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Has anyone let their goats grow horns? — The Grow Network Community
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Has anyone let their goats grow horns?

Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 400 ✭✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Goats & Sheep

It's so nauseating disbudding little tiny baby goats. I absolutely hate it. Does anyone here have experience with goats with horns? I may be relocating and I thought since I will have more space next time, maybe I can start all over with a herd with horns. Please tell me your thoughts if you have any experience with this.


  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,381 admin
    edited May 2020

    Well, we always did when I was a kid on the farm. There were lots of predators around and the goats needed horns for protection. Back then, it was mainly bobcats and wild dogs. Now, the whole area I covered up with coyotes. So, I still would. They but each other some... and you have to cull any "unicorns". They butt you some, too and can even break a leg is you don't work with them much. But honestly, they were never much of a problem at all... and we usually had 50 or more.. I will at least, try to leave the horns on with my next flock.. or herd... we always called them a "passel".... not sure why.

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 400 ✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 Ok, thanks for the info! That was... shocking, actually! Everything I’ve read up until now says that they can’t defend themselves at all anyway and they only hurt each other with them. Right now we don’t have much space and only 2 mama goats, but now that I know all this I will DEFINITELY keep a herd with horns in the future. Wow.

    But, ahem, what is a unicorn?

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,381 admin

    Oh gosh... that is what the horns are for! If goats couldn't defend themselves, they would have been extinct a very long time ago. A "unicorn" is a goat with one horn or one that is oddly shaped... so if they butt heads, the malformed goat can kill or wound another. If you got he route of letting them grow naturally, you have to let the whole herd develop naturally. Those who have lost their horns, but still have the instinct to butt... well, they won't make it very long. When my family got goats, they already had electric wire around the horse pasture. SO, they ran a lower strand and just let the goats be, for the most part. They were mostly raised for meat or to clear land. Extremely little care. Sometimes they were milked, but we had cows for milk mostly. But yeah, I've seen them fight dogs off many times. THe dogs come sniffing around and suddenly some crazy animal butts them and maybe cracks a rib or two... they don't come back!

  • VickiPVickiP Posts: 579 ✭✭✭✭

    The main problem with horned goats in my opinion, is if you have woven wire or field wire fencing they will get their heads stuck in the fence. I had to cut them out of the fence more than once. If you have barbed wire or electric fence then it is not such a problem. Or if the fence wire has small openings so the goats can't stick their heads through it. I have also found the best protection for my livestock is a good dog.

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 802 ✭✭✭✭

    I grew up with Spanish goats and they had horns. The bucks could get an impressive looking set of horns. They would sometimes fight each other and you wonder how they don't scramble their brains. We had net fencing, and @VickiP is very right about them getting stuck. It was always the does because the buck's horns would not go through. I can't even guess at how many times I had to get them out of the fence. We didn't cut it, we just kept maneuvering them until we could get the ornery things out. You have to push them forward so you can tilt the head back and get the horn points out first. The whole time you are pushing them forward they are bracing their feet and pushing backward. It was usually my job once I got big enough but even then there were times I had to have Dad do it because I didn't have the strength to get the goat out of the fence. We did notice that it was usually the same one or two and they went to auction or the bar-b-que pit. Usually a goat would get stuck once when their horns got big enough and it was so traumatic they didn't do it again. That being said, the horns do make a great handle to use when working with them. Dad taught me to never turn my back on a buck - good rule lol with or without horns. The thing about horns is that it is an all or nothing situation or you can end up with dead goats - unless you have the property to keep the herds separate. Once we went to milk goats (it was the last few years of Dad's life - I had moved in with him when Mom died) we had no horns. Yes, I positively detested having to burn the horn buds on those cute little things but it was not really a choice. There are those with horned dairy goats and the people I've talked to with those herds did not have any real problems (I always worried about the udders though, as they are often much larger on a dairy goat). So is that enough information to thoroughly confuse you? 🤣

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 400 ✭✭✭✭

    @seeker.nancy Thank you for the information!! These are dairy goats (Nigerian Dwarf) but it seems to me that with the right kind of fencing, it might be doable to let them keep their horns. I can’t do the disbudding myself, so it seems better to work out a system where I won’t be dependent on someone else.

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 802 ✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella I think it is doable, especially with that breed. I had Nubians who can get quite large. Disbudding for me was a two person job. I never could get the hang of using those boxes they make for it. One of my daughters would have to hold them while I did the deed. Taking them to a vet was about $8 a head and I had too many to do that. Also, it would then take multiple trips or you had to take them in when some were a bit older (a far worse option because they have to cut the horn out below the bud and then burn to stop the bleeding). I really loved my Nubians - it was like having a herd of dogs lol. They were so sociable with us. My eldest would come in from a bad day at work and head to the barn. She would say she needed some goat therapy. But as much as I love them and really want to have goats again, I think a dwarf breed would be a far better option. And that is IF I had someone to help who didn't mind it lol.

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 400 ✭✭✭✭

    @seeker.nancy Someday when I have more space, I'll have to get just one nubian. So much milk! It makes me jealous, lol. It's interesting to me that meat breeds are expected to have horns and dairy goats are expected to be disbudded. There's so much I don't know coming into this as an adult with absolutely no experience!

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 802 ✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella the milk from Nubians is supposed to be about the richest (most butterfat). I have no idea how the horns/no horns thing even got started lol. I'd never heard of disbudding until I got them. I grew up with Spanish and the Boer goats. Nubians are less likely to go wandering than other goat breeds I've seen as long as they have plenty to eat. Some breeds break fences just because they can lol. Life is just one big learning experience 😄

  • EarlKellyEarlKelly Penn state master gardener Northeastern Pennsylvania zone 5bPosts: 230 ✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella my son has Nigerian dwarfs. They have their horns and no problem. His wife was butted in the throat once while trimming feet. That is the only mishap that they have had. Nice defensive weapon for any predators that get in. I have a herd of Boer goats. They all have horns in case coyotes get in to get them. No problem there either. Just couldn’t disbud them. Hope you get your forever spot with more room soon.

  • HassenaHassena Posts: 311 ✭✭✭

    We have horned la mancha goats. If you watch closely at their body language, one can almost predict when they will attempt to head butt a human.

    So far the horns aren't a problem. We have electric wire and woven wire fence. The woven fence is 2"x4", so far no horns stuck.

    I just couldn't bring myself to disbud the babies. So we decided to have a horned heard. We don't have a buck. We massage the goats, to keep them friendly. Just a back massage.

    When it comes to hoof trimming, we put them on the milking stand, that way they don't move much. Protecting ourselves and their hooves.

    Dis-budding is required for some show goats and 4H goats. So we may eventually have to reconsider.

    Hope you get more space for more goats.

  • shepherd-tishshepherd-tish Posts: 12 ✭✭✭

    Have had mixed herds of goats, some with horns, some without. Generally the ones without are ones we bought like that. Like mentioned by other people, the biggest problem is with woven wire fencing. Some learn quickly after sticking their head through the fence how to tilt their head and pull it back out. But I also had one goat that repeatedly stuck her head through the fence and then hollered until she was rescued. I eventually got rid of her. But considering the number of goats we've had over the years, I guess one totally dingbat goat is not too bad. :-)

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 400 ✭✭✭✭

    @Hassena That's really encouraging. I may stick with mini goats until I get used to the horns, but it's nice to hear it really can be done.

    @shepherd-tish Did you have any issues with a mixed herd? Did they hurt each other?

    Thanks for the feedback!

  • HassenaHassena Posts: 311 ✭✭✭

    Hi @Megan Venturella

    We do have one older goat that we got with no horns. Unfortunately she gets picked on a lot by our new younger and horned queen...we just watch them. If things get out of hand we seperate the goats in different pens.

    We may end up disbudding next year's kids and keep two herds. One horned and one not.

    Bought two pregnant does and introduced them to our goat. Then the head butting was intense. Goats will often work harder to be queen when pregnant. So their kids have a higher status in the herd. It has been challenging. Some days the unhorned goat had small wounds on her head. In one pasture we have the older/unhorned goat, her two kids and our goat (all with horns), then in the other pasture we have the fiesty younger soon to be queen and her kid.

    When we complete our larger fence, we will be putting them all together...hopefully. Looking forward to hearing what others are doing. :)

  • FolksyFarmMamaFolksyFarmMama Posts: 3 ✭✭✭

    We have a mix of horned and disbudded goats. We prefer horned, because we can grab them if we need to. We have had stray dogs, and with horns they are able to defend themselves and their babies. Ours with horns seem much more confident, not sure if that is a coincidence or not. If we take them to a community event (like a petting zoo), we will take the disbudded ones. If you have young children we strongly recommend disbudding in order to avoid horns winding up in their face/eyes. Here's a general list of pros and cons that have helped us make our decisions through the years.

    Pros of horns,

    The goats are able to defend themselves and their kids. If you have an emergency or a goat who doesn't like halters, you can grab a horn to move them. You don't have the trauma, cost or risk of infection from disbudding.

    Cons of horns,

    Getting them caught in fencing. Horned goats fighting with disbudded goats and causing injuries. Horned goats flipping or injuring smaller goats, babies, cats, dogs, etc. Keeping small children safe, so that horns do not accidentally hit their face/eyes.

    Good luck with whichever route you decide to take!

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 400 ✭✭✭✭

    @FolksyFarmMama Thanks for the feedback! My kids are 10 and 13. Do you feel that's old enough to be around goats with horns? Thanks for answering!

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