During the fall run this year, a cow seriously injured a friend of ours. He works at a local auction mart moving the cattle onto the scale. At the last second the cow turned on him and mashed him into the boards. We all know that accidents happen but in this case what struck me were the comments made by onlookers, fellow workers and his family, that his injuries “were bad enough as it was, imagine if she had been horned.”
Horns are dangerous. I have had calls from goat producers wanting to know how to save a goat with a punctured lung because they didn’t disbud kids. I have been called because a family’s Jersey milker with horns decided that it’s fun to swing her head and bash them with her horns when she doesn’t want to do something. A horned ram got my son’s leg between its head and horn and then twisted its head and almost broke my son’s leg. The stories go on and on. Buyers tell me they hate transporting horned animals due to them bruising each other so they pay less for them. Yet many people still believe that animals being raised on farms should be allowed to keep their horns for protection from predation. My opinion is that if predation is that much of problem, get some guardian animals. For our family’s safety, the safety of our livestock and the safety of the others in the production line, we disbud animals when they are very young and as humanely as possible. Our goat milk stand works very well.
When we bought our first goat, a beautiful white Saanen doe, it was to provide milk for my son who couldn’t drink any other milk. In order to milk her, we needed a milk stand. Unlike cows, a goat is too close to the ground to be able to milk without a stand. So my husband went to work and made one out of scraps of wood and parts he found around the yard. The board on the front bottom has casters on it so I can move it very easily to new locations. Portability is the key to why this milk stand has now become an indispensable piece of livestock handling equipment.
Due to its sturdy construction and portability, the stand is handy when castrating, vaccinating or disbudding calves, goats and sheep. If you’re working by yourself, you might have to add a small ramp to help a calf get on. When you have the calf on the stand, secure its head in the head gate. One side has to be placed against a wall or other solid surface so the calf doesn’t fall off. A helper stands on the other side. Then the farmer can castrate without having to bend and the calf is well restrained. Once we can feel the horn buds, we place the calf on the stand. We have found that with their heads secured in the head gate, it takes less time to burn their horns with our iron (Rhinehart X-50 for calves and a homemade iron for the goats). As long as there is a helper to calm the calf and ensure the calf doesn’t lie down, the calf handles the procedure well. We release the calf and it usually goes back to eating hay.
We could avoid the disbudding chore altogether with polled genetics. This is the route we have chosen for our beef cattle. We use a homozygous polled (carries two polled genes) Black Angus bull and now we only have to worry about our Jersey calves. We have started researching the availability of polled Jersey semen in Canada. A quick Google search showed me that every breed of beef cattle has a polled alternative. For us that was the best choice. Then we only have to use the milk stand for castrating or vaccinations. We haven’t explored the option of polled goats because the gene for infertility is linked to the gene for polled.
As the busy spring season approaches I find myself pondering the option of building one more of these stands so that it could sit permanently beside the goat pen outside or maybe in the back of the barn where the calf pens are. For now I am just very happy my husband made it portable. I hope that using it on your farms makes chores simpler.
Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Man.
Email her at [email protected]