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Small Ruminant Disbudding | Veterinarians in Worcester, MA

Ever wonder why some goats and sheep have horns and some don’t? There are some animals that don’t grow horns because of their genetics and others that don’t grow horns because they have been “disbudded”. Disbudding is a procedure performed on young kids and lambs that prevents the horns from growing. One other possibility for lack of horns is that one or both were removed later in life for some reason.


Disbudding prevents the cells of the horn bud from developing so that they can’t develop into horn tissue and can’t attach to the skull. Disbudding is performed on kids and lambs between 3 and 5 days of age, although the timing can vary depending on the breed, size, and gender of the animal. In all cases, kids and lambs are sedated, given pain medication, and tetanus protection is administered if needed. The disbudding site is clipped and aseptically prepared. Typically, a hot iron tool is used to cauterize and destroy the cells of the horn bud. If the procedure is not performed correctly or performed too late in life after horn development has begun, there is a possibility that partial horns (also referred to as “scurs”) can grow.


Many individuals that raise breeds with horns choose to have this procedure performed and have several justifications to decide to prevent horn growth. Some of the most common reasons include safety for other animals in the herd and safety for owners and animal handlers, especially children. Due to playing, fighting, and other behavioral displays associated with herd dynamics it can be unsafe for some members of a herd to have horns while others do not. Horns can also make it difficult for animals to use milking stands, chutes, and other farm equipment. If you would like to have your lambs or kids disbudded, please give us a call when they are born so we can set up an appointment at the appropriate time. Call EquidDoc veterinarians in Worcester, MA @ 508-885-4205 or email if you have additional questions or would like to make an appointment!


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