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.
12 thoughts on “Wethering a Goat: 3 Castration Options for Goat Kids”
If the baby goats are going to be sold at about four months from birth, is there a need to castrate them?
If a buck is not going to be used for breeding, he should be castrated. Intact bucks do not make good pets because they stink and pee on themselves.
We have one little buckling we are planning on using the Emasculator on. He is acting VERY bucky with his sister,mom and aunt.. He is 5 1/2 weeks old. Is it too soon to do this? I have had ppl tell me not to do it until 12 weeks old. Any advice is welcomed. I’d like to get it done so I don’t have to separate him as he would be by himself but his health is first priority
Acting bucky is very common with young kids. I’ve even had does act like that, although that is less common. A kid that age is not producing sperm. He’s just being dominant. I usually castrate at 8 weeks and have never had any problems with urinary calculi or unwanted pregnancies. In fact, I’ve waited until 3 months quite a bit and had no problems, but I start getting nervous at that point. As for his health, remember that separating him from his mother and putting him alone would stress him out terribly, and without mom’s antibodies and her milk, he’d probably have a case of coccidiosis in about 3 weeks.
New to goat ownership. We are learning fast though. We have three Nigerian Dwarf goats, whethers, two are ten weeks and one thirteen weeks. We are working on the right feed balance and would welcome any insight. They have orchard hay available to them most of the day, 1/2 C each grain daily, 2 T COB each with grain, fresh water, 2-3 hours browsing time in different fields where they tend to gravitate to berry bush leaves. I usually cut some berry branches for them in the evening when I put them up. Minerals for goats available as they want. Their water intake between the three of them is only about a gallon a day. Open to any suggestions. Darling little guys..so much fun…lots of handling too!
Once they are about 6 months old or 40 pounds, they don’t really need the grain any longer, so you can wean them off of it then. COB is just empty calories. That’s used for fattening up meat animals, and it doesn’t sound like that’s the destiny of these boys. Wethers do fine with a good, green grass hay, plenty of pasture or browse, as well as free choice loose minerals and plenty of clean water. They are very easy keepers. Here is more on feeding goats — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/what-do-goats-eat-it-depends/
Hi. Im in a bit of a dilemma here; i have a buckling whos over 3 months old (born on january 11th)…i meant to keep him for a while, so i put off castration for a while. we always used the vet for surgical castration because there isnt many options (here in Bangladesh , hardly anyone has heard of banding or emasculators…and they arent available anywhere) . i tried looking on amazon…but they dont deliver here yet…especially from overseas. so, long story short; i am now trapped home since march because of the pandemic lockdown…and the vet isnt opened. the problem is, the buckling has started mounting his sister and mother…and im scared to death of an unwanted inbreeding. he screams terribly when separated from his mother…and i dont really have any separate pen from them. should i attempt to castrate him on my own? i have a pretty good idea of the procedure, and have done similar stuff before, so im not queasy. But i want your advice because im worried that now that hes older it might be more dangerous for him? i really dont want to hurt him. Sorry for the essay….any advice is appreciated.
I wouldn’t be too worried about inbreeding. Here is more on that topic:
The main concern would be getting a doe pregnant before she is big enough to be able to give birth safely. They need to be about 2/3 of their adult weight before breeding.
It also depends on whether the goats in your area breed seasonally. Some goats would not be coming into heat until fall, so there would be no risk of pregnancy, even if a buck mated a doe because she would not be ovulating. I have also found that bucks can mate before they are producing sperm, so he may not be able to get a doe pregnant yet. The youngest buck I’ve had successfully breed a doe was 5 months, and younger bucks did have the opportunity, so you are getting close to when he could do it — IF the does are in heat.
Surgical castration at this age should not be done without anesthesia. There is also a risk of more bleeding than if he were younger, so I probably wouldn’t attempt it.
You might try a buck apron —
Our beautiful smart strong and healthy 15 months pet buck just died after surgical castration done by a vet, anesthesia was suppose to wear off in 30 minutes but he only cane round 8 hours later blind unable to stand completely brain damaged, vet had no idea what went wrong(!?), we are gutted
I’m so sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Goats do not do well with anesthesia, and if your vet didn’t know this, that’s a bad sign. This is why people don’t use anesthesia for things like castration and disbudding and tattooing, and we do them when the kids are younger, and it is not so traumatic. Males are normally castrated by 2-3 months without anesthesia. I’m a big fan of using a Burdizzo, which is completely bloodless, so there is zero risk of tetanus or infection, and the goats get over within minutes because it’s just a pinch.
Hi there! Hoping you can help me.. this is my first year with goat kids and I have Nigerian Dwarf bucklings I’m planning on keeping for grazers, would like to castrate them and have decided on the burdizzo method. They are a little over 3 months old now, and I was told 4 months is a good age to do it to help avoid issues with urinary calculi. I know it can be done earlier than that but since I’m keeping them and they are separated from my does now there’s no reason I absolutely need to do it earlier. Would you agree with 4 months being an okay age to do it? Also.. how old would you say is too old to castrate using a burdizzo? I have a 17 month old buck I kind of wish I would have castrated, but would it be out of the question to castrate him now? I’ve just heard so much varying information on this and I’m hoping to clear things up, thank you!!
I castrate at 2-3 months so that I never have to wean wethers, which means they grow faster and healthier (no problems with worms or coccidia).
Early castrations does NOT cause stones. No one in the veterinary world has ever claimed that it does. The connection is that there is a bit of evidence that the urethra doesn’t grow as much once the flow of testosterone slows down, but if they don’t have stones, then the size of the urethra doesn’t matter. DIET causes urinary stones, so if you don’t feed them grain or alfalfa, then they should not get stones, so the size of their urethra is irrelevant. Simply don’t feed them a diet that causes stones to form.