February 8, 2013

Adventure of the Week: Elvis

Yesterday as I went out to let the chickens out to free range, I heard Elvis calling at me. I looked and saw him standing over by the gate to the buck pasture. I called his name and he answered. He didn't move so I thought I'd better go take a look.

Elvis with his head stuck in a cattle panel

He had his head stuck in the cattle panel I put up to keep the boys back from getting too close to the girls. Elvis likes to sneak into this little closed off area to scarf down acorns. The day before I'd secured the gate, cattle panel, and a corral panel so he couldn't do that anymore.

I'd had this happen before with Abigail, one of our first goats. She also had horns. She used to get her head stuck in our cattle panel hay feeder. I was always able to work her head out, but Elvis was a different matter. I could not turn his head and horns to back him out because both are so big. He must have gone in nose first, but the opening was too small to turn his head to maneuver it nose out.

As I pondered the situation, I decided the best course of action was to first trim his hooves and give him is annual vaccination. These are things I doubt we could have done under any other circumstance. He's a herd raised meat breed (Kiko), and since folks don't make pets out of meat goats he's not what I would consider tame. He's friendly enough, but he's unpredictable. He's definitely not the kind of buck I'd turn my back on (unlike Gruffy, who's a real teddy bear of a buck.)

Step two was to get out the hack saw.

I sawed the panel with a hack saw to free his head.

My only "problem" here was Gruffy, who insisted on pulling on my jacket, my sweat pants, and my braid, and on untying my shoelaces. It didn't take long though, before Elvis was freed.

Elvis afterwards, no worse for the wear.

I have to say he was a real trooper. He didn't panic, but waited patiently for me to help him. He's only allowed himself to be touched or petted briefly, but let me handle him and was as cooperative as he could be considering the situation.

Even though the meat breeds are not traditionally disbudded, this is one reason why I'm not real keen on my goats having horns. Dan and I disagree about this, he likes horns and thinks disbudding is cruel. I can't help but think though, what would have happened if a predator had found Elvis like this. As far as I know, we don't have coyotes in the area, but we do have stray dogs and had the neighbor's dog jump the fence to chase the goats and chickens. Disbudding though, is not exactly a pleasant affair and I would never have any goat dehorned.

[Update 12:51 pm for clarification:
  • Disbudding = burning the horn bud with a disbudding iron before the horn starts to grow.
  • Dehorning = removal of horns after they are grown.
I know the terms are often used interchangeably, so I apologize for any confusion.]

Anyway, all's well that ends well. I gave Elvis a drink of water for his ordeal and he ate a few acorns from my hand. After that it was goat business as usual.

Adventure of the Week: Elvis © February 2013 


Quinn said...

I love the way you think! Perfect time to trim hooves, etc.!
My cashmere goats also have horns, and I have one youngster who goes out of his way to get into trouble with sticking his head through the panels and then having to wiggle one way then the other to get back out again. I've been told there are stock panels with 4" square openings instead of the standard cattle panels I have now, and I'll be looking into some of those before kidding season, if only for an experiment, in a little paddock for the mamas and babies. Goats. Gotta love 'em.
By the way, just a thought: if I have to use a saw that close to an animal, I turn it so the blade is facing away from the critter. Just feels safer to me, but obviously your way worked out perfectly :)

Quinn said...

By the way, I love that Temple Grandin quote!!

Sue said...

Back when I had the Angora goats, I had one wether that spent a lot of time with his head stuck in the fence, and getting sworn at when I had to work him back out of it. That is, until one of my rams figured out that this was the perfect opportunity to exact some revenge for how the goats had treated him as a weanling. My sweetie was actually bent over the goat freeing him when the ram hit for the first time, driving the goat's head into sweetie's. He called me at work, asking how to stop his bloody nose (lucky it wasn't any worse than that). Only took getting hit twice by the ram for the goat to quit putting his head through the fence.

Carolyn said...

The first picture is EXACTLY why we chose to disbud. I was sooooooo sick of having to pull goat heads out of cattle panels like every fifteen seconds. You'd think they would learn. But no.
Also, it IS very dangerous when they are stuck there. I had two bucks separated by cattle panels and the one with horns got his head stuck & the other goat (hornless) was ramming him unmercifully. Luckily I got out there before much damage had been done, but I have no doubt that he could have been killed had I not checked on them.

Unknown said...

I laughed when I read that you decided to take advantage of the situation - too funny :) Do you think he'll learn from this experience or are goats fairly thick?

Leigh said...

Quinn, Tractor Supply Co. sells pig panels and goat panels as well as cattle panels. Not sure about the squares on the pig panels; the panels themselves are the same length as cattle panels but shorter. The goat panels have smaller openings, but are at least twice as expensive. One thing about the cattle panel openings is that the chickens can get through them. In the situation here that's good, because I can keep the goats out but the chickens can still free range.

You're right about the saw but it didn't occur to me to go at it by sawing up. I did hold his head out of the way though, especially his ears.

We just saw the movie Temple Grandin last week. I was really impressed with that gal!

Sue, I better make sure Gruffy doesn't read this; he'd give Elvis's knees are real beating. ;) Kidding side, it's fortunate your sweetie wasn't hurt worse. Glad your wether was smart enough to learn.

Carolyn, whew, it's a good thing you were there. I think horns are best suited for wild goats or goats who have hundreds of acres to free range. They have a good purpose for protecting, but can get caught in things like this. I've not had a good experience with horns so far.

Tanya, good question. Some goats are smart enough to learn, others aren't; just like people! I had a Nubian wether who learned not to sneak into the chicken yard. I simply closed him in the one evening and he missed dinner! He never went back. My two little Nigie does though, never did learn to stay out of the chicken yard, no matter how many times they got squirted with the squirt gun. :)

Sandy Livesay said...


Good thing you were close by to here Elvis in distress.

To funny, I would have taken advantage of the situation too (hooves, shots, cleaning ect...)

Enjoy your afternoon!

Nina said...

Those helper beasties really do make jobs a little more complicated. If the goat wasn't panicking, then it's a perfect time to do those necessities which require handling. He obviously trusts you enough to know that you'll help him out of his predicament. We were lucky in that our goats never got themselves into that sort of problem. However, we did have a flying pigmy goat who refused to be contained.

Theresa said...

I would probably never consider a goat or sheep with horns.I know a lot of people like Dan like the looks but it's just not worth it weighed against the risks to handlers and the animal themselves.
They served a purpose in natural situations but not today.

Sherri B. said...

It sounds like Elvis is a pretty smart goat..he knew he was in a bad spot and had better behave if he wanted out. Looking at the photo, it seems hard to figure how he got his head in there in the first place. xo

Ruthlynn said...

Howdy, My neighbor has Boer Goats with horns for the same reasons. However, he uses a Parmak charger to make the fences hot. The goats learn quick to keep off the fences.This has also worked to keep predators out.I use a one solar for my horses.Hope this helps save your cattle panels.

MTWaggin said...

Glad Elvis is safe and sound and even if he isn't all that tame he at least has the sense to know to cooperate when he's being helped. I'm impressed you had the presence of mind to do his hooves and vax while he was in there! LOL

Leigh said...

Sandy, you learn to take the best advantage of every situation! :o

Nina, it was neat to see that he knew I could help. Funny about your pygmy; I've heard some of them are amazing jumpers. My experience with minis is that they find spots at the gates to squirm under!

Theresa, I hear you.

Sherri, it must have been a quirk of how he held his head. If he went in nose first with head tilted and pushed, I can see how he did it. Impossible to get out though.

Rythlynn, electric netting is definitely on our list of things to get (netting because of the chickens.) This stretch is short though, only about 25 feet, so I doubt I'd have hot wired it just for that. Good to hear it works though. :)

Sherry, what I was really afraid of, is that he'd show his frustration after he was freed! He didn't though, good boy.

Mama Pea said...

I will side with you all the way on not wanting goats to have horns, Leigh.

In this particular situation, had you not seen the situation, Elvis could be dead Elvis. If he had been panicky, you could have been seriously injured trying to help him. Those horns are lethal weapons.

Although a goat with a good personality would never intentionally hurt a handler, the horns could inflict a very serious injury . . . accidentally. It's too much of a risk.

I know you and your hubby could hardly be more conscientious, but think how you'd feel if somehow, someway a child was visiting (possibly without permission!) and was injured by those horns? You'd never forgive yourself.

I understand it's not my place and I have no right to tell another person what to do (and please know that's not my intention here), but seeing those horns on Elvis sends chills up and down my spine.

DebbieB said...

Poor guy! You handled it great, and nice to have the fence help with the tricky hoof-trimming and vaccination. I giggled at the description of Gruffy's "help".

Anonymous said...

Very clever of you to to take advantage of the situation and get all the goatie chores taken care of. Elvis is a beauty or should I say handsome guy.

Renee Nefe said...

wondering if you could weave some wire or something into the cattle panels to make the squares smaller but leave the ones near the bottom so the chickens can still get through?
Although having Elvis stuck like that helped with the necessary upkeep. ;)

Lisa B said...

dehorning only takes a minute or 2 when they are 10-14 days old, they scream at being restrained but always come back to be petted as soon as released, I think about cost of panel too that has to be cut up versus a few minutes of burnt smell that they don't remember anyway, as for protection they can still slam into someone without horns to protect if necessary

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, I'm wondering what we'll do if we have kids this spring. I'd still like to disbud for all the reasons you mention, but I'm not sure Dan will go along with it.

Debbie, I think Gruffy was saying, "pay attention to Me! Not him." :)

Martha, he is a good looker. We're hoping he and my Nubian girls make good looking babies too. :)

Renee, afterwards I thought about tying some welded wire fencing to it. THat's what I do to cattle panels I don't want chickens getting through. I should probably put that on my to-do list.

Lisa, I'm assuming that by dehorning, you actually mean disbudding, based on what you describe. I know not everyone does, but I differentiate between the two. To me, disbudding is the burning of the horn buds before the horns actually begin to grow. I consider dehorning to be the surgical removal of horns on an adult animal, or one that has horns growing. Most vets will refuse to do it anyway, but I've heard some horror stories about folks trying to saw off horns. Our Pygmy was disbudded as a kid, but has scurs (for those who aren't familiar, scurs are the remnants of horns that grow after disbudding). He's had the scurs knocked off a couple of times and what a bloody mess that was, as you can imagine.

Anonymous said...

Sneaky you, getting in all that "goat maintenance" while he was hung up :) Seems to me, most critters are like having toddlers around again.

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh poor Elvis but all's well that ends well. We have coyotoes here but none of our cattle have horns it is safer that way for us but I do agree with your husband it is hard (cruel) on the animal to cut them off. Should have been done when he was young. Our cows are polled. Interesting blog.
I love goats. B

Leigh said...

Stephanie, having animals is exactly like having a bunch of toddlers around, LOL

Buttons, thank you, hello, and welcome. I agree that adult animals should never have their horns cut off. Dan though, doesn't even want to do it with a disbudding iron when they're babies. We may always have horned goats. :)

Laura said...

You can duct tape a 1 ft. section of 1" pvc to his horns - with that, he won't be able to get his head through the panel. I had lots of experience with this with horned ewes and does. While the ewes' horns weren't as long, and they could have pulled them out, they didn't until I closed off their breathing with my hand - then they popped their heads out right quick. I got tired of cutting panels to get them out. The pvc works really well.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Oh my gosh, those are big horns! We don't have goats, but our granddaughter has a herd of six dairy goats. When a male kid is dropped she debudds then at a very early age and it seems cruel but the pain seems to last only a few minutes and then the cute little goat is off running with its siblings as if nothing happened.

My favorite part of your story is the fact that you took advantage of the situation and tended to those grooming and vaccination chores before setting him free . . . hilarious!

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Oops . . . I didn't mean to imply only the male kids were debudded, she debuds all the baby goats.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leigh

I recently discovered your blog and finally am all caught up thanks to the archives. I absolutely love reading your posts.

I don’t have the 5 acres yet, but I do have the dream. I live in a very urban area and dream of one day having some land of my own. Somewhere where it is peaceful and I can be more connected to nature and live more simply. In the mean time I am reading as much as I can to learn and saving money like crazy.

Your posts are entertaining and informative and often also help us all to really think about our lives and this world. I appreciate that you are honest about your experiences and also how you share the resources you have used, always citing books, websites, etc. I enjoy and appreciate all the pictures, and your “how to” posts whether for making cheese or determining protein quantities for animal feed are written so clearly that I always understand, even the math stuff! Another wonderful thing is the community you have created on your blog. I often learn from the comments too!

Beyond thanking you, I also wrote because as I’ve been reading about your gardening efforts I keep thinking about a resource which may offer some ideas to you. You probably already know about it, but there is a video (free to watch online) called “Back to Eden” It is religious in nature, which may or may not matter to you, but has great information about a different approach to gardening.

I see you’ve made progress when it comes to mulching (pulling the mulch onto the paths for when you sow seeds, then moving it back once they sprout) Back to Eden basically puts forth the idea that nature does not leave the ground bare. The man featured in the documentary, Paul Gautschi, essentially mulches everything, paths included, in a very thick layer. Then he sows in the mulch (if it’s been left over the winter) or simply digs down till earth is reached and sows there. Then once the plant comes up he puts the mulch closer around it. I highly recommend watching the video as my explanation doesn’t really do it justice. It can be found at backtoedenfilm.com

Also I thought of you because Paul Gautschi has local tree trimming services that deliver their chipped wood for free that he uses to mulch. Maybe that would be possible for you in your area.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences.


Michelle said...

Oh my!!! I literally laughed out loud when I read that you siezed the moment and took care of his hoof trim, etc! Smart girl! Hahahahaha!!! :-D

Your definitions about disbudding/dehorning are correct. I am with you. Going into goats I thought disbudding was cruel and unnecessary. God gave them horns for a reason! Then I met my goat mentor. She shared my initial view. Her very first year with goats she was holding a kid that had hopped into her lap when it threw back it's head at just the right(wrong?) angle. It's 3+" horn rammed up her nose and nearly ripped out the nostril. She said she's never felt pain like that in her life, and she really expected the nostril to be torn because it hurt so badly, and of course, bled like crazy. That was her turning point. You can build expensive fences, mangers, etc. that protect the animals from getting their horns caught, but there is still the risk of accidents. That changed my mind. I will not even allow a horned goat on my property because of it.

I have yet to disbud a goat myself, though I do expect to learn how eventually. For now my goat mentor does them for me. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the kids scream and fight over being restrained much more than the actual disbudding. It is true that within a minute of it being over they are running around happily.

Leigh said...

Laura, hmm. What direction do you tape it, from horn to horn? The problem though, will be him letting me do it, LOL

Janice, I knew what you meant. ;)

Veronica, thank you so much for your comment. I cannot tell you what an encouragement it is to me. I'm familiar with the video you mention and even have the website bookmarked, but I've yet to actually sit down and watch it. I'll have to finally make that a priority. :) I'm a huge believer in mulch too! It is available from tree services here, but it's pricey. We do rent a chipper periodically and make our own from our own brush. I use leaves too. Somehow though, it's never enough, LOL. So glad to hear you have the dream. I hope it comes true for you soon.

Michelle, thanks for the verification on the terms. What doesn't help, is that the Rhinehart disbudder, which is so popular with goat folks, actually calls their's a dehorner. Whatcha gonna do?

Michelle said...

LOL! We should start a campaign to make Rhinehart correct their terminology! :-D

Unknown said...

Way to go Leigh! What an adventure. I love how you busted out moves to not only free him but used his condition to admin some vet care too. Awesome!

Thistle Cove Farm said...

You used the time wisely; well done!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Leigh, hmmmm. I hate to think what "tasks" you might complete on your hubby should he ever get his head caught in a fence one day!

We stopped dehorning our calves three years ago. Hated the smell and the obvious pain they endured.Every once in a while a cow will walk up to the barn with abucket stuck on her head but no other issues. We are the only longhorn herd on the Central Illinois Plains but we are used to being the odd farmer out.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Many times I have had to twist a goat back out of the fence, ones that are a constant problem get the PVC pipe / duct tape treatment. The problem with their horns are they are pliable enough to squeeze thru panel but you have to push horns together to get them back out, with only 2 hands it's hard to do. Try the pipe / tape solution on him usually by the time the duct tape wears off their horns have either grown more and won't fit thru fence or they give up thinking they can't do it.

Kev Alviti said...

We used to get sheep stuck like this but with no horns, but if you got close to them they'd panic themselves free. Whereas otherwised they'd just stay and die with their head stuck in a hole! I like the fact you did your jobs on him before you let him go!

Jocelyn said...

I would have done the same--all the maintenance while he was in a "good" position, LOL. I have one goat with a horn and a half. She was disbudded as a kid, but they grew back and by the time we got her, they were really big and it would have been cruel and expensive to dehorn. She gets stuck from time to time as well.

Unknown said...

Leigh, I'm new to reading you blog. My question I have is this: Could you place/wire tie a strip of chicken wire or smaller square roll of wire panel at head height to discourage this from happening?


Leigh said...

Michelle, maybe we should!

Jen, thanks, LOL. I've learned to make the best of my situations. :)

Sandra, thanks.

Donna, a bucket stuck on her head, oh how funny! Not for the cow of course. It is a dilemma about what to do. Good reasons on both sides of the horn issue.

TL, I need to see a a photo of that. Of course, catching Elvis and him allowing us to do that .......

Kev, I'm not familiar with sheep so it's interesting to hear folks; stories about them. I love cattle panels because they are portable and sturdy. They can be a problem however.

Jocelyn, good to hear from you! Unfortunate about the botched disbudding job. Actually one of the reasons Dan is so much against it, is from a YouTube video. He was researching how to disbud and came across a video showing somebody (who didn't know what they were doing) burning a hole through the kid's skull. Our Buck Gruffy has grown small scurs from his disbudding, but they've been knocked off several times playing with Elvis. I can't help but wonder if the same would have happened if he still had horns.

Al, thank you and welcome! That's exactly what I should do. Probably the easiest solution for now. :)

* Crystal * said...

Oh man..... This is why I disbud. I had a horrifying incident as a child with a goat that had it's head in the fence and that was all the convincing I needed.

Good thing you were there to free him and I must say, I laughed out loud that once you made sure he was ok, you broke out the hoof trimmers and vaccinations! LOL