For the safety and welfare of both other goats as well as the individual, it is highly recommended that goats have their horns removed. Disbudding, the or the process of destroying the horn bud, or the small bumps from which the horns grow, on a very young animal, is much better and easier for both the humans and the animals than dehorning.
Dehorning may be used either on an older goat, or may be employed when disbudding doesn't satisfactorily eliminate the horn, as in the case of a large scur, or the horns were left intact on a goat who has then somehow endangered or injured itself by getting itself trapped in fencing, feeders or other objects with its horns.
The time to disbud a goat is between 3-7 days. Otherwise the buds will be difficult to terminate and a scur is more likely to occur, although it may occur anyhow. "Scurs" are partial horns and can take many shapes - either just a small bit or horn; a long horn that looks almost like a horn; if is often curly, but sometimes straight. Because of the higher testosterone levels of bucks, it is not uncommon to see them with scurs.
The best way to determine if it is time to disbud kids is you are to feel a hard nub on its skull where the horns would grow. The hair pattern on the kid's head on the left worked perfectly to indicate where the buds are likely to appear. Do the job when it needs to be done, don't "save it up" for a convenient time.
Use a disbudding iron to disbud. Although disbudding can be done using caustic, also known as disbudding paste, don't do it. Although it may seem more humane that a disbudding iron, it is not. Caustic can cause blindness and it extremely painful if it gets on other parts of the body. If you are not comfortable disbudding on your own, check within your local goat community. There is often an experienced disbudder who will either do the job for you or train you at an economical price. If you decide to disbud on your own you will need an electric disbudding iron (available from a goat supply store), a kid holding box (shown at left) and an electric clippers to shave the bud area on kid's head to exposure the buds before using the iron.
The kid holding box is a small box that can be constructed from 3/4" plywood or other similar wood, or you can purchase a box from one of the goat supply sources found online. If you decide to build your own, the dimensions are 18" high, 24" long and 5 " wide. It needs a lid to close down, generally using a hing, and a notch cut out from which the kid will stick out its head. Some kids go in willingly, others fight, but it's much easier to use the box than to risk an accident by having someone solely hold the kid's head. The box is also useful when tattooing.
Heat the iron well before placing the kid in the box and shaving the nubs. This will help reduce the time and anxiety for the kid. As assistant that can hold the goat firmly by the neck at this point is generally helpful. Place the iron firmly on the nub for 15 seconds rotating slowly with firm pressure. You are looking for a bright orange ring to appear, at which point you know you are done. If the ring is not achieved, you can wait a bit and then try again.
The kid will likely struggle, there will be smoke and a burning smell. Perhaps there will be some some heart wrenching bleating. However, done properly, there is no pain to the kid and the kid will return to its normal behavior as soon as you stop. Allow some time between horns to allow the iron to heat up and then do the same to the remaining nub.
Do not disbud multiple kids sequentially as the iron may not be hot enough after the first kid. This may result in the need to hold the iron to the head longer to achieve the desired orange ring. This increased time of the heat applied to the head can cause brain damage to the kid.