Horn Burning

     One of the most unenjoyable livestock management practices is the burning of horns.  It isn’t fun, it is a pain in the ass and it doesn’t always work.  There are times when I just know that I screwed one up and the head stays smooth and never has scurs.  Other times, I’ve smoked one and I just know that it was done right.  A month later, scurs and nubs start to appear.

      There are numerous ways to burn horns.  I use a box that I can put the kid inside and close the lid.  The kids will be about 2 weeks old.  Any older and they won’t fit in the box.  Only their head is sticking out.  This makes the animal easy to control.  The horn burner MUST be hot.  I think that some people don’t properly allow the iron to heat up.  I hold the burner over the horn burner about 13 seconds.  Then I knock the horn cap off and then burn it for another 13-15 seconds.  It is better to burn too long, then not enough.  Then I do the next horn.  I spray alu-shield on the burnt spots when I’m done.  This helps cool and protect the area.  Too many people are afraid to burn the horns properly.  I haven’t killed one yet.  Although, I do have a story of a goat “dying” and Fred did mouth-to-mouth and brought it back to life.  

     I think a common mistake is not letting the iron re-heat in between goats. Duke and I will do a wether, then another wether, then go catch a few does and vaccinate them.  This lets the iron re-heat properly.  

     Some breeders try a new technique and it doesn’t work and it takes a year or two to perfect the new technique.  I bought a large set last year that developed issues.  This year, we aren’t seeing any regrowth so far.  Some, year in and year out, you just know that there will be a horn issue.  They just have so many goats, that some just don’t get done right.  There has been breeders that knew that a given goat was a great one, so they were nervous burning the horns.  Thus, there would be a dang good goat with nasty scurs.  

     Then, there are new breeders that don’t know what they are doing and you end up with a wicked set of antlers re-growing out of their head.  I recently bought a set of 5 wethers that were about 4 weeks old.  The horns had just recently been burnt.  I knew that there would be some scurs.  The goats got delivered to me about a month later.  No scurs.  They were FULL BLOWN horns.  Oh crap!  We scheduled cosmo jobs for all 5.  That hasn’t work out to well.  The added cost and loss means that I am now losing money on this project.  

     Sometimes, it takes 3 or 4 months to realize that there is going to be a horn/scur problem.  Our crew is pretty proficient at keeping scurs ground down and keeping them presentable.  We also take the bad cases to a vet to get cosmetically done.  This adds cost to a project and sets the goat back.  There are times that I have just decided not to buy/bid on a goat because it was obvious that there was going to be horn problems.  As a breeder, when somebody has a goat from me that needs a cosmo job, I help them schedule it and will pay for it.  It was my screw up, why should the kid have to add expense to their project.  I don’t have to do many, but it does happen.  Sometimes, you realize, a little too late that your horn burner is not heating up as hot as it should.  Time to get a new one.  

     Point being, if you are a new breeder, get help to learn how to do it properly.  If you sell goats and some of your goats develop issues, find out if you are doing something wrong.  Correct the problem.