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Banding Goat Horns

A step by step tutorial of what to do and what to expect

A few years ago I took a couple rescue goats at the request of a good friend. The doelings were Boer/Kiko crosses, about 7 months old, and less than 40 pounds apiece. The were at her place in quarantine until their blood tests came back and they could have their CDT shot and booster. They tested negative for everything untreatable so I caved and took them.

They went right into a quarantine pen well away from my herd and I got a good look at them. We named them right away so we'd feel closer to them. The brown headed one is named Gertrude and her black faced half sister is Penelope. These poor girls had lice and mites, a wide variety of internal parasites, shockingly over grown feet with hoof rot, were drastically underweight and stunted, and they had horns. I knew what to do with everything but the horns.

I disbud every kid born here and I'd never bought a horned kid either. After a lot of research I called my incredible vet. We'll call her Dr. Evil as Mr. Man named her years ago and the name has stuck in my house. For the record, Dr. Evil is one of the kindest and most compassionate people I've ever had the privilege of knowing and treats all her patients with greatest of care and knowledge. Anyway, after giving the doelings a thorough once over, she asked if I had considered banding the horns. After explaining the surgical removal requires sedation (always a risk in ruminants), required intensive after care, and was very painful for the goat, she gave me instructions on banding.

The next day MiniMe and I went to work. First we treated them for everything else. Within a couple weeks the parasites were dealt with, the mites and lice were gone, the feet trimmed and treated, and the does were looking a bit better. They were still in quarantine all by themselves so it was a good time to band those horns.

MiniMe and I got started.

We would need an elastrator, green bands, a small cup of water for soaking the bands, and electrical or duct tape. Oh, and the horned goat being held by a super, handy-dandy helper.

Toss a few bands in the water to soak for a bit as this makes them easier to stretch. You can also trim the hair at the base of the horns to make visibility better. Have your handler calmly hold the goat with one hand behind the ears and one hand under the jaw. The handler can press the goats face into their tummy if it makes it easier to restrain the goat. Remember to have a handler that is able to stay calm and collected. Lots of yelling or waved arms and fast motions will just get the goats scared and into fight or flight mode.

Roll a band onto the elastrator and squeeze the handle to open the band. Place the band as close to the base of the horn as you possible can and release the pressure to roll the band off the elastrator. The band will most likely try to roll up the horn so pinch it and roll it down as far as possible with your fingers. In a perfect world, you might be able to get the band low enough to get a bit of skin too. If not that's okay, just get it as far down toward the skull as you can. Get a couple turns of tape tight around the band to hold it in place. I highly recommend placing another band on the horn, just above or below the first band and wrap both with the tape. Repeat with the other horn.

Some goats will shake their heads for the first few minutes but mine never seemed bothered at all for the first several days. After about a week Gertrude knocked her horn while tussling with Penelope and it tweaked a bit and bled quite a bit. Penelope knocked one of hers loose. Other than hanging sideways though, it looked good! The bands were still on and had rolled under her horn, just like they should. Both does were very careful not to bump their heads on anything though and were obviously uncomfortable. I sprayed both horn bases with Blu-Kote and treated them for pain.

Over the course of the next week, both does lost their horns. It was an immediate relief to them when they were gone and they felt better right away. The base of the horns were a bit raw so I used Blu-Kote on them for a couple days.

Two years later and these does are full size if still narrow, with perfectly nice heads without even a hint of a scur. They are happy healthy goats and are productive members of my herd!

I will always advise disbudding kids between 4 and 10 days if possible. Alas, it's not a perfect world, so for dealing with horns that can't stay, I have banded goats and I have had damaged, mangled horns removed with a wire saw and I can say that banding is more humane and way less invasive than other methods. There is minimal risk of infection compared to other methods and much less after care. There is also less chance of scurs.

I would not recommend banding horns in warm weather or during fly season. Also be sure the goat has a current tetanus vaccine. Put the goat to be banded in a small pen with a non dominate companion or another goat getting banded. their head will be sensitive until fully healed and they will not be willing or able to compete or play well with others for a few weeks.

We do what we can to have happy, healthy goats and for some farms, like mine, horns just are not a part of that picture. Best of luck Banding!

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