If you raise goats, you will need to learn how to wether a goat kid, which is what goat castration is called. Why? It is a simple fact that you don’t need very many bucks for a herd, whether you are raising goats for dairy, meat, or fiber.
One buck can sire dozens of kids per year, so you should keep only the best for breeding. That means that a lot of bucklings will become pets, brush eaters, or meat.
Unless they will be butchered in a few months, bucklings should be wethered because intact bucks get stinky and pee on themselves. They also tend to fight with each other during the breeding season. If you are selling male goats as pets, they should be wethered before the new owner takes them home.
Bucklings are usually wethered between 2 and 3 months of age. Most veterinary professionals discourage wethering too early because they want to give the urinary tract time to develop. There is a concern that if a wether gets urinary calculi (stones), they will be more likely to cause a blockage if the urethra is smaller.
There are three ways to wether a goat, and breeders can easily learn the methods themselves. Each one has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
Banding a Goat
Banding is probably the most popular method of wethering because it is simple and inexpensive. A rubber band the size of a penny is placed around the base of the scrotum using a special tool that opens up the band wide enough to get it over the testicles and in place.
Some argue banding a goat is the most inhumane method of castration because it cuts off blood flow to the entire scrotal area, which causes everything below the band to atrophy and fall off.
We used this method for a few years, and most bucklings didn’t seem terribly bothered by it. A few bucklings would scream for a few minutes up to an hour, and some would get very depressed for a few hours or a day following banding.
Because of the anaerobic environment that exists under the band, there is a risk of tetanus with banding a goat, so it should not be done until the kid has received its first two tetanus shots, which is the T part of the CDT vaccine.
We banded all of our bucks for a few years until one year I had a 5-month-old Nigerian and an adult LaMancha buck I wanted to castrate. Obviously, the band would not be large enough to get over their scrotums. That’s when I looked into the possibility of using an emasculator.
Emasculation is the safest method of castration because the skin is never broken. I had originally heard about it from someone who stopped banding after losing several rams to tetanus.
With this method, the cord that goes to each testicle is crushed using a special instrument called an emasculator. A Burdizzo and a Side Crusher are two different brands. Crushing the cord cuts off blood flow to the testicles, and they shrivel up over the course of a few months.
Although a kid usually lets out a short bleat when the cord is clamped, most recover fully within fifteen minutes.
Some cattle ranchers say they have an unacceptably high rate of failure with this type of castration, which makes sense when you see that a cattle Burdizzo is quite large and requires the use of two hands to operate.
The goat and sheep Burdizzo is much smaller and can be closed with one hand by most people. The Side Crusher is even smaller so can be used by people with smaller hands or less strength. That means I can hold the cord with one hand while clamping with the other hand, so there is very little chance that the cord can slip out of the crusher.
We started using the Burdizzo more than 10 years ago and have not had any failures in hundreds of goats wethered and only a few failures in sheep. We started using the Side Crusher in 2019 to wether both sheep and goats and have had 0 failures.
It is also important to note that when we have had a failure, it has only been on one side, so it was quite obvious because one testicle was a lot bigger than the other. In 2022, I purposely castrated bucklings on only one side with a Side Crusher, and I documented the size difference between the two testicles at one week and two weeks of age so that my students could easily see that they would know if a “crush” had not been successful. There was an obvious size difference between the two sides within one week after one testicle was castrated and the second one continued to grow.
The following photos show the difference between 3 brothers — two that were castrated and one that was left intact.
The main disadvantage of this method is that most people and many vets are unfamiliar with it, and some goats wind up getting castrated a second time needlessly. It is very important that if you use this on kids that you are selling that you explain to the new owners that the testicles will not disappear for months, but that they are non-functioning because the blood flow has been eliminated.
Feel free to share this article and these photos with buyers so that they can see how large testicles get on an intact buck of the same age as his two brothers that had been wethered with an emasculator.
If you want to learn more about the Side Crusher from Premier1 Supplies, check out my review.
Surgical Castration of Goats
When I had my first goats, I read that surgical castration was the most humane method, so I took my first kids to the vet to be wethered.
As we stood in the parking lot, I held the bucklings as the vet sliced open each side of the scrotum, pulled out each testicle, and dropped it on the ground. He told me he was leaving the scrotum open so that it could drain because stitching it up would be more likely to result in an infection.
Because the skin is broken, a goat should have had its first two tetanus shots before being wethered with this method. When surgically castrating, some people like to do it before the kids are old enough for a CDT, so in those cases, tetanus antitoxin should be used at the time of castration.
The biggest disadvantage is that having a vet wether kids can add up if you have more than a few each year. Prices vary widely from one vet to another, usually depending on how much experience they have. If it is a vet who sees mostly dogs and cats, they tend to price goat castrations much higher than a vet who sees a lot of livestock.
If you prefer surgical castration, and you want to do it yourself, you should have a vet or an experienced breeder teach you.
Deborah Niemann is the author of Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.
This article was originally published on January 26, 2015.
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