Wednesday, May 11, 2016

From the Herd: To Buck or Not to Buck?

This spring's kidding season brought two little bucks to our farm which poses the age old question: do we wether or do we buck? Let's take a look at our general rule of thumb, the methods, and the madness.

Intact male goats (bucks or billies) are generally larger, more aggressive, and apt to buck their owners as well as other goats/animals. Aside from that, sexual maturity also brings about habits quite unpleasing- musky smell, urinating on their faces, and hollering like an insane maniac! My personal policy has always been 'none or one'- there is either one breeding male on property or no intact male at all. Male stalls and grazing areas are never entered without some form of protection (a 2'x4') especially if the male is in rut. Keeping intact males has to be a source of conviction and a test of one's grit; they don't make it easy.

Castrated male goats (wethers) must be castrated before they begin male sexual behaviours (musk and rut) which is generally 4-6 months of age. Wethers are smaller, gentler, quite passive 'pets' or stall buddies. If fixed in time, they will not develop the foul smell nor will they perform the nasty tasks that attract the ladies. I generally do not currently house wethers, however, in the past we did keep them with our does for companionship.

There are many goat farms enlist the services of a vet for castration which can be costly yet effective. This is a surgical procedure requiring shots, anesthetic, an overnight stay, and a cut which may or may not have sutchers. I have only used a vet's services once.

Then we have goat farms who take the issue into their own hands. Castrating on the farm is much cheaper, does need to include a tetanus shot, and generally is 'cut free'. Most farmers utilize one of two methods: burdizzo, or banding.

The burdizzo method utilizes a metal implement which crushes the cords and blood vessels leading to the testicles. I have never used this method, nor do I personally know anyone who has.

The elastrator method utilizes a tool which stretches a band which will be placed at the base of the scrotum in order to restrict blood flow to the testicles causing the tissue to die and the scrotum to fall off. This is the method I use since it is quick, cost effective, and overall very effective.

Both methods should be followed by a tetanus shot and need to be done around 4-6 months of age (when the testicles have descended). Knowing the timing comes with experience, so you may want to employ a seasoned farmer for assistance the first few times.

In the end, the decision to castrate or not- which method to use- are up to the person managing the herd. Breeding farms like mine may keep a buck or they may 'rent a buck' from a partnering farm. Those same farms may employ wethers to barn buddy with does who haven't kidded or who are out of season. Hobby farms or small family farms often stick to wethers and does as pets or pasture management (not really breeding or producing).

This year, our herd is under revision as we phase out of the milk goat business and into the meat goat business. Our decision to change fits our current family dynamic and offers a potential to sponsor youth needing projects. Either way, deciding the fate of a male kid's future is a must. It must be made responsibly and efficiently.

for further reading or to take the goat health study please visit:

No comments: