urinary tract may be very small and increase the chance for blockage. So, it’s often recommended that wethers nto be banded until they are at least ten to twelve weeks old.
The equipment needed for banding is fairly simple and inexpensive – just the elastrator used to expand the elastic band and the elastic bands themselves (see photos below). They can be ordered from numerous livestock supply sources and are about $16.00 for the elastrator and a package of one hundred bands (the bands last for several years if kept refrigerated).
Applying the Band
Application of the band takes two people – one person holding the goat upright, facing outward toward the other person applying the band. The elastic band is placed on the elastrator, the elastrator is squeezed to expand the band, the band is positioned on the scrotum above the testes, and the elastrator is removed allowing the band to constrict the scrotum (being careful not to pinch teats or other skin).
Once banded, it’s important to keep an eye on the area to make sure it stays clean and dry, or to apply a topical ointment if necessary (to prevent fly strike or infection if there’s any open wound). The buckling should also have received his CD/T shot prior to the procedure or an injection of tetanus antitoxin should be administered.
It’s best to wait as long as possible to band the baby bucklings so that their urethra grows to size (so that they won’t have difficulties with urinary calculi (urinary stones)), but they may become fertile at about eight weeks so most folks don’t wait much longer than that.
We’ve been banding the bucklings at between ten and twelve weeks of age. So far, there haven’t been any complications with the procedure – the former bucklings usually lie down for a while after being banded but seem to be back to normal within an hour or so.