Field Surgery

Just the other morning, Lightening–one of our male goats–was exhibiting some extremely odd behavior, running around with his head tilted to one side occasionally making dreadful noises. After a few seconds, I realized that one of his horns was dangling to one side. Now, Lightening was the victim of a botched disbudding when he was newly born; disbudding is the process of removing a goat’s horn buds–usually by caustic chemical or heat. His “horns” are grossly deformed, wrapping around his head in weird shapes, and not at all strong or usable like the other two males’ horns.

Just in case, I found a clean scalpel blade, and sharpened up a folding knife; but in the end my wife would have to twist off the hanging horn while I immobilized the goat, aided in my task by a lariat and leashes that lashed the goat rather firmly up against a tree. The agonizing scream of the goat while this was underway was more than matched by the echoing screams of my youngest daughter, who we had to banish to the house while we performed the deed. Just to draw a picture, here, I was dressed in rain coat and rain pants over regular clothing. This time of year, the males are in full rut and they stink to high heaven. To secure him (mind you he weighs ~200 lbs, so secure is a relative term) I wrapped one arm around his chest and another over his shoulders and pressed my head against the back of his neck to keep him relatively still.

Once the horn was removed, the bleeding was fairly minimal, so we applied whatever topical antiseptic spray we had available and I injected him with a shot of tetracycline.

I remember when Steffen Schneider, of Hawthorne valley Farm, remarked that cow horns are sensitive, if you whack a cow on its horns, the cow will not like it. I found this to be also true with goats–a factoid that has come in handy more than once when dealing with the other two–fully horned–males, and even some of the whethers and females when they get a little too ornery. This unfortunate accident–and I don’t really know what happened to rip his horn away–showed just how truly sensitive they are; it seemed that the horns were deeply connected to the goat’s head, and the pain appeared excruciating.

Anyway, Lightning is recovering in a hastily constructed enclosure and shelter. We take care of his wound every day–and like all patients on the road to recovery, he is a complete pain in the ass to care for–and I expect him to make a full recovery.


About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
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