"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Banding Baby Bucklings (What's Outside Your Comfort Zone?)

There are many animal procedures that happen on a farm that fall along a spectrum of skill. From the things that almost all farmers so for themselves - such as hoof trimming - to the things that almost everyone has the vet do - like putting down a terminally ill beast - we all have our "no big deal" procedures and our "no way I'm not going there" procedures.

For me, banding bucklings is as easy as pie. You buy a twelve dollar tool at the farm store, and off you go. A bander is a small handheld tool with squeeze handles on one end and four prongs on the other. You slip a heavy duty rubber band over the prongs, and squeeze the handles to separate the prongs and force open the band. Then you slip the scrotum through and let go. That's not quite all there is to it - you do need to be careful and know a couple of things. Yesterday I banded my sister's bucklings (because for her, banding is one of those "uh-uh" jobs) and I took a picture to try to illustrate those couple of things. It's a terrible picture, but I'll try to use it:

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Okay, the big round thing is the scrotum. At the top, you can see a bit of the dark green band. Above the band and to one side, you can see a dark pointy-down thing. That's one of his nipples. Yes, boy baby goats have nipples, too. And the nipples are right one front of the scrotum, quite close to where the band goes. Before you let go of the handles, you need to be quite sure that neither nipple is under the band. That would be bad.

My vet told me that the other main way to fail at castrating is to get only one ball under the band. See, the testicles are actually quite free-floating inside the scrotum. And they are slippery little buggers, too. After pushing the scrotum through the band, and before you let go, palpate to make sure there are TWO testicles inside. You will be surprised at how easy it is, while palpating, to accidentally send on or both of them squipping up through the loose skin of the scrotum and into the body cavity. I'm sure many a farmer has only half castrated a billy and been unpleasantly surprised come breeding season.

It's also surprising - men will be shocked - that the baby goats hardly seem to notice. Sometimes one will yelp a little bit just as I let go the band, but most of the time, if they are eating a little grain, they don't do anything at all. One or two will walk a little funny or shake their hind legs for an hour or so, and then they just utterly forget about it. Clearly, being castrated is not nearly as traumatic as having your horn buds burned off.

Now, that is a procedure that is seriously painful. This is something I have not been able to bring myself to do. My husband says I should, that it is part of farming, and taking them all to the vet just isn't practical. It isn't - he's right. It costs a minimum of $40 to have the vet do it, and this is for an animal that most years, sells for $75 if I'm very lucky. The vet gives them a nerve block and puts them to sleep with gas. One year I took them to a farmer who does it herself, and I must say, with no anesthesia at all, I was impressed with how quickly the little animals bounced back. They were imprisoned in a box with just their heads sticking out and they struggled and screamed most horribly as they were burned, but when they were let out, they ran back to their mothers, nursed, and then pretty much went back to jumping and playing as usual. But I just don't have the stomach for it. Plus I think it extremely likely I would burn myself.

And of course, disbudding can be dangerous. I lost a baby to brain injury from disbudding this year (See "this one really hurts"). And the vet did that disbudding! If I had done it myself I'd never have forgiven myself. I'd rather somebody else kill my goat than kill it myself.

What about you all? Do you castrate, disbud, slaughter? Do you hire it out, call in a neighbor, or what?


Laura said...

I have castrated and put down animals (mammals), and slaughtered poultry. The "no-way" jobs for me are killing mammals - I just can't do it. Once they're dead, I can dress them out no prob (go figure). I tend to do alot of my own vet work (setting broken lamb legs, for instance), but eye injuries in a horse gets a vet call.

You're right - we all have our "won't go there, don't make me" tasks, and they're different for everyone. Usually, it's possible to find someone with the opposite phobias, and you can share!

Olive said...

Hi Aimee. Yes I have placed the rubber bands on calves, but these days its a little too hard for me bend down low enough. (ouch, my aching back)
On saturday our pig will be slaughtered but I will NOT go anywhere near it until it has been cleaned and its body cut in halves. That's my "won't go there"

Rowan said...

That's really interesting, Laura, that you can't kill them but you can dress them out. I'm a complete weenie, and killing a chicken was really difficult for me a while back. Actually, killing it didn't bother me as much. It was when I was pulling out its feathers and cutting its stomach open that I started sobbing.

Annie said...

I recently saw a documentary produced by a vegetarian turned meat-eater who thought that ethically he could only eat meat he killed himself. He brought in experts who showed him the proper way to kill rabbits, chickens, pigs and cattle. However, they could do it but he was grossed out. They could dissociate enough to do the deed quickly and painlessly, but he flubbed it every time. He was grossed out.

Myself, I bought a quarter of a butchered pig last winter and am having a heck of a time getting through all that meat. I learned that while I like meat, I don't actually like to eat it *all the time*. Keeping and slaughtering my own meat animals would just not be on, even if I could get over the actual killing part.

dilli said...

i dont particularly care to do any of it,however,I do all of our vet care type stuff and do all the slaughtering too... this means we dont eat much meat... i am more comfortable banding calves than i am goats but it is likely because i have banded thousands where as the goatlings i do an average of 2-3 per year... same with horn buds.. we do not dehorn the goats here as it is their only defense should a predator come around and besides they are god given handles for the lil monsters

Michelle said...

While I have seen this done, it wasn't as informative as reading your instructions with the important detail of getting 2 balls in & nipples out. Thanks for writing this. With our first kids due in June, I am trying to sort out all that is needed to be done. I think I can do the banding but not ready for the horn burning. I'm learning by experience to trim hooves & give haircuts.

Anonymous said...

We got our own bander a few years ago. It was such a pain to find someone who would band lamb tails and those "boy hangie-downie parts" as my teenage daughter calls 'em. I now am fairly good at banding, tho I get nervous and sometimes mess up. We have banded our steer calves also. I give a shot of tetanus before I band. I don't like doing it, but it's really easy. Same with giving shots...

Snohomish Shepherdess said...

Many chores that are a part of raising farm animals are very difficult, but if at all possible, we do them ourselves: disbudding, castrating, butchering poultry, rabbits, and lambs (we don't have the equipment to do a full size hog), putting down animals when necessary, and even a few surgical procedures (stitching up gashes and cleaning absesses). It's never easy to kill an animal you've raised and cared for since birth. I guess we each have to come to terms with what we each personally can, and can't do. Though there are many things I REALLY don't like to do (kill rabbits and disbud kid goats), I haven't yet found any chore I simply can't do.

sunset pines farm said...

Our goat mentor disbuds for us for $10 a pop and teaches you for free, but this last time hubby did it and did it better than the goat mentor.
As far as banding-we had another goat "person" band one of our bucklings, oh, he was pitiful. We had another one done with the "pliers"-that was painful while it lasted, but the baby forgot about it by the next day. i still don't know which procedure I prefer- I hate both of them, but you know what i mean.

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Unknown said...

Had one just done and the guy got the nipples in the band. What will happen. I cut the band off but worried if there are any side affects from where the band was on for an hour