Kat’s Corner: Dehorning Goats and Trail First Aid
And What Does a Hard Goat Udder Mean?
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Katherine Drovdahl answers reader questions about dehorning goats past the age of disbudding, what to do if your doe has a hard udder, and first-aid items to carry for your pack goats!
Q: Can I dehorn a goat at six months old?
A: OUCH. And that’s an “udder” statement! Ideally, we like to disbud standard-sized healthy kids at about four days old. If they are sick, smaller than about 5 ½ lbs, or you can’t yet feel a raised edge to the horn you can wait, but check them every one to two days! Even then we like those done before two weeks of age. Some breeds are slow to sprout and on smaller breeds, it’s good to get a bit more head size before disbudding. By using a disbudding iron, we catch the horn “in the bud” and cauterize around the bud which kills the blood supply to it, which is the least traumatic to your goats. Often when done young enough, they will return to their day with hardly an aftereffect (unless they bump their head of course). Done correctly the bud then dies and falls off in approximately six weeks. It only takes a few short weeks before horn bases get too large to disbud safely and for horn buds to attach to the skull. Once they attach, dehorning goats involves a difficult surgical procedure including anesthetic risk to your animals. Years ago, we had a yearling buck with serious scurs. Our vet had to cut into his skull with a Makita power tool, which exposed his sinus cavity, and he required a few weeks of aftercare to avoid infection while he healed. He came out well but there is no guarantee that scurs won’t grow back after dehorning goats. I personally will not put an animal through that one again.
Q: My doe has a hard udder and dropped milk production. What can I do for her?
A: First, get a diagnosis or a good assessment, as there are several causes. This could be CAE. It could be a bite or sting or it could be mastitis. It could also be a combination of these or a mechanical injury caused by a splinter. Look carefully at the mammary system: goat teats and udder. Do you notice changes in color or temperature? Is there swelling? Is it the whole udder, just a region of it, or just a half? Are there bite marks, punctures, or damaged skin areas? Also, check her body temperature. For any of these, I would want to support her immune system with herbs such as olive leaf, thyme, and/or oregano. I’d also want to support the stress on her system with cayenne. I would also want to consider herbs used traditionally for antibacterial issues, such as goldenseal, thyme, cayenne, or myrrh. If you believe it was a bite or sting, I’d also address toxins that could be in the bloodstream. For CAE possibilities, I would first test through a reputable laboratory. If that came out positive, then besides getting aggressive with the above, watch for possible joint and lung issue possibilities. Her mammary would benefit from decongesting herbs or careful use of diluted essential oils such as peppermint, wintergreen, Eucalyptus globulus, and ginger as well as alternating hot and cold compresses to try to get the lymph “unstuck” and moving again. If you aren’t sure where to start, hire a quality goat-experienced veterinarian to get a diagnosis. Once you get her body and udder healthy again, you can use lactation supportive herbs or products to help her body increase its production.
Q: Help! I am so tired of dealing with frozen water hoses and faucets. What can I do?
A: For seven winters we lived in snow country where temperatures routinely dropped to 20 below Fahrenheit about two weeks of the winter and often stayed below freezing for several months in a row. In between milkings, we kept water hoses in our insulated milk room. We also set up to frost-free hydrants, placing enough around the farm to reach each waterer with only one hose, so we only needed to keep one hose in the milk room. We always removed the hose right away to prevent busted pipes. In climates that are not that cold, you can keep a hose stretched out where the sun will hit it and thaw it. Where we live now, we water in the afternoon and detach our hoses to prevent water from staying in the above-ground pipes. We wrap faucets with winter protection, often with straw and a bucket or feedbag held on with hay rope. We also remove hose manifolds and splitters during the winter months so they don’t freeze and break.
Q: What first aid items should I take with me on the trail for my pack goats?
A: Cayenne can be poured right onto injuries as a blood stop. It also helps give endurance, equalizes blood pressure in anaphylaxis, is antibacterial, offers support in hypothermia, and has B vitamins to support a stressed animal. It’s also great stroke and heart support even in heart attacks. In addition to caring for goats, I’ve also used it for a concussion on me and had it clear out the fog in just minutes. Of course, a good healing support salve and vet wraps/paper toweling/duct tape in case an injury needs to be protected or a broken bone has to be supported during the trip back home. Raw apple cider vinegar, in case you encounter a creature sting or bite. Udder balm products, if you have a milker going with you. For your milker’s sake, be sure her udder is well attached to the fore, rear, and down the sides of the rear legs and held well above the hocks to minimize damage on the trail.
Do you have questions about dehorning goats, first aid for caprines, or other issues? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your questions may be answered in a future issue.
Katherine and her husband Jerry continue to be managed by their ever crafty herds of LaManchas, Fjords, and alpacas on their farm with gardens, orchards, and hay in the Pacific Northwest. She also offers hope through herbal products and wellness consultations for people and their beloved creatures at www.firmeadowllc.com as well as signed copies of her book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal.
Originally published in the January/February 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regulary vetted for accuracy.