Today was a very difficult day for me…and, I’m sure, more so for my baby goats.
(Just to catch you up, on the second half of our vacation– which was so relaxing and wonderfully uneventful that I decided not to write a “part 2” post- our friend sent us home with two new adorable baby goat kids. Here are the pictures first day and the ride home with us.)
So…the sad part. Today we had to disbud our babies. This means we had to have their horns burned off. Yes, it is as horrible as it sounds. They use a special hot iron to burn and kill the nerves in their horns and skull so they don’t grow. Why would we do such a thing to a precious creature? Well, some decide to let goat horns grow, but most homesteaders disbud because horns can be very dangerous for a goat. They spend their lives literally head-butting (like when they head-butt the bottle I’m feeding them with and the nipple pops off and spills the milk all over me and the goat!) Curious little goats with horns can get caught in things like fences, etc., and even get killed. They can also harm other animals or MY CHILDREN with their strong and sharp horns. So, I believe it is the better choice to disbud.
I took them to a wonderful local farm store and had the extremely experienced owner do the dirty work. She had one of her interns help her and one of my babies thanked her by peeing on her jeans by her crotch…which I’m sure was her only planned outfit for her full day of work. (Sorry!)
You have to use full force to hold the goat down and press the hot iron over their little horn bud. First you burn off the cap of the horn, then get the iron firmly down around the horn to ensure the job is done. Sometimes partial horns will grow through if the horn if it isn’t completely burned down, which you definitely don’t want!
Yes, the goats cry. Yes, it is the most horrible smell and sound ever. (Honestly, I couldn’t help but think about circumcising baby boys during this process. I do not discuss this issue on my blog, and have not faced this decision personally yet as I only have girls. You are welcomed to comment about it if you want, but I won’t discuss it…mainly because it is too much of a controversial issue that I have no experience in.)
When the deed was done, I just took my babies and held them to love them and calm them down. They just collapsed in my arms, panting and crying in their own silent goat way. They were really just overwhelmed with pain and shock, I think, and were just unusually calm and quiet. (Sounds similar to the intactivist stuff, huh?)
This was a milestone in my life as a homesteader. I grew up in a home overly obsessed with our pets. If we’re going to be homesteaders with goats, this is a necessary evil for us. I will be doing the job next time. I hope I have enough strength when the time comes.
My daughters (4 and 1 1/2) watched the whole thing. My four year old was silent, watching with curious amazement. I’m really proud that I’m raising my children like this. They are witnessing what it takes to produce the food we eat, and the emotional strength it takes to live a more sustainable life- appreciating God’s creation and managing what He’s given us with stewardship. I pray that these experiences help them appreciate the food, land and blessings God gives them, and not take these things for granted. This is the type of life experience I believe they need to be well-balanced as they grow in this flashy and consumerist world we live in.
Do any of you raise goats and have experience with disbudding?
For homesteading-dreamers, how does this story make you feel about the idea of homesteading?